I am off to NYC this coming weekend for the National Conference for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I am participating in the portfolio showcase there. I wanted to share a few images of my portfolio to show a digital sneak peek of how I will present my work. In putting this portfolio book together and having the opportunity to put my work in front of the eyes of dozens of art directors and editors, I wanted to do something a little different. As an author/illustrator I wanted to present chunks of stories I have written in the past year, and bind them into a single book to showcase my illustration style, how I handle page turns (within the same story) and elements of book design (such as the gutter, where the text is placed, cropping edges, composition and how the reader’s eyes might be lead through the elements of text and image, emotional and narrative elements on each page spread). When the book arrived from the printer last week, I opened it and was so pleased. Bound in seaglass Dupioni Silk and inscribed with my name in silver on the front….. the look, the feel, the print quality, everything came together just as I had hoped it would. And as a bonus, it’s very portable! I hope that as folks browse my work this coming weekend, they’ll get a little lost in a book, and forget they’re actually looking at a portfolio.
With my newest project, I am rendering images almost completely in black and white (with spot color here and there). Because it is an illustrated chapter book mystery series, I want to convey a tone of drama, heightened suspense, and spookiness throughout. This past fall (September/October 2013) as this project was just coming into focus, I immediately started watching Film Noir and fell in love with its visual vocabulary. Long shadows, silhouettes, camera angles and the way a subject is framed cinematographically all contribute to creating strong visual story-telling effects. Below I walk through a brief adaptation of my study of a film still from “The Third Man” for the Prologue of Book One.
When I saw this film still, I literally gasped. It pinpointed so much of the mood I wanted to introduce the reader to as he or she steps into the world I’ve written. From here, I sketch out several thumbnails to get the composition just right, taking the design elements into consideration: the gutter, trim edges and what text I have and where it will go. And of course, I adapt the crooked sense of the setting to it as well (crooked buildings, lamp-posts, windows, shadows, etc). For this particular spread, I have a chunk of text for the Prologue of my book that fits nicely on the right facing page, so instead of drawing in details to compete with the words, I just left it a solid black to serve as yet another shadow. As Film Noir is dark and moody with a sense of hopelessness in its own right as a genre, I also find that adapting elements of it to a kid’s book also introduces an edge of parody and humor that I quite enjoy, while also taking away the heavy handedness and intense despair of it all.
This post is in tribute to autumn — Ann Arbor is cast in yellows right now. Every street is smudged with this warm color. I think most of the reds and salmons and oranges have already fallen…..Even as it turns November the yellow leaves are still bright, and holding on….. but I also noticed today, they are starting to age into deeper golds. In a couple of weeks all the trees will be bare. The richness of the season moves me, with its low light and smells of rain mixed with fireplace smoke as Bear and I walk through the neighborhood. I think that all this change makes me even more present to the day at hand. So, here’s to taking a walk. Slowing down. Taking it all in, and giving it a chance to change us a little too.
Inspiration: Burnt Letter Fishes. Walking through a tall grassy field, I came across these two random pieces of burned paper (laying about 5 feet apart from each other). They have handwritten script on both sides, and only a few phrases and words are legible, among them: dream, life, love. Pencil lines of words become texture of scales, and the burned edges, delicate and smoldering, define their shape. Here’s a quick drawing, inspired by these pieces I found by accident on a cool summer evening……… Drawing them also reminded me of Leo Lionni’s beloved book : Swimmy. And then my imagination stretches — why couldn’t fish be swimming among the grasses of a big open field …. inside of a world that I might draw my way into?
I have never sketched at a zoo before…. Thank you Angie for inviting me out to draw! Below are a selection of sketches plus rendered notes on some of the animals. These notes are not very scientific, rather, they are mostly random things that stood out to me. Even though I brought watercolors with me, I only worked with pencil and black ink pens. I also have pages of monkeys that I didn’t place here…. these creatures were so stunning, that I want to work on them a little more! It was a great exercise in paying attention as well as a challenge to capture movement in real time. I was struck most by the tender, honest and very present affection and way of being between the animals. In a few instances… the way they connected to each other, felt incredibly human.