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.