Deborah Marcero : Art and Writing » Writer and Illustrator

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In Process : Noir Film Stills

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.

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