In the beginning is the story. As an illustrator usually when I get the m/s the writer and editor have finished their work. Then I begin all over again, creating another story to weave with the words. The pictures are words in another form. For what are visual marks on the paper except another type of language?
As the writer begins with notes and jottings and outlines and character sketches - so does the illustrator. The first visualization of a character or a setting may be extremely rough. In fact I usually begin by writing a whole series of notes on the m/s before I sketch anything. When I begin to find the way into the book, there's a lot of notes and doodles happening that make no sense - except to me. Scribbled around drawings, or just writings. It's my visual thought chatter.
First draft = thumbnails. When the writer gets those first words down they are rough and clumsy like turned earth in a ploughed field before the elements break down the clods for springtime sowing. So it is with the illustrator. Everyone works differently, but usually there is some sort of system where the pages are broken down into little squares or rectangles. A rough feeling for flow and composition and placement happens. Mood and shape enter into it, a feel for the second story that will help bring the words to life for the reader. It's a time for not over thinking, but for playing - for getting it down. Just as the writer did.
At this point I will pin the roughs on a wall and consider them. Look at them all together to see progression. There's something intangible that lets you know if it's working or not, personal to the artist, just as to the writer when they make up a spreadsheet or chart of their book and are able to see at a glance where the story is going. I'll be looking for rhythm and consistency, variety and any needless repetition. If I don't like a spread I can pull it and redo. (Sometimes there's a lot of redoing). Have I left room for the text? In picture books the chunks of text and where they're set on the page is as an important visual element as the pictures. Young eyes must be able to read easily and connect the text with the visuals and vice-versa. You don't want them jolted out of the story. In effect I'm storyboarding the book.
When the revision's are given the okay it's on to the final draft. Of course this is entirely dependent on how the illustrator works. Digital or by hand, careful pencil or more loosely straight onto the paper. Everyone is different, just as writers are different. Some illustrators may work chronologically through a book, others work on different parts of the book all at once, or start in the middle or at the end. It's what feels right.
Finally, it's finished - 'the final draft'. Polished as far as you are able. Knowing when to stop. It's time to send the proofs to the AD. There may be final tweaks, things to adjust and give more thought to. The final page - the cover - the end pages. Until - that's it. Final art is delivered and the next thing you know, it's book delivery day and your job is done!
Thanks for dropping by Turbo Monkey Tales! Call back next time to visit with the lovely writer Julie Dillard.
It is also available as an ebook
Watch the book trailer here ...
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all images © Hazel Mitchell 2013