Sunday, August 23, 2009

So You Want to Be A Children's Picture Book Illustrator

(Or, I Was You Not Long Ago) but I listened and I learned, and I put together an appropriate portfolio and I keep adding to it.

To the wannabes:

"I am a graphic designer who wants to illustrate picture books."

"I am a portraitist. I am ready to start illustrations for a picture book."

"Look at my lovely landscapes. I have illustrated a picture book called Arborvity Visits The Arboretum. I wrote it too. They say you can lead a horticulturalist to a swamp but you can't make her drink. (Or maybe it was you can't make her can't make her do anything)."

"My pet pictures lend themselves to storytelling. They are anatomically correct. You can tell the males from the females...look see!!! And they are pristinely rendered. A hair in every place."
(Maybe it should be facial hair and body language...tattoos for the older kids?)

Listen up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Illustrating (and writing picture books) is a required skill (and if paired with talent, inspiration and innovation...a gift). Beautiful doesn't count (at least not all by itself).


VISUAL STORYTELLING....dah dah ta da dah daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! :)

FACIAL EXPRESSION AND BODY LANGUAGE (she sank to the floor when her teddy bear lost his squeak)

KNOWING THE AGE OF YOUR READER AND REMEMBERING CHILDHOOD, SENSITIVITY (I am never, ever cleaning my room.... and btw that trait seems to linger into adulthood.)

ACTION, INTERACTION, REACTION WITH CHARACTERS...a smirk often says more than a smile.

PACING...take chances here...don't be afraid...(otherwise you'll be formulaic). I am a firm believer in taking chances after you've memorized the rules.

Added bonuses:

INSPIRATION...this comes from the unique you and only you...find it and nurture it and keep it going from book to book.

INNOVATION...this also comes from the unique you and only you....find it and nurture it and keep it going from book to book.

ORIGINALITY...again same as above.

UNIVERSALITY...think about what everyone has felt, experienced or somehow can relate to in your theme(s)

ENERGY... equals movement, viiiiiiiiigor, happiness, angst, tensiiiiiiiiiiiiion, fear, hope, bravery all with a swiiiiiiiiiiiiift kick in the pants

BRAVERY is fear, will, confrontation and just doing it.

THE ABILITY TO REACH YOUR READER (read everything here)

TIMELESSNESS is thinking about the stories you've read over and over again every year. They never become stale or campy, less funny or sad etc. and they grab you in the gut. They often have something to say but say it subtly. And their plots and/or themes are always clever and interesting. The ideas and messages never fade. (Think "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" Think Chicago's timeless modern music. You hear it today and and it still sounds as good as when they played it originally. I DON' CARE ABOUT TIME)

INTERACTIVENESS (is that a word ? look it up.) Readers love to participate somehow. How are you going to do it?

VOICE to me is the most subjective part of writing. It is like showing someone a group of prom dresses and launching in as to why you love this one and then everyone immediately is drawn to the next rack. But if you succeed at the above items you will find a hearty group of fans. So make you voice come through with the help of the above items if that makes any sense.

and enjoy yourself while you create...that might be the most important thing...enjoy the process!

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