Friday, 2 August 2013

CBC talk

I recently took part in a talk for the Children's Book Circle.  Illustrator Heather Kilgour was in the audience and made a transcript of what I said. You can read it in full at the Big Little Tales tumblr.  Here is a section of it... It is about the illustrator/author's role in the process of making a picture book:

  I entered the world of illustration because I get a kind of physical pleasure from the act of drawing, it feels like a fulfilling thing to do, so I’m constantly chasing that spiritual fulfilment, it feels like such a right thing to be doing. It’s like whacking a tuning fork, some images, some moments, some words, will resonate with that interior sense of fulfilment and if I find something that chimes with something I hold very dear personally, then I will try and take it forward as a story. I will try and develop it to the point where I think I’ve done the best I possibly can to communicate as much of this feeling I have inside me to somebody who maybe has never felt this way, or never looked at this thing in that way, or never considered this could be the case... or even better if they have, then they have that wonderful sense of recognition that you get when you’re reading something and you think yes, I feel that way too.
  Ultimately a picture book is around twelve pages, twelve double spreads of illustration and a few hundred, maybe a thousand words of text, but in getting to that point you’ve got this huge cloud of stuff above your head. It’s so overwhelming sometimes, you’ve got so many things you want to achieve, but fundamentally when it comes to the thing itself it’s just going to be a very finite item. So I see my job as trying to sort as much of that out as I can; to take as many of all those images floating round inside this cloud and pin down as many as I can and put them into some kind of concrete form.  To me, illustration boils down to the relationship between the shape and scale of objects on a page, their lightness or darkness and their colour. When I’m making a book I’m trying to manipulate these elements to get the strongest iteration of the story that I can possibly manage.
  When I think I’ve got something that I feel tells the story I will give it to other people and try not to say anything to them and see if they get it. Because when you’re very invested, when you’re reading through something you’ve made, you’ve still got this cloud of stuff floating above your head and every page you read you kind of insert bits from the cloud to make it complete. Then you give it to someone else and they have no cloud floating about their heads and there’s a very particular facial expression they’ll get half way through and you’ll think OK, this one needs to go back to the drawing board. If I get to a point where that isn’t the case and people are looking at it and where I want them to laugh, they’re laughing and where I felt sad they seem to feel sad too – OK, good, I’ve succeeded. Then I would take it to a publisher and hope that they like it!

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