Monday, July 12, 2010

Intro to Picture Book Illustration: Week 4 - Form, Function and Effect of the Picture Book

Here are the rough "beats" of the story "Where Love Is, God Is". These are very raw, but give a reasonably good idea of how the story will flow. The next stage is blowing them up, settling on an exact page size and template, and then start cleaning up the sketches...

The Picture Book…

What is it?
Books that tell stories predominately through pictures.
Usually comes in 24 or more often 32 pages – Based on multiples of 8 or 16 pages called signatures
Age range up to 5 or 6 though not always true. Ages 7-10 are having picture books created with more words, complicated illustrations and more serious subject matter
Infants & toddlers love board books – pages mounted on heavyweight cardboard.

What is its function?
To create a successful synthesis of words and pictures (Maurice Sendak’s “visual poem”)
To engage imagination of a child with a simple narrative idea
To be read to a child of pre-reading age by a parent

* The audience is “reading the pictures” and listening to the “soundtrack” or text and learning to fill in the gaps – this creates closure in the child’s mind

* The Author/Illustrator is creating a book much the same as the role of the film maker, So visual decisions about movement, design and pace as it involves a sequence of images must have well-reasoned

What is the physical format of a picture book?
Due to considerations of stores & libraries for stocking and presenting, formats are most often limited to
portrait, landscape or square ( though there are exceptions that break these rules— but the budgets are usually larger)
They are bound along a spine
Shape of page critical to feel of story—the double page spread is how it is remembered by viewers, therefore the design of your illustrations must come from this point of view

What are other visual elements that help the function & form of the book?
Typeface - is it handwritten? How do the font’s work? Do their subtle shapes relate to the style and voice of the illustrations and the text of the story?
Layout of the type – How well is it integrated with the image? Where is the type placed on the spread? Do you read it first or do you read the illustration first?

Concepts & Ideas...

Where do they come from?
“Originality does not consist of saying what no one else has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you thing yourself” – James Fitz–James Stephen from Writing With Pictures.
No formula – no concoction of monsters, wild fantasy or poetry.
The story should come from a place you know, physical or emotional, external or internal.
Drawing & doodles help, but don’t always prompt ideas, but they are integral to the story development process
Themes can be established or inspired by a place or by a concept or feeling. Ex: Ezra Keats’ The Snowy Day, was inspired by a photograph in Life Magazine – read the jacket.
Ideas for most picture books “initially” visual but underlying meaning may not occur or materialize until images are explored, drawn, processed on paper.
Balance allegory & theme with simple level of storytelling – entertainment.

How & Why do we form illustrations & the book?

FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION!!!! The methods of execution of illustrating, writing, & design must sit comfortably with the idea of the story being told— all are parts to a related order
Ask yourself 2 questions – Is my work more lyrical (inspired by poetry) or more graphic (inspired by dynamic shapes on a page) in tone.
Does your drawing contain natural elements of humor? Or drama?

Operations that the plot should do as it develops
Give reader a sense of what the book is about
Uncover a Problem— Negotiate a conflict humorous or serious.
Reveal Nature and personality of main Character
Pose Question to the Reader
Hint at conflict to come
Anchor the Story in time & space.

Questions to ask yourself:
What is the logical sequel to this scene (page)?
How have I planned the book to pull the reader to the next page?
What has my main character done to move the story along?
what is the next logical step in the story?
How does this page (scene) contribute to the larger context of the book?

Sample Analysis of the Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats To fully appreciate this analysis, you will need to take this book out from the library, first read it silently to yourself, slowly and deliberately—including examining the illustrations in context to the text. Then read it aloud to yourself and finally and probably most importantly, have someone who reads well, read the story aloud to you. After this process read the analysis I have here. This is exactly what was covered in class. Your assignment will be to do this analysis for yourself with another book of your choosing and then finish up your own plot synopsises.

How and Why the plot develops... 1. The page 1 - Setting the stage and telling us about the nature of the character: Lots of patterns – broad shot – child is creative and imaginative – adventurous not tethered to one place. 2. Navigating conflict: Boy investigates the different things snow can allow you to do creatively – types of footprints, stick dragging, tree wacking of the tree, etc.. 3. Boy looks at his own footprints- illustration is a response to the boy’s actions and how he feels. Especially when we see the sequence of the snow ball fight and his resolution to use his imagination to make a snow man and angels – note he’s facing the snowman. 4. Do you need others to explore? 5. Hinting at the conflict to come - Bringing snow into a warm house. 6. Story anchored in a day revolving around boy’s fascination with exploring snow & character growth – share’s excitement with a friend – a real one.

Crucial Visual elements and Pacing... 1. the 2 page spread is used to move the viewer toward when & how to read the text – sometimes the left page has no text – planting the image in the mind and setting the stage (pages 6 – 9). Conversely 10 – 13 the text is on the same page as an illustration— you are hearing the text as you are reading the illustration. 2. Note the consistent use of flat layered patterns to create depth and uses of adds to depth of seemingly simple compositions. 3. Page 17 has No text— nice pause gives a sense of pace and passage of time 28 and 19 as well do this, as well 4. Contrast of 18 and 19 dark colors with 20 and 21. Also note the symmetry of copy – larger sentence with larger open composition with when you see the smaller boy tucked in valley— symmetrical to the copy “not yet”. 5. Pages 25 – 26 are single page illustrations that quicken pace of action and propel the story—they have more text 6. 26 – 27 longer spread with minimal text — the boy spends alot of time thinking. Note how the pace is lengthened by this page layout 7. Contrast of pages 6 and 31 – the snow is seen from outside, it’s real and it’s almost inviting the boy back outside especially since it enters the pictures plane first from the left hand side.

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