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Writer's Room => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Arona on June 27, 2014, 01:09 PM

Title: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Arona on June 27, 2014, 01:09 PM
I'm envious of artists. I can't draw a circle or line that doesn't look like an adult trying to imitate a kid drawing a circle or a line. And because I can't draw, apparently I assumed that those talented enough to be artists, just POOF! produced whatever they wanted with some tweaks here and there. (And I have friends who are artists, too. Silly rabbit.)

I just read an article in Artists and Illustrators of the steps an illustrator took to complete a PB. Amazing. She included photos of the process, including notes from the publisher regarding stages of her work. Things I would NEVER have thought of, she reminded illustrators to think about all through the process. I repeat: amazing.

I used to think how great it would be to be both an illustrator and writer. Not anymore. I'd hurt myself. Or something would end up hurt.

Glad to be just a little ol' writer. Glad others have the tremendous talent and patience to make a PB complete.
Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Artemesia on June 27, 2014, 01:57 PM
LOL! Thanks for this! I've often wondered why I wanted to put myself through the pain of writing AND illustrating.  :beating 

But as crazy as it makes me at times, I do love it. And feel so lucky to get to do both.
Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Stephanie Ruble on June 27, 2014, 09:22 PM
Thank you! And you're right, it is crazy making!

Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Cynthia Kremsner on June 27, 2014, 10:19 PM
I've been able to sit in both chairs, published author and  published illustrator. I've had the joy of seeing my text come to life through another's vision and been able to bring life to someone else's text. But I would love to work my way over from those free standing chairs to the loveseat.  :hiding3  Another author/illustrator who got into publishing the same way, first contracted for writing and then for illustrating, once told me that when you get to do both, there's no one to praise or blame but yourself for the books success or failure. That's so much more pressure. But, I'm willing play musical sofas.
Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Arona on June 28, 2014, 04:41 AM
I've not seen a lot of agents who only want to rep author/illus. only, but it seems like I'm seeing that more--possibly because I'm reading through sub guidelines more than I used to even when I know it's not a fit.

Out of curiosity, why do some agents only want author/illus.? On one hand, it offers a couple benefits, but on the other, it seems restrictive.

Maybe I can sneak another question in...about the role of the illustrator vs. that of the writer. (I use "versus" since it is beginning to feel like that). Writers move a story forward through dialogue, action, etc., writing the story that needs to told (blah-blah-blah). I thought  illustrations supported the text--you write with scenes in mind, and how they could get illustrated. Though since reviewing critiques on this forum, I'm getting a different message. (?)

I write so if a child was blindfolded, their mind would naturally form the imagery. (I don't give stage directions, etc. )

E.g.: if I have a gruesome-looking character, their appearance is revealed when the character evokes reactions in others.

Let's say I have a sentence that accomplishes the above example. Should it not have been written at all, leaving an editor/agent to see it for themselves as an illustration? Or, should it stay, leaving an editor/agent to decide if it should get cut, perhaps for word count and/or because an illustration can "say" it?

As writers-illustrators, when you perform both functions on a ms., you decide these things for yourselves. (Then the editor/agent has their say.) But when you are providing text only, do you write with imagery in mind?

Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Cynthia Kremsner on June 28, 2014, 06:24 AM
Arona, it sounds like you are writing things the way PBs should be written.
I think a lot of PB writers (only) get representation for their work if they write in other genres. The genres I see that seem to be combined in someone's work are PB's, MG's and ER's.

Because of the royalty split between author and illustrator in picture books, if the agent represented just one side of the duo, he/she only gets half of what they would normally get for the MG and YA writers. The time involved in selling a story is the same, so this may impact what/who they choose to represent.

Your question about a sentence that accomplishes evoking appearance, etc., if it's essential to the story or the vision it should stay, leaving the editor to decide whether or not it needs to be cut or stay once the illustrations come into the story.

The illustrator can bring other levels of story and often humor that were not written into the text. For my A/I story that I'm building a book dummy for, I've decided to let the illustrations really take over in some areas to show humor and add another storyline. When I had originally written the text, that was not what I had envisioned. But when I began my process of drawing it through, some bells went off for the extra humor using characters/animals that are not in the text.

In the Little Critter books, there is always that little spider to look for. Sometimes, he's got a thing of his own going on. Don & Audrey Wood have a few books in just one setting, a couple I can think of are King Bidgood's in the Bathtub and  The Napping House. With those works, it's really visible what an illustration can do to add another layer or two or three or continually build the story from page to page. I'd venture to say that the text alone tells a small fraction of those two stories to let the illustrations sing. This method doesn't work for all picture books. However, I think they're good references to show how much illustrations can do for a story.

One thing about representation, illustrators often don't have it. They can submit postcards of their work and get contacted directly by the publishers. That's what happened in my case, however, I write as well but have been told and found the Author/Illustrator's don't always break into publishing doing both. It is a bit tougher for writers only, but I've noticed that a small handful of publishers are still taking direct manuscript submissions for PB's.
Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Arona on June 28, 2014, 07:41 AM
Thanks for that thoughtful reply. Makes sense. My take-away on if I am proceeding correctly is, "Yes, with a chance of rain." I'll write as I have been writing, and leave omissions, alterations, etc., to others, should that day arrive.

Besides Artists and Illustrators, if there's another go-to source that might help me understand the other side of the fence better, I wouldn't mind hearing what it is.

Thanks, again.
Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Artemesia on June 28, 2014, 09:51 AM
I'm not sure exactly what you are asking, but if you are looking to understand the illustration process, Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz is a fabulous resource. The edition I read was pretty old and I don't know if newer editions have been updated, so there are a few things that the digital age have made unnecessary, like color separations by hand, but as far as the process of illustrating a pb goes it's amazing.
Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: SarahW on June 28, 2014, 11:25 AM
I used to illustrate a long time ago, but sort of gave it up. I wanted to draw realistically, but often it came off as badly drawn squiggles instead.

But yes I have a ton of respect for illustrators.
Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Arona on June 28, 2014, 11:41 AM
I peeked at the book on Amazon (pub.1985). As long as the principles apply today (since I'm not an illustrator, any changes due to the digital age won't matter), I plan to order it.

The first chapter deals with a question I asked on here when first joined (a month ago?). Do agents recognize the difference between picture books and story picture books...although Uri referred to the latter simply as story books. However, it seems picture story books didn't morph into another genre and are not well-received by agents.

Anyway, yes, the book should be helpful.  :thanks2

Title: Re: A New Appreciation For Illustrators
Post by: Artemesia on June 28, 2014, 11:57 AM
Picture story books are not well-received by agents because editors don't want them because they are out of fashion at the moment. When I first started writing the general rule was under 1000 words for PBs, and now just s few years later it seems to be under 500 is the sweet spot.

It looks there was a reprint of Uri's book in the late nineties so it might be updated, but technicals aside his advice on writing and illustrating is amazing.