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Writing, Illustrating & Publishing => Illustrating => Topic started by: marla-lesage on December 21, 2015, 10:17 AM

Title: Plain &/ white backgrounds.
Post by: marla-lesage on December 21, 2015, 10:17 AM
When is it ok or even good to use a plain white or just plain background?

I think in Kevin Henkes Waiting it works really well because it depicts the extent of their world. Dr. Suess's To Think That I saw it on Mulberry Street has almost non-existent backgrounds, but that's pretty retro. I am drawn to a mix of detailed spreads and white open spaces for my current WIP dummy, but then I wonder if I'm just being lazy. Am I experiencing illustrators block for fine detail?

When might you use a plain background (other than for small spots)?

To focus on the character/action only?

Examples of books to browse are welcome.

Title: Re: Plain &/ white backgrounds.
Post by: Cynthia Kremsner on December 23, 2015, 11:32 AM
The Olivia books use a lot of these.
Loren Long's "Otis and the Puppy" has some, but fewer than Ian Falconer uses in the Olivia books.

I think it depends on the publisher as well. I also like plain backgrounds. However, when I used sequential vignettes in a book I was illustrating, the publisher asked for washes in the background. So I did place the character in motion, but with individual oval washes behind him.

In reference to multiple vignettes, I heard an art director say that children are linear, so they may believe it's more than one character on the page, instead of just one character in motion. Defining your vignettes may be desired. The practice of using vignettes has become more widely used, so it's my belief that children know it's just one character.

I don't think it's lazy. It's story telling in action sequences, which means more than one character on a page/spread. One of my spreads had my character in it eight times, with the final having additional chracters. That's a lot of expression, positioning and putting your character into motion. I think the most important thing is to keep your distribution of this evenly throughout the book. I positioned all of my vignettes to the left,  and sometimes full spread, and disbursed them between two to three full page spreads, having a couple of singles side by side etc. Keeping it consistant without it being overly done is something to keep in mind. (This is for vignettes).

For entire scenes with plain background, not vignettes, the character and line work needs to be very strong.

I did not intend to have no background in some of my illustrations, but in my dummy, I just wanted to show the publisher what the characters were doing. The publisher followed up to be sure there was going to be background in the images. If you are not self publishing, a full background, a slight hint of one, or none at all may still be decided by the art director/editor/publisher.
Title: Re: Plain &/ white backgrounds.
Post by: marla-lesage on December 24, 2015, 07:43 AM
Cynthia, thanks for the insight! I'm browsing Oliver Jeffers books too. His illustrations tend to be quite sparse but powerful. I will have a close look at why is works, compared to some other illustrators who include many many details in their art.