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How much level of detail is too much?

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I've noticed that a lot of the newly released books aren't as detailed as books used to be. Lines are cleaner, or bigger and bolder. My daughter (nearly three) loves illustrators like Elisa Kleven precisely because she can study a spread for ages, finding new things almost every time, but I read that Ms. Kleven was told by one editor that her illustrations were 'too busy.'

Do any of you published illustrators know if this is a trend? Do editors shy away from detail? Or have I just missed modern illustrators' books with lots of detail?
#1 - August 19, 2010, 12:07 PM

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Illustrations are like other things with particular styles going in and out of fashion. Currently minimalist seems to be the "big new thing." I hope it's a short trend because I love illustrations with layers and surprises.

Look at David Wiesner's recent books (Flotsam is one). Lots of detail and depth there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuIsAIKiNgY He talks about his upcoming book & art.
#2 - August 19, 2010, 02:43 PM
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That's a good question Franziska. I agree that minimalist is what the styles are leaning towards now. Some of the grant winners this year were awarded to artist's who work in this style. Deep, and long shadows, with the minimalist renderings are a winning combo.

 While I appreciate the work, my faves are highly rendered. David Wiesner is on the list as well as Brian Lies. His Bat books are doing well : http://www.brianlies.com/brian_lies_books.htm  One of my other faves has a more stylized approach and a beautiful palette, less subject matter on the page, but very refined, Eric Puybaret: http://www.google.com/images?rlz=1T4ACGW_en___US385&q=eric+Puybaret&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=9rNtTMizKYrGsAPuhqT8Cg&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CDQQsAQwAw&biw=1763&bih=723 (Hmm . . . that's a long link).  

In any case, with those new releases having met success, and the demand for more of the illustrator's works, I think the market has a niche for renderers. Or so I'm hoping with you. :waiting
#3 - August 19, 2010, 03:58 PM
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 04:02 PM by funny stuff »
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Funny stuff: It's interesting that you consider Eric Puybaret's art to have lots of detail. I consider his style to be more minimalistic and graphic. When I think of highly detailed work, I think of James Gurney (Dinotopia), Michael Hague (crazy amount of details!!! CRAZY!) and Paul Zelinsky. If you look at Michael Hague, THIS is detail-gone-wild!

http://www.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&rlz=1T4ACGW_en___US385&biw=1029&bih=929&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=michael+hague&aq=f&aqi=g1&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

And I agree,... the current publishing trends lean towards less detailed, more stylized art. The highly detailed work is considered more "classic," but there will always be a place in children's books for classic illustrations.

Actually, Funny Stuff,... you didn't say E.P. has lots of detail! My bad! I do love his work, tho!
#4 - August 19, 2010, 04:18 PM
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 04:20 PM by SYoon »

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Yes, Eric isn't really detailed, but I put him in there because his work isn't heavily outlined or a cartoony style. It's rendered in it's own way . . . easy to tell that a lot of time was put into it.

When I think of highly rendered, I think of Don Woods, but there is a range in styles with his works. Here is one of their detailed books, that was published a few years ago:
http://www.amazon.com/King-Bidgoods-Bathtub-Musical-Caldecott/dp/0152055789/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282262388&sr=1-1#reader_0152055789

Paul Zelinsky won a Caldecott for his illustrations in his interpretation of Rapunzel : http://www.amazon.com/Rapunzel-Picture-Puffin-Books-Zelinsky/dp/0142301930/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282262801&sr=1-1
#5 - August 19, 2010, 05:11 PM
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 05:13 PM by funny stuff »
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Ah, Thank you S. Yoon ~ With all your expertise, I bet you are quite skilled with rendering detailed work.

If left alone, I get so absorbed in the work, it's theraputic . . . but getting that "alone thing" going, well, it's difficult at times.  :mouse :mouse=Chillen's     :grrr=Husband   :snoopy :snoopy=Dogs  :burger=Cooking.

I still love doing it so much, I make the time . . . :paint
#6 - August 19, 2010, 05:37 PM
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 05:40 PM by funny stuff »
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Oooh what a wealth of goodies you've exposed me to! Maggie Kneen and Brian Lies are new to me, and I'd never seen that David Wiesner YouTube video either. Very happy as now I can buy more books!

I do love the simple lines and styles I'm seeing, but there's definitely more entertainment value in a detailed illustration - for my daughter, anyhow. Marie Louise Gay's illustrations also have nice details in them - they're not detailed at the same level as these examples, but there are always hidden elements there, which we love.

Thanks, all!
#7 - August 19, 2010, 08:04 PM

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Wow, and Eric Puybaret?! I'm ordering several of his just to salivate over those illustrations!

Just found this old thread that's handy too. I guess that's it - the target audience is the most important thing to consider. Thing is, my daughter's always loved detail AND more simple lines (like those of Leslie Patricelli). Maybe she's unusual, though.
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=36267.0

Modified to add: I just remembered another popular detailed illustrator: Jan Brett. There's LOTS of detail there!
#8 - August 19, 2010, 08:10 PM
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 08:16 PM by Franziska »

Do what the book demands. Please don't follow trends.

I, too, love highly detailed illustrations, particularly the ones that are entertaining and make me go back into the stories to connect the ideas, motifs, various characters. Like puzzles. They often do more than one thing and work on many levels.

Also, I don't know if I would say highly rendered and lots of details are necessarily one in the same thing. Sometimes the details are more embellishments and decorative rather than vehicles which work with the words to make a whole... which is fine.

Anyway, it takes a long time to synthesize and conceive them. Like puzzles.

Do what the book demands. Start with the schematic and see where it takes you. Does your book demand the devil in the details?
#9 - August 20, 2010, 08:53 AM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

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I should mention that I am not an illustrator! So 'my book' doesn't exist. I am, however, very interested in illustration and doing a children's book illustration course. Not because I reckon I'll ever get paid to illustrate a children's book but because I love to paint and draw, would like to learn more, and figure it'll be useful for my writing.

My question about detail (which you're right, is not the same as highly rendered really) is just based on the books I've been seeing... and the books I've wanted to see more of (high detail) to buy for my daughter's enjoyment. Got some great recommendations!
#10 - August 20, 2010, 09:29 AM

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The ms I'm dummying right now has lots of detail, but it's definitely stylized. I hope the artwork is going to be appealing.

I think the illustration course is a great idea, Franziska! When I write a PB, I see the illustrations in my head, and make notes and sketches as I go. I think even if you don't end up illustrating professionally, being able to visualize while you write is going to make your work stronger. Good luck! I hope you enjoy the course!
#11 - August 20, 2010, 11:03 AM
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Yes, I agree too about detail versus rendered.

Last Halloween I found an amazingly detailed book done by Walter Wick. (He's done the renderings for Jean Marzollo's books). He has branched out on his own. I saw one of his books in Walmart and the work was so stunning . . . I bought it for myself. My kids have to ask to see those special books in my little library. :skull

http://www.amazon.com/Scary-Night-Can-You-What/dp/0439708702/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282339876&sr=1-7#reader_0439708702


http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=walter+wick&ih=1_2_3_1_1_0_0_1_1_2.78_51&fsc=-1
#12 - August 20, 2010, 02:37 PM
« Last Edit: August 20, 2010, 02:40 PM by funny stuff »
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"Last Halloween I found an amazingly detailed book done by Walter Wick. (He's done the renderings for Jean Marzollo's books). He has branched out on his own. I saw one of his books in Walmart and the work was so stunning . . . I bought it for myself. My kids have to ask to see those special books in my little library."

Wow. He is good. His work is rather realistic... almost photo-realistic (or is it???) I LOVE the Eye Spy books (my kids do too... still).

Some of my faves whose detailed work I love include Petra Mathers, Gris Grimly, the Ahlbergs, Peter Brown, Marc Brown, Holly Hobbie, Steve Jenkins, Peter Sis, C vA, Judy Schachner, Kevin Hawkes, Kevin Henkes, Marla Frazee, Steve Noon...  (I could go on and on.) These guys' styles and composition are all so varied. But to me they all are good at handling illustrative details for their respective books.

Nice discussion.
#13 - August 22, 2010, 06:57 AM
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I was recently at a book festival for librarians, and one of the participating bookstores had brought THE HOUSE, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti. It features the exact same view of a stone house over the generations, all through the seasons, etc. I found it *stunning,* and could happily have lost myself for weeks in its incredibly detailed and storied pages... but the bookseller (who obviously loved the book, or she wouldn't have brought it) said that it's a tough sell, because "kids won't sit still these days" to just LOOK at a picture. According to her, Franziska's daughter's attention span would be atypical. (shrug)

I'd be interested to hear where everyone thinks Beth Kromme's style (Caldecott winner for THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT) fits into the spectrum. To me, her art in that book is definitely more "graphic," (to borrow a term from SYoon), but there's certainly a lot going on in some of those spreads!

#14 - August 23, 2010, 09:11 AM

Hi Elizabeth. It must depend on the kind of book it is, the audience and how it is used etc..

I think that books that are read aloud for a preschool, toddler group audience (which is what they are) at a library or in a classroom are probably best served by great read-aloud rhythm. (I mean how can kids appreciate illustrative details when they are physically far from the book.) I always got frustrated by that as a young child, and even now as an adult. It is like you are going to a museum in a tour group and you are far back from the picture and the tour guide standing right at the art is explaining the art... but you can't see it well enough, and you get pissed off.

Whereas, books with great usage and/or inventive usage of illustration are best appreciated as one-on-one or one-to-one. Up close and personal.

I definitely think kids will sit still if they are engaged, entertained and engrossed.

My thoughts. :)

#15 - August 23, 2010, 01:27 PM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

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Mouth watering over Roberto Innocenti's book! It's on order. As is The House in the Night now!

As I said, I'm not an illustrator, so this might just be hogwash, but when I say 'detailed' I would include Beth Kromme's work. For me 'detailed' means that there are details in the illustration that aren't necessarily the main focus. Maybe I should say 'semi-hidden details' or something. In her book, there's a kitten under the sofa in one illustration; the cat's tail just visible as the cat goes out the door – these are details that aren't essential to the storyline, so, for me, they add interest. And it would mean the book would get read for longer by my daughter.

As for kids not having the attention span. I'd argue it's all about how the work is presented (as you say, AE). My daughter will also wriggle and squirm during our library storytimes if she can't see the pictures in the book the librarian is reading. When she pores over detailed illustrations, it's always when it's just me and her on the sofa. My daughter knows that when we read books, it's a time when she has all my attention. She also knows that if she says, "Will you read me a book?" I just can't resist as it would seem wrong to say no. Other requests, like, 'Will you play with my dollies?" aren't met with such enthusiasm! I'd bet that it's this behavior (mine) that's encouraged her to find and enjoy the details in books!
#16 - August 23, 2010, 02:04 PM

As for kids not having the attention span. I'd argue it's all about how the work is presented (as you say, AE). My daughter will also wriggle and squirm during our library storytimes if she can't see the pictures in the book the librarian is reading. When she pores over detailed illustrations, it's always when it's just me and her on the sofa. My daughter knows that when we read books, it's a time when she has all my attention. She also knows that if she says, "Will you read me a book?" I just can't resist as it would seem wrong to say no. Other requests, like, 'Will you play with my dollies?" aren't met with such enthusiasm! I'd bet that it's this behavior (mine) that's encouraged her to find and enjoy the details in books!
 

Yes. Make their brains work with those details. Thank you for the topic starter. :)



 
#17 - August 25, 2010, 02:18 PM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

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http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

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Wonderful examples
I wish I could come up with some of my own maybe in a few hours, when I wake up more. But I think it’s more of a trend in style of work that you are seeing out there like everything else it al goes through waves
#18 - August 26, 2010, 04:11 AM

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This thread is awesome!!! Some great ammo for my next Library inspiration trip!! Thank you guys so much for this!!!  :chesirecat
#19 - August 26, 2010, 01:31 PM

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"Last Halloween I found an amazingly detailed book done by Walter Wick. (He's done the renderings for Jean Marzollo's books). He has branched out on his own. I saw one of his books in Walmart and the work was so stunning . . . I bought it for myself. My kids have to ask to see those special books in my little library."

Wow. He is good. His work is rather realistic... almost photo-realistic (or is it???) I LOVE the Eye Spy books (my kids do too... still).


Nice discussion.

I've looked closely at Walter's works, while some of it looks like photo manipulation, some does not. My guess, and it's a guess, is that he mixes both into the works. How much time goes into each piece . . . whew. . . looks like a whole lot, as well as almost all of the other artists mentioned in this thread. Great stuff!
#20 - August 26, 2010, 02:29 PM
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I've looked closely at Walter's works, while some of it looks like photo manipulation, some does not. My guess, and it's a guess, is that he mixes both into the works. How much time goes into each piece . . . whew. . . looks like a whole lot, as well as almost all of the other artists mentioned in this thread. Great stuff!

Take a look here for the answers to your query!!!

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=380857309910&id=116033282951&ref=mf#!/note.php?note_id=380857309910

and here as well!

http://www.walterwick.com/features_main.htm
#21 - August 26, 2010, 02:54 PM
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 02:56 PM by WilsonWilliamsJr »

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Wilson! Thank you thank you for that link! I could feast on that page for days. Amazing stuff, truly amazing. I love how children's books make people SO creative, it makes my mind boggle sometimes. Aren't kids' books the best?
#22 - August 26, 2010, 03:03 PM

I hope Walter's books take off and sell year after year. A lot of it will depend on the writing and hooks.( It doesn't always work. I hope it does.)

You have to really admire the guy for craftsmanship.

#23 - August 26, 2010, 03:08 PM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

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http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

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I hope Walter's books take off and sell year after year. A lot of it will depend on the writing and hooks.( It doesn't always work. I hope it does.)

You have to really admire the guy for craftsmanship.



I have a question about books like this. For me just looking at the illustrations wouldn't necessarily be enough to make me buy the book. But seeing what the process is that was done to create the pages has me reserving copies at my local library so that I can pore over them and try to figure out and marvel at the skill and craftsmanship needed to create the art. It's awe inspiring!

So my questions are, is it worth presenting such an intricate and marvelous technique if without knowing the process, it wouldn't be appreciated and admired to the degree that it deserves. Would something like this go over the head of a child and be much more appreciated by an adult? Does the technique make up for what may not be as substantial a story? I'm just wondering because knowing the truth behind the magic is a much stronger selling point than if you don't realize what it is you are actually looking at. How do you market with that in mind?

Sorry for hijacking the thread!!
#24 - August 26, 2010, 05:49 PM

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Wilson! Thank you thank you for that link! I could feast on that page for days. Amazing stuff, truly amazing. I love how children's books make people SO creative, it makes my mind boggle sometimes. Aren't kids' books the best?

No problem the work is AWESOME!! Can't wait to get my hands on it and check it out up close!
#25 - August 26, 2010, 05:50 PM

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Hijack away.

That's a really interesting question. With this kind of craftsmanship I'd imagine that some kids – who have the time to spend on each page – will appreciate it and value it. (I put money on my daughter loving them, I'll let you know!) But if the same thing have been done on computer? They'd probably approach it in the same way, if it really looked as good.

Knowing how it's done definitely increases its value to me. Which is odd, really, why should it? Because I know there's care/love in every detail? I'm not sure why that should make it more pleasing than one that's computer generated but it does. Like if you gave me two identical sculptures, one was factory-made, the other hand-crafted, I'd totally want the hand-crafted one. Interesting, how the mind works!
#26 - August 26, 2010, 06:53 PM

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Having one of the books and seeing some of his earlier works . . . I can tell you, people stop to admire each page. I've had visitors come to my house and thumb through the pages slowly because they are in awe. This sort of work, in a way, hits the same target as Wiesner because adults purchase it for their children, but really want the book for themselves. :waiting (Guilty). :yup

Even if his works were totally digital, which they aren't, the amount of time to develop that level of expertise would be astronomical. Now, knowing that he handcrafts the works, I can see there is a deeper intimacy with the project and it shows in the work.

Thank you for looking up those links Wilson.
#27 - August 26, 2010, 07:13 PM
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 07:59 PM by funny stuff »
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Thanks for all the wonderful links.  It's clear that good art takes a lot of time.  If something is represented simply, with just a few lines, for example, each of those lines carries a lot of weight.  Sometimes, I'll make a bunch of sketches in attempt to reduce a subject to it's essence.  It's the same for poems with very few words. edit, edit, reduce.  But I can't believe that trends would exclude people who are talented at either end of the complex/minimal spectrum.  There were a lot of people at a portfolio workshop I went to yesterday whose work was very intricate and the art director and editor were loving it!
#28 - September 04, 2010, 05:59 AM

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I spoke to a book buyer last year who asked me what I was reading to my kids these days, and I told her NATALIE & NAUGHTILY, because it was my daughter's favorite book at the time and we had to read it every single night. She looked at me aghast and said, "We don't even carry that one. The illustrations are SO BUSY NO KID WOULD WANT TO READ THAT."

But . . . I had just told her that it was my child's favorite book. She would spend ten minutes on every spread looking for things she'd missed. So, yeah, it's a trend, I think. A weird one that I hope goes away. I love the stylistic look of minimalistic books but I feel that it's more visually appealing to a lot of adults than kids. Especially before they learn to read effectively, a Where's Waldo sort of book lets them loiter over a book like words would.
#29 - September 04, 2010, 03:16 PM

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I also hope it's just a trend that goes away. I do love simple illustrations too, but I don't want them to be all there is, or even most of what there is. Variety is so much more fun.
#30 - September 04, 2010, 04:14 PM

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