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Tips on What to Illustrate: Please

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Headwax

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Hello

I've 99 percent finished the first illustrative draft of my 'illustrated" book. IE I have illustrated the story from beginning to end.

So now I am going over my first draft to cull out what I don't need (I hate to kill my darlings) and to take a sum of what I have.

But as I look over my work I see that I have approached it in more a graphic novel sense.

That is: I have illustrations portraying one instant in the story when, with more application of intelligence, I might have been able to portray several story events in one illustration.

So I would like to ask other illustrators, how do you decide what to story points to illustrate, and what to leave out?

So far  I have discovered that I should be aiming more at the humorous items of my story.....

The written story I have is skeletal, and therefore flexible, and will feed off the illustrations, rather than the other way around.

The book I am aiming it will be about 65 pages long. Ages from six to adult.

thanks in advance

be back in a few days

cheers

headwax
#1 - October 08, 2009, 10:32 PM

That is a great question.

I think for me as everything I write is pretty much adventure, and I think character driven with humor and heart...I try to convey that. I like movement, energy, emotion and story to come through.

I suppose you want whatever qualities you write/illustrate to come through.


Does that make sense?
#2 - October 09, 2009, 04:04 AM
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I think for me as everything I write is pretty much adventure, and I think character driven with humor and heart...I try to convey that. I like movement, energy, emotion and story to come through.

Definitely what AE said.
Range in emotion also helps. My book dummy is filled with a lot of action. I have a spread in the middle with quite a bit of text on it, the two characters are in calm poses and there is minimal background added. At first I thought it may be a slowing point in my story and need amping up or text editing. But, I was told in critique that it's a needed break from all the action by two different people "in the know" at two different times. So, I left it as is.

Author/Illustrators usually have a visual of what parts of their text they would like to illustrate. When I was assigned to take a public domain work and render three scenes, it challenged me to see the story with my own vision. I chose the Wizard of OZ which is heavily illustrated leaving little "undone" scenes to render. The scenes I chose have a wide array of emotion and I really wanted to do something that hasn't been done. It was a whole lot of fun and I think it's a great way to see if you could illustrate another writer's work putting your own unique slant on things.
#3 - October 09, 2009, 08:18 AM
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I think you are putting the cart before the horse.

A 65 page picture book has a slim to none chance of being published. Picture books are usually 32 pages. Sometimes they can be longer at 48 pages. Occasionally there are longer books, but not often.

The reason behind this has to do with the production of picture books. Books are printed in "signatures" which are 16 pages. The 32 page picture book is two signatures. A 48 page picture book is 2 and a half signatures. So decide on a book page length that fits into a signature neatly. Remember that there is also front matter and occasionally back matter to fit into those signatures.

Just saying. ;)

When I illustrate a picture book, I try and decide what the most important points of a story are and include those in my rough sketches. I also add things that are not in the written story but enhance the illustrations.

The best advice I can give you is to have fun and follow your muse. I never settle for the first idea I have but make many rough sketches until I work out all the options for a spread. Try different view points and perspectives to really push the envelope.

Keep us up to date on your progress.
#4 - October 12, 2009, 06:38 PM
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That's a good point re: page count, Lyons.  Also, Headwax, you probably know this but you don't want to submit a dummy with ALL the illustrations being color/finished.  You only need to choose 2-3 finished illustrations to showcase your unique style.  The rest of the illos should be sketches.

Keeping that in mind, I choose illustrations that I think show off the best of what I do.  I work with cut paper collage, but a lot of times I will prepare my own paper with watercolors.  I like to do gradations in the background skies.  For a scene in a bamboo forest, I did a wash of different greens and spattered water drops for a moist effect.  Then I built it up with sticks of bamboo, leaves, and the action of the scene.

I think you want represent a strong individual style, but show as much range as you can within that style.

Good luck!
#5 - October 13, 2009, 08:08 AM

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A lot of good advice given (esp. the importance of signatures and book structure). I'd like to add that your illos should "work" on the page and in the book meaning that it logically carry the reader's attention from left to right, facilitate page turns and pacing. Each illustrated page should reflect the mood of story as it unfolds and concludes.

Of course, as one person said, you need not do everything in finished illos. Editors and Art Directors will most likely have suggestions that will impact your book dummy anyway. However, the concept needs to effectively translate into B/W art.

Hope this helps!  :goodluck
#6 - October 13, 2009, 08:37 AM
Forthcoming books:
HONU AND MOA (fall 2018), author/illustrator
THANKU picture book anthology (fall 2019), contributor

Also, I bet most publishers are wary of the "6 to adult" descriptor.

Yes, I believe adults should also like the book (I know I feel that way) but "to adult often means too adult."

Right guys?

I think the best piece of advice is to take your time and not send anything out until it is ready, and that can take well...time.

I made hasty mistakes a few years back and now I know better.

Good luck and have fun!!

#7 - October 13, 2009, 08:44 AM
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there is some very good advice given here. If you haven't already, you may want to check out the older threads on illustrating and picture books. These boards contain a wealth of information. I think it might also help to revisit your story with an objective eye (or a critique group/partner) and decide if what you have is really a picture book or a graphic novel. If it's a picture book, you may need to revise to make the story and illustrations fit within the standard 32 page structure. Most picture books being published today have between 500-1000 words. If it works better as a graphic novel, you may need to expand the story. I don't know much about the creation of a graphic novel, but one of the best ways to learn is to read, read, read. Read a lot of picture books and graphic novels and you'll have a much better idea of where your story might fit in.

Good luck!
#8 - October 13, 2009, 09:35 AM
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there is some very good advice given here. If you haven't already, you may want to check out the older threads on illustrating and picture books. These boards contain a wealth of information. I think it might also help to revisit your story with an objective eye (or a critique group/partner) and decide if what you have is really a picture book or a graphic novel. If it's a picture book, you may need to revise to make the story and illustrations fit within the standard 32 page structure. Most picture books being published today have between 500-1000 words. If it works better as a graphic novel, you may need to expand the story. I don't know much about the creation of a graphic novel, but one of the best ways to learn is to read, read, read. Read a lot of picture books and graphic novels and you'll have a much better idea of where your story might fit in.

I was thinking that Headwax was speaking of a graphic novel too . . . definitely don't have any know-how when it comes to that format, but as Artemesia said, read, study, read, read, study, read.

Best of luck to you.
#9 - October 13, 2009, 05:00 PM
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The book I am aiming it will be about 65 pages long. Ages from six to adult.


I'm a little confused here...what kind of book is it your writing? What you describe DOES sound a lot more like a comic book than a PB.
#10 - October 13, 2009, 06:19 PM

Headwax

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Hah, gee I go away on a surfing trip  up the coast for a week and  come back to this!!!

But seriously, thanks for all the responses, I really appreciate it! In fact I am awed.

Hmm, where to start? As a few  posters have already said: there's some great advice here, thankyou.

Firstly I suppose, why 65 pages, (or roughly)? I've taken as my models two books that I 'admire". "Cloudchasers" -poorly written (in fact worse than a Dan Brown novel) but the illustrations are similar to my technique - only I'm hoping to get away from the sterility.

The second is an astonishing book called "The arrival" by Shaun Tan.

http://www.shauntan.net/books.html

http://shop.abc.net.au/browse/product.asp?productid=165829

Both of these books are approximately 65 pages. The Shaun Tan book is fairly unique in my view as having no words. It took him four years to illustrate.

The method oif "illustration" I use leads  to copious outputs of imagery. I work with three d meshes that I make myself or morph from available models. You paint the textures that go on these models in 2d, then apply the textures to the 3d models, set them up like a film studio and light them up as you will. The method id fairly self reflexive because you can use images from other pages as the textures for your 3d work (if that makes sense)?

Once the setup process is complete you "render" them from as many angles as you like, then bring them into photoshop and have your wicked  way with them. That means I try to disguise their manner of birth and add glow, texture etc.

So for each page of the book I have a choice of approximately ten images......  aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh. I'm definitely not doing a comic or a graphic novel though. (I don't appreciate either genre)

sorry to be verbose back in a moment
#11 - October 14, 2009, 05:46 PM
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 05:49 PM by Headwax »

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Ah, but I wouldn't call The Arrival a picture book. I'd call it a graphic novel. In fact, that's where my library shelves it.

I've seen "picture books" that are also in sort of graphic novel format, with the little boxes and so on--they are written for a younger audience than novel readers, but still have some of the same visual effects. Maybe that's what you're writing? If it's 65 pages, though--sounds more like a graphic novel. Which would allow for you to work beyond the 32-page format.

Your tone and subject matter, of course, would help decide if it's a children's or YA or adult graphic novel. FWIW, my 9-year-old son can't get enough of them, and there are rather few for his age range.
#12 - October 14, 2009, 06:00 PM

Headwax

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Thanks olmue, I should get my head around the different genre descriptions! My fault. I'd been calling it a  children's book till I spoke to the head of the local writer's group here and was informed  it was an "illustrated book " ....

The book's main character is a six to  eight year old kid. He runs away because he thinks the outside world is much better than his own world, but gradually discovers the truth. Apart from avoiding preaching, I am making it as politically incorrect as possible. All in good fun. But I think it's a fine line to tread. And it makes it harder for me to pinpoint the audience....




AE wrote
Quote
I think character driven with humor and heart...I try to convey that. I like movement, energy, emotion and story to come through.

Funny stuff wrote :
Quote
The scenes I chose have a wide array of emotion and I really wanted to do something that hasn't been done. It was a whole lot of fun and I think it's a great way to see if you could illustrate another writer's work putting your own unique slant on things.
Lyon  wrote :
Quote
The best advice I can give you is to have fun and follow your muse. I never settle for the first idea I have but make many rough sketches until I work out all the options for a spread. Try different view points and perspectives to really push the envelope.

Ninjawoman wrote:
Quote
I think you want represent a strong individual style, but show as much range as you can within that style.

ecm  wrote  I
Quote
'd like to add that your illos should "work" on the page and in the book meaning that it logically carry the reader's attention from left to right, facilitate page turns and pacing. Each illustrated page should reflect the mood of story as it unfolds and concludes.
Artesmia  wrote
Quote
Read a lot of picture books and graphic novels and you'll have a much better idea of where your story might fit in.

Thanks for all that advice.  In combination with the other kind advice that gives me a great start. :)

I ordered these books last night :

1 x   The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children   
1 x   The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books   
1 x   Writing with Pictures   
1 x   The Bloomsbury Guide to Creating Illustrated Children's Books   
1 x   The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books   
1 x   Illustrating Children's Books      
1 x   Show and Tell

for a little light reading ;)

Any advice on other  books would be very welcome.   (I am slowly making my  way back through  previous threads here)
#13 - October 14, 2009, 06:13 PM
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 06:16 PM by Headwax »

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 I have a question for Olmue please. I'm wondering what your nine-year-old son has read in the way of graphic novels and what types of graphic novels he's most drawn to. (Superhero type graphic novels, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or...?) Thanks - I have an idea for one that's geared toward kids his age.
#14 - October 15, 2009, 02:03 AM

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Plume - my 6-yr-old loved the Bone series by Jeff Smith.
#15 - October 15, 2009, 06:59 AM

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Wow, Headwax, that's a hefty book order! With a shelf of books like that you're off to an excellent start.  :smile
#16 - October 15, 2009, 09:16 AM
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THANKU picture book anthology (fall 2019), contributor

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Hey Headwax,

I realized I never answered your original question, which was how to decide what to illustrate. I'm sure other illustrators might have a different process, but this is how I work.

First, I take my ms and make a text-only dummy. Most 32-pg pbs start on page 4 (leaving room for title page, copyright, dedication, etc) so I place my text on the remaining pages. I play around with this until I'm satisfied. Then I go through page by page and pick what to illustrate. I try to choose the elements of the text that will provide most in the way of action, emotion, humour. I also try to vary my angles and views (bird's eye, worms eye, close up, etc) Sometimes I find that I didn't give myself much in the way of illustrative choices on a page, or that I've put too much on a page, and I'll move the text around again. Sometimes I'll revise text, too. I'll start doing rough thumbnail sketches in a storyboard, and then move on to a thumbnail dummy. I see how the choices I made flow. Sometimes things don't work, and I'll move text or change illustrations again. When I feel the text and illos are working and there is a good flow, I'll start the final dummy. (there are several good threads on making dummies on the boards)

A lot of times I can actually see the illustrations in my head as I'm drafting the ms, and I'll sketch as I write.

Your reading list is definitely a great start. Shulevitz's Writing With Pictures is amazing!

#17 - October 15, 2009, 09:55 AM
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Plume--he's less interested in superheroes when it comes to graphic novels (although he likes them in regular novels). He liked Coraline, Amulet, even liked Rapunzel's Revenge, all of the Anthony Horowitz he can find in GN format, and DEFINITELY Wimpy Kid.
#18 - October 15, 2009, 10:18 AM

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I ordered these books last night :

1 x   The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children   
1 x   The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books   
1 x   Writing with Pictures   
1 x   The Bloomsbury Guide to Creating Illustrated Children's Books   
1 x   The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books   
1 x   Illustrating Children's Books      
1 x   Show and Tell

for a little light reading ;)

Any advice on other  books would be very welcome.   (I am slowly making my  way back through  previous threads here)


Don't forget to read books in the genre you want to write. That's my #1 recommendation.
#19 - October 15, 2009, 06:06 PM

Headwax

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Hello

sorry to be away so long..... had my finger stuck in the tap and couldn't figure out whether to call the plumber or the dietician.....


Artemesia wrote

First, I take my ms and make a text-only dummy. Most 32-pg pbs start on page 4 (leaving room for title page, copyright, dedication, etc) so I place my text on the remaining pages. I play around with this until I'm satisfied. Then I go through page by page and pick what to illustrate. I try to choose the elements of the text that will provide most in the way of action, emotion, humour. I also try to vary my angles and views (bird's eye, worms eye, close up, etc) Sometimes I find that I didn't give myself much in the way of illustrative choices on a page, or that I've put too much on a page, and I'll move the text around again. Sometimes I'll revise text, too. I'll start doing rough thumbnail sketches in a storyboard, and then move on to a thumbnail dummy. I see how the choices I made flow. Sometimes things don't work, and I'll move text or change illustrations again. When I feel the text and illos are working and there is a good flow, I'll start the final dummy. (there are several good threads on making dummies on the boards)

thankyou for that advice ;) I think I will print that with the other advice and stick it up on the wall!

Along with Wonky's


Quote
Don't forget to read books in the genre you want to write. That's my #1 recommendation


I've been working hard with the fingers not stuck in the tap and it seems like my little illustrated book will blow out to 95 pages... hmm

By the way, thanks for the encouragment on the book list I have ordered... still waiting for them...

cheers again :)
#20 - October 18, 2009, 03:46 PM

Headwax

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Hi Wiseguy14,

Thanks for the reply! I almost missed it.

That's a good concept and good advice. I like the metaphor as well.

We have a lot of mosquitoes here and so little cannon.....

But seriously, it's an interesting concept. I have been going for the slow discovery approach when I can, leaving things in the image to be discovered.

I'll take your advice on board.

cheers again :)

Ps thanks for the kind comment on my work.
#21 - February 22, 2010, 05:36 PM

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