“A picturebook is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and a commercial product; a social, cultural, historic document; and foremost, an experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two Printable P pages, and on the drama of the turning page.” - Barbara Bader 1976:1
July has been a month of drawing. It’s been a month of long evenings and early mornings, parks and passports, of frustrations and small victories. It is simple to say, but the only way to become better is to start doing things. The slowness of July makes me project Don Knuth, turn off e-mail and get to the bottom of things.
I’m learning to do my best work. There’s no ink in my fingers or paint splatters on the floor, but my July drawings folder is full of pictures, animations, full-spreads, doodles and prayers from behind the screen. This update is about the process that happens in my head.
Until next time!
The Way I Work
I’m a big fan of The Setup and The Way I Work -series (and love the How to Draw an Owl -meme), so for this update I’m interviewing myself on the process of making my first children’s book. Enjoy!
So Linda, what does your typical day in July look like?
I’m incredibly slow with getting started. That’s why I head to the office early. I usually start the morning with some quick sketches about nothing in particular to get myself going. (You can follow the emoticons, silly animations and sketches piling up in my Tumblr).
I’m learning to say no more, hide from my e-mail, keep my calendar empty and just appreciate the fact that all of this takes time.
I tend to be pretty introverted. I hate talking on the phone and usually turn it off the first thing in the morning (sorry!). I crave space and luckily in Finland it’s ok to be silent. My inner life keeps me pretty entertained: the other day I laughed alone at an animation I made for the whole evening.
I work with a brand new Cintiq 22HD and a Mac Pro, which brings ample amounts of cool to the office. I also have a four year old MacBook Air and an iPhone 4 with a battery life of around 30 minutes. I listen to Spotify and read on iPad Mini and Kindle, depending on the weather. I love Feedly, Inbox Paused, TextMate, Adium, FantastiCal,Github (I use Issues to manage my life!),Trello, Timebar, Twitter, Adobe CC (most of the times), Dropbox and Kippt. I have tons of Muji pens and notebooks everywhere. Hairpins keep me sane.
How does your process of illustrating work?
Children’s books are an incredibly exiting media. The relationship of text and picture, compositions, pacing and structure keep me busy. There are weird and wonderful limitations that other types of author don’t face: you can’t use that many or complicated words, but you can tell a whole other story with the pictures.
With Ruby I started with a storyboard. (You can find a nice example here). Children’s books are typically 32 pages (Ruby will be 64!) and laying out everything in thumbnail size helps to get an overview of the structure. Much like in programming, it’s almost impossible to manage all the details in your head, so focusing first on a half-an-inch view of all the spreads in the story really helps.
On the other hand once I actually start drawing out the pictures, there’s so much details to come up with. Lucky I have stacks of books and hundreds of reference images and inspiration (some of which are in Pinterest). I like to listen to all sorts of talks while drawing and have tons of reference points. It helps me associate freely and come up with new ideas.
The hardest thing is to know when a picture is ready. Code compiles (or doesn’t!) and I have a pretty clear idea how to start troubleshooting, but with art I just stare at the screen, always uncertain. The only remedy so far has been time. I cry and I complain, but slowly I get there.
What is the process for making a single picture?
I jump between hand drawn sketches and Photoshop. I use brushes by Kyle Webster (you can purchase them here, absolutely love them). I have a colour palette of maybe 30 colours just to keep things consistent. I try to remember to layer everything and name the layers, but anyone who has had to work with my files will cringe now.
I love using textures and mixing different medias, but am just learning to properly do this (overlay & multiply!). I’m getting better at drawing characters, but struggle a lot with the environments. I still get a ton of help from the tutorials in this Pinterest group.
When I get super stuck I read illustrator interviews at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. One of the most reassuring things I read was about developing your own style and perspective and not worrying too much about classical qualifications.
Since many of you are on summer vacation, this months Linked List includes a few book recommendation as well as a few artsy computer culture projects.