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Category: Art (page 1 of 5)

The Pirts: A Short Story About Pirates

Introducing The Pirts: by Hannah age 8. Like Pirates, only briefer.

Introducing The Pirts: by Hannah age 8. Like Pirates, only briefer.

chapter one dinner

fry the bones

make the hair into spaghetti

Is this the most mournful horse you ever did see? I’m actually a little disturbed.

dish up

Is this a vampire pirate now? Not emo, anyway. Gleeful. Definitely gleeful.

salty sea

It’s hard to know when to end a story.

A Reminder For Not Just Difficult Books And Art

Just because you're struggling

It’s an anonymous quotation from Tim Flannery’s Atmosphere of Hope.

What Colour Is Your Sun?

Ask a Western child to draw the sun and they will draw it yellow.

Ask a Japanese child to draw the sun and they will draw it red.

(The sun is actually white.)

A Sound Of Taiyoo Organ

A Sound Of Taiyoo Organ by Ryojii Arai

Taiyou Organ

The sun in A Sound of Taiyoo Organ is very similar to the sun as depicted in this Russian picture book.

Russian sun picturebook

This is a realistic depiction from Australia -- the final page of The Snow Dragon by Vivian French and Chris Fisher

This is a realistic depiction from Australia — the final page of The Snow Dragon by Vivian French and Chris Fisher

the-fox-and-the-hen

The Fox and the Hen by Eric Battut, who is French

It’s no coincidence really, since sunlight really does look different from there.

This is an Aboriginal tale from Australia, where the sun is most definitely yellow.

This is an Aboriginal tale from Australia, where the sun is most definitely yellow.

How Maui Slowed The Sun

This is a Maori legend from New Zealand, where the sun also seems yellow.

This picture book is about n Indian immigrant girl in New York City

This picture book is about n Indian immigrant girl in New York City

from The Very Hungry Caterpillar

from The Very Hungry Caterpillar

An orangish sun by Beatrice Alegmagna from Bologna, Italy.

An orangish sun by Beatrice Alegmagna from Bologna, Italy.

And Into The Water They Fell

Mr Gumpy’s Outing by John Birmingham

MADELINE IN LONDON BY LUDWIG BEMELMANS

Bemelmans is an interesting case, having grown up in Europe then emigrating to America as a young man. It’s safe to assume Bemelmans saw the sun through a number of different hazes. Generally, Bemelmans depicts the sun as yellow. For him, yellow is the ‘unmarked’ version. But he does something interesting with the sun in his picturebook Madeline In London — after the horse tragically eats all the gardener’s flowers, the flower-loving gardener gets out of bed, opens the door and sees a yellow sun in the shape of a flower greeting him. But once he realises his flowerbed has been destroyed, Bemelmans paints the sun as red. In other words, Bemelmans uses a red sun to signify a downward emotional turn.

Aerial Perspective Depicted With Line Art

There are various ways of depicting aerial perspective.

  1. Change the colour. (Background scenery such as distant mountains tend to look more blue.)
  2. Change the opacity. (The further away, the less vivid the colours.)
  3. Make use of blur. (Background scenery might be more blurry if you want to draw attention to your foreground image.)
  4. Darken foreground lines.
  5. Change the amount of detail.

 

thick lines

Here’s a rather extreme example of line thickening in the foreground.

 

Or, you can stylize your illustrations, making up your own technique.

  1. Use white lines as background scenery.
  2. Use unfilled objects (with dark lines) as background scenery.
Heidi

white lines forming a gesture of mountains in the background

The Snow Queen

thin white lines for the background building, thicker lines for the trees in the middle ground, full colour for the children in the foreground

Rootabaga Stories

In Drahos Zac’s illustrations for The Pied Piper, there may be ominous reasons for avoiding the sepia fill on background buildings: The inhabitants of those particular buildings may have already died. This theory holds up when you consider some of the foreground characters are also left unfilled. This feels reminiscent of ghosts.

Pied Piper Drahos Zak drahos zak2

Here, Maurice Sendak does something a bit different.

The Wheel On The School

Upside-down Knitting In Picturebook Illustration

School Library Journal (Betsy Bird) posted an article about knitting as depicted in picture books — so often the knitting needles are coming out the top, whereas if you’ve ever knitted in real life you’ll know that the needles come out below the hands.

This is a wonderful observation, and once you’ve noticed it you’ll see it all over the place.

illustration by Takeo Takei

illustration by Takeo Takei, dating from the 1920s, Japan

 

OTHER INSTANCES IN WHICH REALISM IS MODIFIED

Raindrops

There are instances, however, where a realistic portrayal of nature isn’t necessarily warranted. Raindrops are actually round when falling from the sky, but in the collective imagination a raindrop is, well, ‘tear drop’ shaped. Where does the teardrop shape even come from? Probably from the leg of moisture coming off a droplet as seen when running down a surface such as a cheek.

Raindrop

round droplet from Midnight Feast

round droplet from Midnight Feast

See also: Animating A Droplet Of Water

Big Walking Legs

You don’t see this so much in modern books, but it seems children of yesteryear marched everywhere.

weird walking

Manic-Enthusiasm

I can’t find the credit for this image and it may be a pie advertisement for all I know. But we haven’t really seen these facial expressions since the 1970s Ladybird books.

manic enthusiasm

 

The Rule Of Oversized Moons In Picturebooks

There is a rule that moons in picture books must be bigger than the look in real life, from anywhere on Earth. I didn’t fully realise this was a rule until a beta reader for Midnight Feast asked me why my moon was so small. In fact, the moon was the ‘correct’ size, but then I realised why he had asked the question: Every single picture book I looked at had an oversize moon.

Why is this? I believe it’s because picturebooks don’t happen in the real world. They happen inside this other reality, in which size is all out of whack. Children can behave autonomously as adults; adults can behave as children.

For the record, the moon at the end of Midnight Feast is now oversized. I did change it. And yeah, it does look better.

final scene from Midnight Feast

final scene from Midnight Feast

There is also an oversized moon in The Artifacts, but because it’s in a picture book, it doesn’t look big, does it?

The Artifacts sheep moon

Why is the moon so important in literature?

  • A (large) moon can infuse your story with magical powers, even when the story is not of the fantasy genre per se.
  • The moon is a physical manifestation of fate.
  • A moon can be seen from everybody, anywhere on Earth and therefore makes a story feel universal, much like a myth.
  • The moon can lend a feminine feel to a story, since it is connected to the menstrual cycle.
  • The moon is comforting, since it waxes and wanes predictably.
  • In picturebooks, for practical purposes, the moon provides a great source of light, making night scenes glow.

The Moon ‘Incorporated’

Sometimes illustrators emphasise the importance of the moon by incorporating the celestial object into the design in a way that makes the moon seem part of the earthly landscape.

On the cover of Slinky Malinki it’s done subtly, with the glow from the moon providing an illuminating frame for the title.

Slinky Malinki cover

Which Witch’s Wand Works? by Poly Bernatene

Which Witch's Wand Works01 Which Witch's Wand Works02

Kay Nielson’s illustrations incorporate the moon more fully into the story, as the story requires:

East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914 Kay Nielson

East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914 Kay Nielson

This is a crystal ball, but we’re lead to associate the crystal ball with the moon.

Red Magic, 1930, Kay Nielson

Red Magic, 1930, Kay Nielson

In Powder and Crinoline, 1912 Kay Nielson moon incorporated

In Powder and Crinoline, 1912 Kay Nielson

Exception

In her illustrations of Beauty and the Beast, Schroder creates a fantastical moon which is actually smaller than a real moon.

Here's the Beast, looking very much like Beauty's little dog. He is depicted in this story as a chimera. Even more terrifyingly, his castle is full of chimeras -- most startlingly, the table with leopard legs.

Here’s the Beast, looking very much like Beauty’s little dog. He is depicted in this story as a chimera. Even more terrifyingly, his castle is full of chimeras — most startlingly, the table with leopard legs.

Massive Moons On Book Covers

There’s a graphic design advantage to huge moons as covers — the moon provides a light-coloured circle upon which to showcase the title.

Pitschi

The Moonday Cover moon is massive.

This story was based on the author/illustrator’s dream.

Oversized Moons In Books For Adults

This design feature isn’t limited to kidlit. Adults and teens are also drawn to oversized moons.

Still Images In Picturebook Illustration

This is how my eight year old tends to begin her homemade picture books:

Once there was a dog_600x412

Professional picturebook illustrators, on the other hand, know all about movement, and are able to convey in a static image a wide variety of verbs that are happening within a scene.

Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay is an example of a picturebook in which movement is very important and expertly depicted. A loose, sketchy, generic style of illustration is very good for ‘high-movement’ illustrations, with realism best saved for sombre, more serious stories. Continue reading

Synoptic and Continuous Narrative In Picturebook Illustrations

There are 7 main categories of Narrative art. Narrative art is art which tells a story.

  1. Monoscenic — represents a single scene with no repetition of characters and only one action taking place
  2. Sequential — very much like a continuous narrative with one major difference but uses frames. Each frame is a particular scene during a particular moment.
  3. Continuous
  4. Synoptic
  5. Simultaneous — has very little visually discernible organization to those who are not acquainted with its purpose concentrating on repeatable patterns and dualities
  6. Panoptic — depicts multiple scenes and actions without the repetition of characters. Think of the word ‘panorama’. ‘All-seeing’ (pan + optic)
  7. Progressive — a single scene in which characters do not repeat. However, multiple actions are taking place in order to convey a passing of time in the narrative. A progressive narrative is not to be interpreted as a group of simultaneous events but rather a sequence that is dependent on its location. Actions displayed by characters in the narratives compact present and future action into a single image.
Progressive Narrative Art

Progressive Narrative Art

In this post I talk about the difference between Continuous and Synoptic.

CONTINUOUS NARRATIVE

A continuous narrative is a type of narrative that illustrates multiple scenes of a narrative within a single frame.

Multiple actions and scenes are portrayed in a single visual field without any dividers. The sequence of events within the narrative is defined through the reuse of the main character or characters.

It emphasizes the change in movement and state of the repeating characters as indicators of scene or phase changes in the narrative.

Continuous narrative art is pretty much exactly the same as Sequential narrative art except minus the frames that help the viewer to know where one phase ends and the next begins.

Trajan's Column, depicting one event: The Dacian Wars

Trajan’s Column, depicting one event: The Dacian Wars

These days you find Continuous narrative art in comic strips, picture books and story boards.

This scene from In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak looks a blend between Continuous and Sequential, because although there is a frame to separate the pictures, the two frames almost seem to form a diptych (but only at first glance — there are two moons after all). I feel this is, overall, an example of Sequential narration.

nightkitchen121

SYNOPTIC NARRATIVE

Synoptic is the adjectival form of ‘synopsis’, which should give us a clue about what’s going on. Synoptic art = the synopsis of a bigger story.

A synoptic narrative depicts a single scene in which a character or characters are portrayed multiple times within a frame to convey that multiple actions are taking place.

This causes the sequence of events to be unclear within the narrative.

Synoptic narratives typically provide visual cues that convey the sequence, but still might be difficult to decipher for those unfamiliar with the story.

They’re not just used in ‘art’. Here’s an image from the Stihl home page:

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had that many clones of yourself working in the yard whenever big jobs needed to be done?

This is Mughal painting -- a style from South Asia.

This is Mughal painting — a style from South Asia.

By the way, it would be unusual to find a painting like this in a modern, Western picturebook because the characters are facing the wrong way! In picturebooks, the action goes toward the page turn, unless there’s some unusual reason to reverse it.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONTINUOUS AND SYNOPTIC

Continuous narrative art gives you clues, provided by the layout itself, about the sequence of phases depicted.

But you have to know the story before you can understand a synoptic narrative. This wasn’t a problem anyway, because everyone of the era understood the basic plot of the myths, fables, stories and wars depicted.

Wanda Gag’s  Millions of Cats

cats drinking milk

the double spread

cats drinking milk close up 2

a better quality image

cats drinking millk close up

a closer look

 

The cat drinking milk is an example of continuous narrative because the fall of the hill forms a clear temporal guide.

Virginia Lee Burton’s Katy and the Big Snow

katy-and-the-big-snow-hero

Again, the road itself provides a temporal guide. So this is an example of Continuous narrative art.

Marla Frazee’s Books

Marla Frazee makes a lot of use of this technique.

For example Mrs. Biddlebox (There’s an image of the thumbnail sketches for this book on Frazee’s webpage.)

from Boot and Shoe

from Boot and Shoe

Jan Ormerod’s books

Usually have the action repeated. See “Sunshine”, “Moonlight”, “Putting Mummy to Bed”.

Sun and Moon continuous narrative

Getting dressed scene in Sunshine

breakfast scene from Sunshine

Falling asleep Sunshine

Sunshine continuous narrative

Ian Falconer

Olivia waited and waited and waited

Here, Olivia the pig waits impatiently for her mother to sew her a different colored soccer shirt in Olivia and the Missing Toy. Not seen here is the bit where she walks off, bored.

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

From Olivia and the Fairy Princesses.

I make use of this same technique to show a child getting ready for bed, but in an interactive picture book app, Midnight Feast.

 

Panoptic Narrative Art In Picturebooks

suburban happenings

A panoramic narrative is a narrative that depicts multiple scenes and actions without the repetition of characters. Actions may be in a sequence or represent simultaneous actions during an event.

This form was popular in the medieval era and often depicts a myth.

Panoptic narrative art is often a bird’s eye view. The ‘camera’ is above. But the art isn’t necessarily three dimensional: Illustrators can create panoptic artwork in 2D if they’re after a more folk artsy style.

The Conquerors by David McKee

The Conquerors by David McKee

Child Life May 1979

(The term has nothing to do with Foucault’s panopticism — I believe it is made up of ‘pan’ + ‘optics’ as in ‘all-seeing’.)

In modern picturebooks, there is a gradation of activity in a scene. Often, there is way more going on in a single picturebook illustration than would ever be happening in a real life photograph. For example, in the scene of the school fair from Shirley Hughes’s Dogger, below, we can see sorts of things going on — all of which would have happened at the fair — but all of the individual actions are meaningful and it’s unlikely they were all going on at the same time. The work is therefore on the panoptic continuum.

Dogger the fair

Film makers, too, often need to arrange characters within scenes in a way that wouldn’t naturally occur. But we accept these film conventions to a large degree, even when realism is the aim.

What if it’s clear from the context of the story that multiple actions in a single scene are definitely not going on at the same time? This is called Progressive narrative art, in which ctions displayed by characters compact present and future action into a single image.

I believe Progressive narrative art is a subcategory of Panoptic art, and in picturebooks and film the two terms merge, for the simple fact that we in stories, characters live in ‘storybook worlds’, in which it’s perfectly possible all of these things are going on at once. We can’t possibly distinguish between the two states unless we were to know the ‘real events’. But these aren’t wars we’re describing — they are made up from the get-go; there is no basic ‘reality’.

Roland Harvey

Australian artist Roland Harvey is an expert at busy, detailed landscapes and has created a whole series of books with massive panoptic scenes: In The Bush, At The Beach, In The City and panoptic scenes occurring throughout his others.

Eureka Stockade cover

The First Fleet

on-the-farm-our-holiday-with-uncle-kev

Where’s Wally/Waldo

Where’s Wally was created by Martin Handford, English illustrator. These books make the most of that wish to hunt and search, linger and examine.

Where's Wally

Migrant by Jose Manuel Mateo

Migrant

This book uses a single vertical illustration and brief text.  It folds up accordion-style and recounts the story of a young family who immigrate illegally to Los Angeles, one huge image that is slowly unveiled over the course of the story.

 

The Great War : July 1, 1916 : the first day of the Battle of the Somme

The-Great-War-July-1-1916-The-First-Day-of-the-Battle-of-the-Somme__51E3YxrMkTL

an illustrated panorama by Joe Sacco would be worth a look. Not exactly for your younger crowd but an amazingly detailed depiction of what this battle site was like over the period of one day

 

Questions To Ask Yourself When Composing The Thumbnails Of A Picturebook

from Framed Ink: Drawing and composition for visual storytellers by Marcos Mateu-Mestre (2010) and various other sources such as Reading Contemporary Picturebooks by David Lewis (2001).

  • When composing a piece, decide first which part of the picture you would like the audience to see first.
    • To draw attention to something, make it bigger, and if it’s not actually bigger, position it closer to the camera.
    • We tend to look towards a vanishing point. So you can position important things there.
    • The audience tends to look in the same direction as the main character, assuming something relevant is going on in that direction.
    • For English-background readers, we are used to reading from left to right. If the action is going in that direction we’ll feel more at ease. If the action is going from right to left we’ll feel something’s not quite right: hard times and difficulty.
  • Decide on the emotion you want to evoke, and its intensity. (Sadness, happiness, action, suspense?)
  • The execution of the artwork — the stylemust suit the type of story being told.
  • In visual storytelling, looking great is not enough. Each work of art (frame) must help to propel the story along. Something which is simply beautiful may pull the viewer out of the story. [I think now of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, in which some scenes are not vital to the plot but exist only for world-building and atmosphere. This is important too.]
  • Is there anything that can be left out without changing what you want to say?
  • The first shots will establish the milieu and emotional landscape. This must remain consistent until the final frame.
  • To build atmosphere manipulate lighting, pacing and colour.
  • Give the audience the opportunity to create their own reality as much as possible, by creating a gap between the visuals and the text. When answering a question, raise another at the same time.
  • Simplicity, shadows and silences are sometimes more important than detail. Leave the reader wondering about something.
  • Where to position the ‘camera’? Looking up/straight on/from above/from some other weird angle?
  • Naturalistic perspective, flattened or exaggerated?
  • We look at things depending on what we’re focused on at the moment. [So if there was a hint of a gun in one frame, we’ll be expecting to see it, and therefore focused on it, in the following frame.]
  • Curved shapes = subtle/peaceful.
  • Diagonal lines = dynamic/aggressive.
  • Straight lines = assertiveness.
  • Avoid weird coincidences, like a tree growing out of a head just because someone happens to be standing in front of a tree.
  • When cutting in closer to a scene, there is a rule to be followed, to do with proportions. Keep the subject at the same position in both frames so the reader knows it’s the same subject and not a different one.
  • To make an image seem deeper, create an uneven balance of shapes — big to small.
  • To better convey the direction of action in action scenes, make the action follow the lines of perspective.
  • To establish intimacy between two characters, clear the space between them. To create antagonism, put obstacles between them. (Or make use of light and darkness/background shapes.)
  • High and low, right and left are all locations that can have significance. Figures positioned up high may be interpreted as in ecstatic or dream-like states, or may have high social status or a positive self-image.
  • On pages where pictures are mere vignettes or are only partially framed so that the words push in from the side, or where pictures are irregularly sequenced down or across the page in asymmetrical arrangements, then high and low, left and right have no significant value.
  • When studying picturebooks closely, positional codes are used relatively sparingly [when compared to comics and graphic novels].
  • More common in picturebooks: the convention that places figures in motion facing left to right. Any character attempting to move from right to left will be perceived as interfering with the natural course of events: they’ve returned from an adventure/blocking someone’s path/have sinister intentions etc.
  • Children are remarkably quick to take in a scene, even in cases where the illustration is not particularly ept, and interpreting that scene as intended, but there are certain features of visual images that are harder for children to understand: anything which has a meaning over and above what is represented. Children may or may not understand, for instance, that a red cross indicates medical assistance, depending on their age and cultural background.

SEE ALSO

Character Relations In Picturebooks

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