It’s an anonymous quotation from Tim Flannery’s Atmosphere of Hope.
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.)
The sun in A Sound of Taiyoo Organ is very similar to the sun as depicted in this Russian picture book.
It’s no coincidence really, since sunlight really does look different from there.
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.
There are various ways of depicting aerial perspective.
Or, you can stylize your illustrations, making up your own technique.
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.
Here, Maurice Sendak does something a bit different.
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.
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.
See also: Animating A Droplet Of Water
You don’t see this so much in modern books, but it seems children of yesteryear marched everywhere.
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.
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.
There is also an oversized moon in The Artifacts, but because it’s in a picture book, it doesn’t look big, does it?
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.
Which Witch’s Wand Works? by Poly Bernatene
Kay Nielson’s illustrations incorporate the moon more fully into the story, as the story requires:
This is a crystal ball, but we’re lead to associate the crystal ball with the moon.
In her illustrations of Beauty and the Beast, Schroder creates a fantastical moon which is actually smaller than a real moon.
There’s a graphic design advantage to huge moons as covers — the moon provides a light-coloured circle upon which to showcase the title.
This design feature isn’t limited to kidlit. Adults and teens are also drawn to oversized moons.
This is how my eight year old tends to begin her homemade picture books:
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
There are 7 main categories of Narrative art. Narrative art is art which tells a story.
In this post I talk about the difference between Continuous and Synoptic.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The cat drinking milk is an example of continuous narrative because the fall of the hill forms a clear temporal guide.
Again, the road itself provides a temporal guide. So this is an example of Continuous narrative art.
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.)
Usually have the action repeated. See “Sunshine”, “Moonlight”, “Putting Mummy to Bed”.
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.
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.
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 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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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).