Slap Happy Larry

picturebooks, apps, eBooks, short stories

Category: Art (page 1 of 4)

Picturebook Study: Perspective

The illustrators I admire the most have one thing in common: They each employ the full range of perspectives and points of view: high angle, low angle, up through tunnels, long shots, close ups and so on and so forth. Much can be gained from thinking about perspective in picture books, though Perry Nodelman the whole thing up in a few sentences:

Generally speaking, figures seen from below and against less patterned backgrounds stand out and seem isolated from their environment and in control of it; figures seen from above become part of an environment, either secure in it or constrained by it. Also generally speaking, illustrators who make significant use of changing angles tend to be those who emphasize the intense drama of the stories their depict; Van Allsburg and Trina Schart Hyman, both of whom tend to depict highly charged emotions, use extreme views from above and from below in book after book…As well as viewing their characters from varying angles, picture-book artists can place them against differing sizes of backgrounds, much as movie directors do, in order to focus our attention on specific aspects of their behaviour. Long shots, which show characters surrounded by a lot of background, imply objectivity and distance; they tell us about how a character’s actions influence his environment, or vice versa. Middle-distance shots, which show characters filling most of the space from the top to the bottom of a picture, tend to emphasize the relationships between characters. Close-ups generate involvement with characters by showing us their facial expressions and, presumably, communicating the way they feel…In picture books, close-ups are rare–not surprisingly, for the width of most picture books makes it difficult to show a face without any background behind it. IN any case, this is a literature of action rather than of character, and the empahsis is on events and relationships rather than on subtleties of feeling. If close-ups are used at all in picture books, they tend to be on the front cover or dust jacket and to operate more as an introduction to a character’s appearance than as a way of revealing character.

– Words About Pictures

 

Jumanji Van Allsburg

from Jumanji by Van Allsburg

from Zathura by Van Allsburg

from Zathura by Van Allsburg

 

A Child's Christmas In Wales Schart Hyman

A Child’s Christmas In Wales Schart Hyman – bird’s eye view

A Child's Christmas In Wales Schart Hyman

A Child’s Christmas In Wales Schart Hyman – over-the-shoulder view of empathetic character

The Kitchen Knight Trina Schart Hyman

The Kitchen Knight Trina Schart Hyman – drawn from the height of a child reader looking on

Burkert's Snow White - an example of a close up of a face on a front cover

Burkert’s Snow White – an example of a close up of a face on a front cover

 

Minding The Gap

This week in Western Australia a man managed to get stuck in the gap. There was a happy ending — he was freed after about 15 minutes, without injury. If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t really think about all those echoey announcements warning us to mind the gap, and you may have even peered at the gap at one point, wondering how anyone could possibly get their foot stuck down there, except for maybe a toddler.

Public Transport Authority spokesman David Hynes … it was an impressive feat because the gap between the train and platform was less than five centimetres.

Warnings to ‘Mind The Gap’ are so well-known that the phrase is used metaphorically to refer to other things.

This week I have been illustrating the underground scenes of Hilda Bewildered. In this case, the signs warning ‘Mind The Gap’ refer equally to income inequalities.


Picking Berries Underground

Picking Berries Underground

 

This is not an original metaphor. Scientific American has used it, for instance, as have many others.

Do you know how this ‘Mind The Gap’ warning is announced in other languages around the world? Wikipedia has a list of translations.

Can you think of any other phrases like this which have become part of popular culture, commonly used to refer to other things? Wikipedia offers ‘Objects in mirror are closer than they appear’ as another example.

How many of these do you recognise?

 

Illustrating The Dark

A British company has produced a “strange, alien” material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the “super black” coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss.

If it was used to make one of Chanel’s little black dresses, the wearer’s head and limbs might appear to float incorporeally around a dress-shaped hole.

Blackest Is The New Black

 

The Colours Of Night

I have a Pinterest board called ‘Night’, because I’m interested in all the different ways artists show a viewer darkness, when in reality, night is the absence of light. If you’d never had much exposure to art then you’d be forgiven for thinking that a board full of night would look like a sheet of black. Not so! As Vincent Van Gogh apparently said, ‘I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.’

Apart from black and dark blue, various other colours depict darkness:

  • Purple
  • All the different shades of blue
  • A little more surprisingly: greens
  • Sepia tones
  • Orange (see Józef Wilkón’s picture of a boy sleeping outside in a bed. The sky (which he imagines) is orange.
The night is depicted with green

The night is depicted with green

Józef Wilkón Boy Sleeping

Józef Wilkón Boy Sleeping

How do illustrators depict night time without losing colour and form and interest?

Of course, there has to be a light source from somewhere, even if it’s just from a few stars. And there is always a light source. Light commonly comes from:

  • Moonlight
  • Lightning
  • Light coming out of windows
  • Street lamps or electric lamps
  • Torches and lanterns
  • Candles
  • Fire
  • Phosphorescent insects
  • Through keyholes and crevices

A light source can also be entirely made up:

  • From special objects, for example from the inside of open books, to light up the character’s face. The light may technically come from some reflected light on a white page, though can be exaggerated. Fantasy scenes are best suited for much exaggeration.
  • From a light source which is presumed to be slightly off-stage. Film noir is a good thing to study because you’ll find that shadows appear from unlikely light sources. Light can be artistically manipulated. A light doesn’t really have to exist in real life for the artist to make use of a convenient light source — but it’s unlikely to work unless the artist is manipulating light with purpose.

new yorker cover brightly lit city

 

Adolf Fassbender

Other Tricks

There are other tricks illustrators use to depict the darkness of night even when there isn’t a strong light source in the world of the narrative. Borrowing a film term, you might call these tricks non-diegetic sources of light.

1. At night scenes lose their colour, and so a simple desaturation can work to convey darkness. To maintain the focal point of the painting, an artist can desaturate some things and not others. Desaturation can be used alone to convey darkness. In fact, look at the picture and if it weren’t for the hues, it’s as light-coloured as a daytime equivalent.

shaun tan

chris van allsburg night

We know this isn't a black and white picture because the moon is yellow.

We know this isn’t a black and white picture because the moon is yellow.

2. The desaturation can take on a sepia tone, or ochre, or turquoise etc. In digital art this is easily done. Add a layer of colour over top of all the other layers (gradient, if you like) then set it to multiply. Lower the opacity to the desired amount of new hue. This same trick can be effective for daylight scenes as well, in which you can take the colour of the sky, then set it to about 5 percent opacity. This gives a unifying effect to a picture which may otherwise look quite ununified due to different elements being on different layers, or painted at different times.

The White Night by Adolf Fassbender

The White Night by Adolf Fassbender

3. A lot of artists make the moon bigger than is possible here on Earth. (Earlier in 2014 we saw the moon at it’s biggest in years, and it still wasn’t nearly as big as seen in many story books!) The moon can seem almost as bright as the sun, especially if reflecting off something light, like a blanket of snow. In illustrations where the moon might be mistaken for a sun, a crescent moon can be preferences. (Because the sun is never ‘crescent’.)

Paoli Domeniconi

Paoli Domeniconi

Although in real life the moon is sometimes visible during the day, this isn’t conventional in illustrations, where sun equals day and moon equals night. Even in night scenes without a moon in sight assume the presence of a moon. For example, in the Japanese Fireflies over the Uji River by Moonlight, artist Suzuki Shonen doesn’t show the moon — this would compete for attention with the fireflies, yet the moonlight reflecting off the road is evident, and the artist includes ‘moonlight’ in the title of the work.

Japanese Fireflies over the Uji River by Moonlight

Japanese Fireflies over the Uji River by Moonlight

4. If you’re not painting the dead of night, it’s convenient to add a band of sky colour on the horizon. A band of orange or yellow in the sky can tell us something about the time of day as well as lending colour to an otherwise monotone scene. Even in illustrations which are not set at sunrise or sundown, there is often an inexplicable light source coming from behind some houses or trees. The sky often gets lighter towards the horizon. In this case, it’s the top of the sky which gives the reader the night-time cues.

Notice how the sky gets lighter as it gets further away due to aerial perspective.

Notice how the sky gets lighter as it gets further away due to aerial perspective.

5. Some illustrations do nothing whatsoever with the hue or tone to convey darkness, apart from showing a character in bed, or telling us in the words that it is night-time. This seems to work! (See illustration by Gyo Fujikawa, in which the blue of the sky outside might be used equally to depict a bright, sunny day.) See also the book cover The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The turquoise and the purple form a limited palette which the reader is used to associating with night-time. The shades themselves are bright — and therefore appropriate on a book cover for children.

by Gyo Fujikawa

by Gyo Fujikawa

6. The pink illustration by Guy Shield shows young lovers kissing at the drive-in. This example shows that it doesn’t really matter what palette you use, as long as it’s a limited one, it can suggest the desaturation of night. The viewer also knows that it is night-time because that’s when teenagers used to go to drive-in movies. So the surrounding narrative is also important.

Lakewood Drive in by Guy Shield

Lakewood Drive in by Guy Shield

7. In night time scenes some tonal diversity is still necessary — a wider range of tones makes it easier to create interest. With a little imagination, lighter tones can be exaggerated or made up. An imaginary light source is one thing, but there are also rain droplets on a window which may collectively add up to quite a light painting if there is something lighting them up. Fog and mist are also light in colour, and so a light horizon might be put down to that. Cities seem to light up from below, even in the dead of night. Bodies of water are reflective, and provide sources of light by virtue of reflection. (Presumably a moon.) In any case, a strong contrast between the foreground and the background helps greatly with night scenes. The foreground can be in silhouette (popular at the moment in games such as World Of Goo and also on YA book covers). In this case the background will be more or less in full colour. Alternatively, the foreground can be light against a dark background.

The Graveyard Book Italian Version

Total Darkness

What about when the illustrator wants to depict true darkness, possibly because the darkness itself is part of the story? How do we show darkness while still showing some sort of picture? Jon Klassen worked with this exact problem when he illustrated The Dark by Lemony Snicket. He got around it by making use of the a silhouette technique. The light parts are surrounded by large blocks of black, in which neither the viewer nor the character sees anything at all, at least not until illuminated by chinks of light.

the dark jon klassen

The same technique has been used by a variety of illustrators:

darkness outside the night

Strawberry Hill by Kurt Knobelsdorf is a painting of a house at night which is also very dark, even though there is indeed a light source coming from one of the windows and a small moon in the sky. Tsuta Spa, Mutsu 1919 by Kawase Hasui is a Japanese example of something very similar — a genuinely dark picture of dark. Even so, the three squares of light give the picture enough interest to warrant it being look-at worthy.

Tsuta Spa, Mutsu 1919 by Kawase Hasui

Tsuta Spa, Mutsu 1919 by Kawase Hasui

Strawberry Hill

 

 

Art History Highlights

Insofar as art history is useful to picturebook lovers, here is a useful infographic from Indulgy:

Slapping On Filters

The Horn Book has published a balanced and interesting article about digital and traditional artwork found in modern picturebooks, in which case some reviewers and enthusiasts are keen to know exactly how a piece of art has been created. The article wisely advises in its title: Just Enjoy The Pictures.

However, something from the following paragraph pulls me up short:

While many people embrace the notion that the computer is merely another tool in an artist’s toolbox, there also exists a disdain for art that tries to be something it isn’t, such as digitally created artwork that attempts to look like it was rendered in oils. Why go through the trouble to fake it when you can do the real thing? Why slap a filter on it to make it look like oils instead of taking the messy risk of working with actual paint?

I can’t work out from the article whether the writer realises that no (published) digital artist is simply ‘slapping on filters’.

So I’d like to make it clear here: Filters are about as useful as tits on a bull. There’s no ‘slapping one on’ to achieve any artwork with soul. Indeed, I don’t even know why Photoshop ships with filters. I haven’t yet noticed a picturebook artist who has found a use for a single one.

However, some artists may be making judicious use of filters. Judiciously. Maybe. With lots of mods.

Which leads me to my next point, a response to the clip from a new (niche) documentary called Making It, in which illustrators talk about their work. I haven’t seen the film. There’s a clip on video in which an illustrator called Anthony Francis Moorman talks about various things illustration related — how he enjoys drawing boobs and skulls and not buildings — then he goes on to  say that he takes great pride in the fact that his drawings are done by hand. He says that because of all the art software out there now, a lot of young illustrators are doing their work entirely on computer, and ‘it has no soul’.

As usual, I tend to question cause and effect.

1. ‘Soul’ and ‘spirit’ etc. are religious terms, which are trying to describe something else. ‘Soul’ is such a nebulous term that I wonder what it really refers to in relation to art. Does it mean, perhaps, that the slightly shaky lines, imperfectly coloured, are more attractive than the dead-straight lines which have been auto-filled in a program such as Adobe Illustrator? Does the ability to make perfect perspective with the guides in the latest versions of Adobe Photoshop take something away from the slightly skewed, morphed, unnatural perspective achieved by hand-illustrators?

2. Assuming that this is what is meant by ‘no soul’, is there no soul because the drawings have been done on a computer, or are the drawings soulless because they are being done by people who’ve had no real training in the art of perspective, shading and colour theory? In this case, the computer is not the problem; rather, computers may be standing in the way of a broad art education.

3. ‘By hand’ is an interesting term to those of us who paint digitally using a Wacom tablet. Because when I’m drawing on paper I’m using a pen-like tool. Similarly, when I’m drawing via computer, I’m using a pen-like tool. The degree to which I am able to replicate the experience of drawing on paper is determined by the amount of practice I’ve had: It takes several years to become really comfortable working with a Wacom pen, looking at the screen while drawing onto the desk. But I am still using my ‘hand’.

Moorman’s excerpt is interesting because his thoughts are representative of many attitudes towards the inferiority of digital art and the superiority of non-computer based art. It will be interesting to see if and how these attitudes evolve as illustrators move even further into an era in which it’s impossible to make a living without involving computers at some stage of the development process.

Winners of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Awards for 2013

Here is a slideshow from The New York Times.

It’s nice to see the wide range of illustration styles. Which is your favourite?

And here’s Notable Children’s Books from 2013 from The New York Times

Picturebook Study: Why the Black and White?

1. THE AIR OF UNCOMPROMISING DETACHMENT

While some picturebooks are in black and white for economic reasons, serious picture-book artists who choose to aavoid color in a medium noted for its use of color often have similar special points to make.

The obvious example is the work of Chris Van Allsburg. The black-and-white pictures in both The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and Jumanji evoke the feeling of black-and-white still photographs that have been slightly over-developed to emphasize their contrasts. They are uncompromisingly objective and detached–unlike the world we see subjectively with our own eyes simply because they are so much like photographs. Paradoxically, we commonly associate black and white with uncompromising truth, utter absence of subjective coloring: documentary. Van Allsburg’s pictures have the quality of documentary, of detached observation that shows exactly what there is to see without the frivolous intrusion of color, and they are unsettling simply because what we see so uncompromisingly is often magic and impossible.

– Perry Nodelman, Words About Pictures

2. BLACK AND WHITE MAKES THINGS LOOK OLD, AND THEREFORE CLASSIC

The technology of photography has influenced picturebooks — and art in general — in a number of different ways.

One standout convention is that greyscale images make the reader think of the days before colour film was invented. This works even if the artwork is an illustration, not a photo. It works if the illustration is not even close to photo-realistic. The effect is made very clear when looking at these old images which have been realistically colorised. The effect is really quite stunning: We’re used to looking at wartime photos in black and white, which lends a comfortable distance to horrific world events. Yet when the same photos are colorised, the events seem much more recent and therefore have more impact.

Abandoned boy holding a stuffed toy animal. London 1945

The inverse works too. I recently watched The Last Picture Show, which was filmed in 1971 and therefore could have been shot in full colour, but the black and whiteness of it makes the town seem older. The story is set in the 1950s.

What about recently produced films set in the past? Why are more not set in black and white? Possibly it’s because in the digital age of film, cinematographers have ready access to coloured filters. A yellow hue cast over the background can lend an old-style look (as seen in Delicatessen, 1991).

screenshot from Delicatessen

I mention these films for adults because I’m not so sure the bulk of consumers and critics feel that ‘black and white’ is of any artistic use at all, let alone ‘appropriate for children’. Do adult gatekeepers accept the convention of black and white pictures in the stories they choose to buy for children?

Case study: After creating The Fanastic Flying Books Of Morris Lessmore, Moonbot Studios produced an app called The Numberlys, which baffled some reviewers because it was in black and white.

iPhone Screenshot 1

The Numberlys Screenshot

The opening of the app is gripping and quite dark (which makes sense given the inspiration), so it is unlikely to really capture the attention of pre-schoolers (I say this because as you’ll read later I have a hunch they are partly considered a key audience). It is in a black and white, slightly sepia tone and harks back to the type of animation that is aiming to appeal to both adults and children – though here it probably will be of greater interest to children of elementary school age and older.

review of The Numberlys from Wired

I sense the reviewer believes the youngest readers cannot be drawn in to a black and white/dark image. Is this something to do with physiology and the way humans have evolved to learn, or is it because two and three year olds have already learned from the culture that anything in bright colours is more likely to have been produced with them in mind? Perhaps this is what put the reviewer of Mac News World off the scent:

I must admit, I felt a bit duped by the description of the Numberlys app after I bought, downloaded and launched the app. I was expecting something bigger and longer that would appeal more to adults.

Was it the black and white look of the app which lead the reviewer to assume that The Numberlys was intended for an older audience?

Touch Arcade writes:

The story is told through beautiful black and white animated graphics which are clearly inspired by the classic sci-fi film Metropolis, but with a modern touch.

…thereby picking up that the black and white is influenced by work that has come before — in this case, the work of Fritz Lang. Will children appreciate any of this? The example of The Numberlys shows that regardless of what children themselves think, reviewers (and I guess adult consumers) are likely to assume that media produced in black and white will appeal to adult sensibilities. A black and white story for children, therefore, better make sure it lives up to the huge challenge of appealing to a dual audience of children and adults alike.

 3. A BLACK AND WHITE IMAGE TYPICALLY CONVEYS EMOTIONS BETTER THAN A COLOUR ONE

Filmmaker IQ has a post on the reasons why we might still choose to desaturate an image, and this is one of them.

In a portrait with strong lighting, a calm face can suddenly look menacing, or vice versa. In this case, the lack of colour means that colour can’t interfere with the tonal contrast. The best example of this is the entire art noir movement.

Virgil Finlay

Virgil Finlay

Perry Nodelman continues with his example of Chris Van Allsburg, and the contrast one can achieve via black and white:

Furthermore, the heavy contrasts of these pictures emphasize the patterns created by the various shapes and so do the black lines that outline each shape, so that the relationships o these shapes on the flat surface of the page are as significant as the relationships of the figures the shapes represent in the three-dimensional picture space. As a result, and as happens in photographs with high contrast, the often intense action the pictures depict is slowed down, held by the patterns; like still pictures of people caught in moments of fast action, the pictures depends to a great extent on these paradoxical relationships between what is depicted and the photographic techniques used to depict it–between our expectations of documentary truth and our perception of magic, between activity and stopped time.

MODERN ALTERNATIVES TO BLACK AND WHITE IN PICTUREBOOKS

There is nothing wrong with black and white as an artistic decision. But is there a ‘hybrid’ decision that can be made about colour, one which will satisfy the artistic goals of a limited palette as well as consumer expectation that children need colour?

Yellow Filters

In the digital era, illustrators can put a yellow tint on a picture and it immediately looks a bit old, but not too old (in which case black and white is good). I have no idea whether ‘yellow’ meant ‘aged’ before that crappy film did the rounds in the seventies, but there you have it. (See Delicatessen, above.)

It will be interesting to see how further developments in technology influence colour choice in art. With everyone sticking filters on things, the filters themselves are sure to come and go. Perhaps when we look back at the twenty-teens, we’ll see ‘iPhone filter’ stamped all over our family shots. So why do we do this? Perhaps photography got too good. Maybe we like the overexposed look, because one thing black and white early photography was very good at was adding a touch of glamour. And who needs every blemish magnified with a 50 megapixel camera?

Limited Palette

If you want to create a retro-looking illustration, you can also limit your palette to the few colours that were available to printing houses way back when. Many older illustrations are red and black simply because the publishing houses couldn’t afford a wider range.

1928 Willys-Knight | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

1928 Willys-Knight

 

 

From Moosekleenex Tumblr

moosekleenex:CHECK MATE.

Books For Grown-ups With Illustrations

Christopher Howse at The Telegraph asks why books for grownups don’t have illustrations anymore, and says some very interesting things about the work of Julia Donaldson, but offers no answer about lack of illustrations in adult literature. Instead, commenters offer up a variety of books for adults which are indeed illustrated. To save you wading through a comments section full of literary snobbery (from which I always derive great pleasure), here they are:

  1. Scott Westerfeld’s excellent ‘LEVIATHAN’ trilogy has great illustrations by Keith Thompson.
  2. Doctor Marbles Freedom From Anxiety
  3. Adult literature with illustrations?Aren’t they known as comics?
  4. I have an old Aubrey Beardsley illustrated book that I like and some fiction novels with cigarette advertising plates.
  5. My brother Neil recently produced an illustrated version of The Odyssey with the children’s writer Gillian Cross.
  6. Evelyn Waugh used illustrate some of his books.
  7. Alasdair Gray illustrates his books.
  8. The Folio Society sells beautifully illustrated books… They reissue the classics and contemporary titles with either the original illustrations or newly commissioned artwork.

To that I would add Audrey Niffenegger’s Raven Girl and all the wonderful graphic novels that don’t have the readership they deserve.

Raven Girl

To me it seems obvious why most novels for adults are not illustrated. It took a few hours to write Midnight Feast — with continual modifications along the way, of course — and it took over a year to complete just 44 pages of illustrations.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

 

Genres In Children’s Literature: Lecture 07: Caricatures, Cartoons, Comics

David Beagley, La Trobe University, available on iTunes U

  • Smith’s Weekly was a humorous look at Australian current affairs, the sort of thing that has been replaced by TV these days. There were cartoons, the throw-away line (Garfield style). This tabloid helped popularise this caricatured way of drawing.
  • Today we look at the bridge from younger readers into adult via cartoons, but maintains the features typically associated with children.
  • Scott McLeod: Understanding Comics is an influential book about these concepts, and it’s written in comic format itself.
  • Cover Art for Understanding Comics, ISBN: 9780060976255
  • What is a comic?
  • In about 1912 Rene Magritte (mentioned in Voices In The Park lecture) did a famous painting about art:
  • There were a lot of arguments at the time about what is art and what isn’t. Magritte of course was saying, ‘This is not a pipe; it’s a picture of a pipe.’ The artist makes you think about the object, not about the representation.
  • So a comic is something being represented (not real) and it is simplified right down. In terms of simplification, McLeod puts it like this: If you have an exact photographic representation only one person can be represented, but the more it is simplified, the more people it may represent — the more people are involved and engaged in the storyline, especially the universality of it. This leads into the idea of caricature: exaggerating some parts.
  • We know cartoons mostly as political cartoons, as adults. In our childhood there were simple storylines.
  • The tradition of caricatures goes right back to John Tenniel.
  • When does a caricature become a comic? The key point here is sequencing. The placing of several of these caricatured pictures in a row in order to express a relationship between them makes a comic.
  • One of the earliest examples goes back to the 11th century with the Bayeux tapestry.
  • File:Bayeux hawking.jpg
  • Done like this, the time lapse isn’t that obvious. It looks like a single picture rather than the same story told over several years.
  • So in order to get the sequencing across, comic creators started doing something:  There is an assumption when we’re very young that if we can’t see something it doesn’t exist (e.g. that’s why peek-a-boo works). The key point is that if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist; if you can see it, it does. So now pictures follow one after each other in a temporal sequence.
  • Various tricks are used to indicate movement: blurring.
  • Line can also be used to indicate smell etc. in a mimetic way.
  • If the reader looks at dots and interprets those dots as flies, the reader is interpreting symbols in the same way as they are reading words.
  • There is a lot more, of course, but those are a couple of examples of how lines is used in the comic.
  • In the early 1740s when books for children started getting published, pictures were included right from the start. These were done on the cheap on woodblock prints, potato printing principle. (No colour — that came 100 years later. Any colour was usually hand done.) Very young children were employed to colour them in, sitting in sweatshops. Someone would do the blue and pass it on to the next person who would do the yellow.
  • After a long while printing allowed different colours on the same page.
  • In the 1860s two characters changed the face of children’s literature in a huge way: Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, who with his stories illustrated by John Tenniel, really enabled this humorous aspect to take off. Prior to this the drawings had all been serious. The pictures themselves now were able to have humour inherent in them and them only, things like the facial expressions of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. At this stage Britain was the major economy and cultural centre of the world, so in Britain this format continued for the next century or so. This wasn’t only the case for children — magazines were big, Charles Dickens released as serials in weekly and monthly magazines. There were very specific ones for very specific groups — Girl’s Own Paper, Boy’s Own Paper, which had a huge influence. They were originally the Bible society, but in the end they were doing adventure stories and recipes. The girls’ ones are heavily about how to maintain a good house, while the boys are out in lifeboats rescuing drowned sailors or fighting pirates.
  • By the time mags such as Eagle (Dan Dare, sci-fi) came along the pictures had taken over.
  • The most syndicated and read comic would probably be Peanuts, from the 1950s to the present day.
  • Little Nemo In Slumberland is very modern — different size and shaped frames — this mechanism was before its time.

 

File:Little Nemo 1905-11-26 middle five panels.jpg

1905

  • This comic also introduced the speech bubble — a major change in comics. There was one person per frame with one speech bubble, max.
  • With the narrative serial came the invention of the superhero. This hit our newspapers in the 1930s. There’s possibly a social reason: the depression (along with Shirley Temple) and the ones who are not everyday, which was pretty darned depressing, so people wanted to be removed from the reality of life.
  • The superhero and the supervillain were very popular in America. This can be seen even now in the difference between the crime shows. In England The Bill — ordinary people, but so many of the American ones feature a hero with a super skill (The Mentalist). The detectives and the police are super. There’s a different approach to storytelling. This is the point where children’s storytelling is now becoming adult literature.
  • Britain and Europe aren’t the only places this is happening. In Europe the comic developed slightly differently. It’s still very much a child’s plaything and still in serial format, but published as complete books: Asterix and TinTin are the main ones. There is also a difference in the characters. Tin Tin is quite different from Batman. The creator of Tin Tin had a special approach to Tin Tin: a lot of superhero comics are very cinematic, with close ups and panning and long shots and high views down. Sergey of Tin Tin never does that. He tends to draw everything as if everything matters, a precise, quiet style of art without the zap/pow. The reader is encouraged to really look hard at the pictures.
  • The Asterix books are very verbal, based on puns, particuarly around people’s names. This has led to a very interesting concept as they’ve been translated. Stephen Fry who did Planet Word asked the question: Do speakers of different language think about things differently? Asterix is written in French, so all the puns are also in French. Puns don’t work in English. You have to then find English ones which are just as funny, so translation is very difficult.
  • Comics now: Mainly an adult form. What used to be the Donald Duck cartoons has largely been replaced by the CGI movie format, Toy Story etc. Certainly there are kids’ programming — a lot of it is animated cartoon, but there’s not the same amount of single frame comic format designed for kids.
  • There are also glossy magazines such as Dolly, which is consumer driven. K-Zone etc. are largely spin offs of movies, buy this particular computer game, they are largely a marketing tool.
  • The movies are not kids’ movies but they are marketed to kids, in Happy Meals, in toys, so parents are caught. Even back in 1743 there were giveaways (ball for boys, pincushions for girls sort of thing). But there is now a huge amount of crossover – movies, comics, games and so on feed off each other.
  • There is also a huge Japanese influence from manga and anime. Take The Joker as an example, comparing the earlier movie with the new Heath Ledger one. Modern movies have more powerful emotions, more serious topics, and the printed comic is now an adult format. However, the style is still incredibly influential.
  • What comics do well: sequence, simplicity, suggestion by exaggeration. Terry Denton uses those formats.
  • by Terry Denton

  • Shaun Tan, too, in his book The Arrival draws major works of art with amazing complexity, but they are arranged as a sequence so the comic techniques are there and they’re still being used.

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