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

 

Leave a Reply