From Idea to Book #4: Step Away

illustration

A slow burning idea can sometimes work very effectively. Are you a prolific ideas generator? See what happens when you slow yourself down. Put your idea onto paper/a device and then leave it to bubble away… Notice how much more focused you are when you get back to it, or when it starts to call you. Everyone has their ideal situation to generate ideas. But it is well worth trying something different, if only to reaffirm what you already know!

For one of my books I was super-excited when I started, and still super-excited some nine years later when the book finally hit the bookshops. Yes, that’s right- nine years! About six or seven different iterations, three changes in art style, rhyming text, prose, and so on. Each time I thought that was the right version. Then I kept pushing for something more…

Stepping away can actually help speed up the process.

It was a slow burner. It got better with time. It was a relatively new experience to hold a book that took that long, but wholly satisfying. I learned a lot about my own process, improved on many levels, like how to develop characters and the worlds they inhabit, and there is something about the painting that I found more considered and consistent.

Stepping away creates time to assess an idea on a much deeper level. It helps to become less emotionally attached to the work too, which is something that will be useful when it is time to hand it over to a publisher.

Combined with time away, the importance of sketchbooks and notebooks in the creative process can’t be underestimated. They hold all our thoughts and ideas and free up our brains to create new ones. So when you are stuck, or feel like you aren’t giving your best, just step away and wait.

I Can Do It too!

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Astro Girl is in bookshops and making its way to libraries across the UK as part of the Summer Reading Challenge, so I thought it might be an idea to remind you about the other books with strong female characters I have worked on over the years.

First up, I Can Do It Too, written with much fun and energy by Karen Baicker. I remember how much I enjoyed painting the text! It was easy to bring her to life. It’s still available on Amazon and other good bookstores in the US. Perhaps we need an official UK version? Ahyway, here’s the review from Kirkus:

KIRKUS REVIEW

“Is there anything so heady or contagious as the shiny, new confidence of a child who has freshly mastered the everyday, but oh-so-difficult? No matter that a few drops of juice miss the glass, or that her buttons are a bit askew, the lively little heroine of this satisfying story absolutely exudes positivity and innocent pride in newly-acquired skills. With bright, broad, touch-me artwork and easy-on-the-ears rhyming text, Wilson-Max and Baicker conspire to communicate, most successfully, the infectious exuberance of their cake-baking (okay, batter-testing), trike-riding young subject. (P.S. Thanks for the helmet.)

This sturdy cardstock offering has plenty of finger-paint child appeal: each carefully composed page depicts the earnest little girl’s effort to replicate the activity of a nearby friend or family member, and artfully integrated, actively designed type swings and sings and whooshes across paintings that pronounce her hard-won self-assurance with a boldly saturated palette. Physical skills are not the only kind in focus here, for a happy contagion of kindness is also afoot. The support of her family and congenial companions has the very finest of effects, and best of all, at the end of it all, is our little heroine’s unspoiled and generous display of encouragement for one even smaller than she.” (Picture book. 1½-4)

Pathways to… your dream

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I am taking part in Pathways, which is a fantastic new programme for young and emerging children’s books and comics talent in the UK.

The Pathways into children’s publishing programme is a groundbreaking new two-year illustration programme for diverse, talented and ambitious artists taught by world-class illustrators and writers, university tutors, children’s editors and art directors. Pop Up Projects has partnered with House of Illustration in the UK and secured 12 publisher and 10 university affiliates who are giving money and time to this project to support the next generation of children’s illustrators!

The project aims to increase diversity and representation in children’s books. Help them find new and ethnically diverse illustration and comics talent from across the UK!

Applications are open until September 2nd. Enourage the young people you know to take part and make sure that they see themselves in the books they create.

You can find out more on pathways-org.com, or on Instagram (@PathwaysINTO), Twitter (@PathwaysINTO) or Facebook (@PathwaysINTO)

Some inspiration…

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Here’s a short film that sums up why we should follow our dreams.

Norman Gilbert refused to follow the artistic style of the time, forging his own path;

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00032ph

From Idea to Book 3

character, children's books, design, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, publishing, stories

#3 Less is more

In books for the very young say as much as possible with a few words. Illustrations have a high literary value. They really speak to the reader.

If you develop your stories with text, write freely first, then each time you revisit your story craft the maximum meaning into fewer and fewer words. If you prefer to work visually, sketch as much as possible until the images start to pick up some of the slack. The reason they are called picture books is because the words and pictures are equally important. More than that they complement each other and together create a new language.

Let’s break that down; Some people write on their own, some illustrate, some do both. Publishers can start the process from either point but tend to work with words first more often. They will read the text and then make a decision about the illustrator based on their company’s style.

Writers, your part of the book project is going to have other hands and brains joining in. It might be a good idea to write with that in mind.

Normally, illustrators are handed a text and asked to interpret it. Some of the decision-making is already done. The illustrator’s main challenge is to interpret the text in a fresh new way, to listen to the comments and guidance from the book designer or art director. Try using the rule that carpenters use: measure twice, cut once. By the time you get to producing the final piece you will have sketched all the possiblilities you can imagine.

For creators who do both, the challenge is all about discipline. It’s really hard to wite and draw at the same time! Plus you have to be honest enough to look at what youve done and say if its good enough… or not. So do one first, then the other. Repeat until you have what you want.