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…
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.
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.
Everyone has a story inside them. Some of us tell it in a book or a play or on the stage, football pitch or boardroom. But most of us live our story, telling it to our loved ones, every day, year by year… the point is each story gets told and appreciated.
I have heard many wonderful stories and have learned to use the book as my medium. Let me share that way with you in a series of real-time posts, starting with an idea and ending (hopefully) with a beautiful book.
If you have thought of writing or illustrating your own book, or if you are just curious, then this real-time project will be of use before you get in touch.
All you have to do is follow the blog for regular monthly updates on the project. Please comment, spread the word and get involved!
In the first sketch of a new series, I am going to try to illustrate African mythological creatures and characters. First up is the Lightning bird, or Impundulu. There are likely to be several versions of each of these characters, so your input is welcome. I am hoping to create a set of six to 12 finished images by the summer of 2013.
The Impundulu or Thekwane (Lightning bird) is a mythological creature in South African traditional tribal folklore. The Zulu and the Xhosa and Pondo tribes have stories about the lightning bird, described as black and white, the size of a human and which is said to cause thunder and lightning with its wings and talons. It is said to have an appetite for blood.
The lightning bird is believed to manifest itself only through lightning, except to women, to whom it reveals itself as a bird. The bird may take several forms. In one instance, a girl described a black rooster-like bird that ran up her hoe and left claw marks on her body before it flew back to the clouds. It is also described as having iridescent feathers like a peacock’s or a fiery red tail, bill and legs.
The Impundulu is believed to lay a large egg underground at the point of a lightning strike and this may be a good or bad omen. Traditionally, the tribe’s witch doctor plays the essential role in dealing with the lightning bird. The bird’s flesh can be made into a remedy for tracing thieves, as an example.
In real life, the Hammerkop, or Stork, whose territory ranges from Africa, Madagascar to Arabia, is believed to be the lightning bird.
In 2005, a South african Newspaper reported that a man was convicted of culpable homicide after killing a two-year-old child he believed to be an Impundulu.
After months of practising something is, at last, beginning to happen. The iPhone paintings are beginning to turn into a style. It’s very exciting! This portrait evolved right before my eyes, the result of having seen a couple of wonderful art exhibitions, as well as reading the newspapers more than usual, flicking through picture books and being immersed in the task at hand.