Sunday, August 5, 2012

Antoinette Portis: The Picture Book: Why It's a Unique Art Form

A small sliver below of a great big talk from Antoinette Portis on ways to improve your picture book. I loved what she had to say about page turns:

"Page turns give you comic timing, dramatic reveals, mood shifts, movement in time..."

Maurice Sendak helped Antoinette gain a better understanding and admiration of James Marshall. Especially his use of the page turn and economy on the page. "Marshall has the restraint to know the joke is visual... and with one line of dialogue, can establish an entire character..." (Antoinette thinks Martha is very Midwestern (I think Antoinette is very darling).

In her books, Antoinette likes to set up a joke with the text and pay it off in the pictures, just look at Not A Box for examples of this on pretty much every spread. 

And some thoughts on balance: 

"Picture books... are a fine balance, the balance of words and pictures, geared toward the understanding of children, but that balance is always changing."

Antoinette uses William Steig as an example of a balance typical a few decades ago—lots more words on those pages than most of the books coming out today. She cautions us to be aware of what the word count zeitgeist is for today’s market. Antoinette thinks of it like levels in your car stereo.

And Owl Moon an instance of where less is more, illustrators are often told to think about adding visual subplots to their art, but that should only be done when appropriate to the story. For Owl Moon, the book doesn’t need that, the poetry of the text is amping up all sorts of subplots, so the art can be understated in that area.

But a wordless picture book, like Tao Nyeu’s Wonder Bear, is at the opposite end of such a balance spectrum.


  1. She is so thoughtful in the way she looks and produces images.

  2. Hi Lois, you are so right! Hope you got to enjoy her sessions.