By the end of their conversation, I felt energized and inspired—and also downright lazy. LeUyen and Santat are the epitome of prolific, juggling up to seven different picture book projects at any given time. They also balance marriages and families and dinner and . . . tennis lessons! Turns out, I've been doing it all wrong all along. The answer to real success is: freakin' no sleep!
Okay, here are a few bullet points to recap their discussion:
LeUyen Pham on character design
When beginning a new book, Pham first designs the characters. The look of the characters will
|Character designs by LeUyen Pham|
Don't be afraid to start over again and again. It's okay to mess things up. Always give yourself space to change. Pham creates her initial sketches on an iPad using Procreate, throwing shapes on paper to see where they lead her. Shapes become forms, and then personality follows. Working digitally allows her to quickly create sketches while feeling free to ditch them. Working on paper feels too precious, not as easy to let go. She advises to always give yourself space to change.
Understand the principles of design, it is the most important concept to grasp with bookmaking.
Character design is all about silhouette, shape. How does a character read by it's basic shape. Are the character's shapes different one from another?
Use composition to move the audience's eye through the page. That movement needs to carry through each page of the book, like one long line drawn from the title page through the end.
Keep pages evenly weighted--balance.
First of all, Dan wanted to be sure that everyone congratulates Pham on her Caldecott win this year! Yay! Congrats LeUyen Pham!
Rest! Santat has learned to rest! After years of averaging 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, he realized the value of rest, and a focus on his overall health. "My whole life can't be about art."
Big part of success is in curating taste--understand why something is good, or bad. For that reason, he reads his book reviews in order to understand others thinking. "You don't want to be in a place where you are stuck in your own beliefs and not open to hearing the ideas of others."
The most important thing about making a book is the concept. Take the time necessary to think of a concept that you can say it in one sentence. If the concept works, if the idea is there, everything else will fall into place.
Keep an idea notebook for journaling ideas as a way of hunting for that concept. Nothing fancy, even garbled, jumbled, thoughts. And don't be precious with those thoughts. Free yourself to say anything, no matter how ridiculous.