Saturday, February 22, 2014

Art Director Lily Malcom: Seven Essentials You Need to Know About Creating Picturebook Art

Lily Malcom is one cool friend, I hear, and you can get to know her a little in this interview she was forced into doing with me.

Today, Lily gives us seven fantastic tips and I'm going to tell you about three of them, so don't say I never gave you nothing. All images in here are books Lily has worked on, except, of course, this first one, Lily is not an immortal vampire art director.

First she gives us this great quote from Sendak:

Caldecott’s work heralds the beginning of the modern picture book. He devised an ingenious juxtaposition of picture and word, a counter point that never happened before. Words are left out — but the picture says it. Pictures are left out — but the words say it. In short, it is the invention of the picture book.

Lily advises approaching the creation of the art and words for a picture book like hopscotch, each step gets you there and back again to develop a fully realized book.

Lily says, "Your art is a crucial part of the picture book. If anything, you could take away the words and still find meaning in the book. It's your job to make that happen by creating images worthy of attention."

Tip #1: Know your audience

In a nutshell, children aren't dumb. They are visual before they are verbal. Create beautiful work with all ages in mind and strive to have it work on all levels, what can you add that will make the reader want to reread that book, making it an instant classic for that family? 

Lucky for us conference attendees Lily is going to help us figure out how you do that, how you tease out those things in each picture book spread.

Tip #2: Mulling
Read the story then put it away. Do this as an author, designer or illustrator. Do it with your covers, your spreads, character designs. Time away from the project brings clarity.

#4 Understand the Page
Trim sets the tone of your book. The Quiet Book is small and therefore intimate, vs. a book about race cars or something like Along A Long Road which has an exaggerated landscape trim because it's all about distance and speeding from one end of the spread's edge to the other.

Lily says, "Understand the edges of the page, they are your friends, they can capture and frame your images for you and set a mood, if there's a lot of space between your character and the page edge things feel expansive, if they are busting into the sides, it can feel claustrophobic.

Layout of the page lets you balance images and text on a page and you can force people to read what you think should be "read" first. You have to think about this from the very beginning of the sketch process for the book. Don't leave it up only to the designer, think these things through.