Thursday, May 7, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Laurent Linn and Cecilia Yung present "Two Art Directors Talking: The Theater of Picture Books"

Today's full workshop title is "Two Art Directors Talking: The Theater of Picture Books - The Art of Bringing Visual Elements Together For Storytelling."

Our experts are Laurent Linn (Art Director, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Cecilia Yung (Art Director and Vice President, Penguin Books for Young Readers).

Both Laurent and Cecilia are also on the SCBWI Board - so giving back to this community (including the 1,200+ of us watching live) is something they do with heart and passion.

Lin introduces them, saying that they both create picture books that are "as much works of art as they are books."

Clockwise, from top left: Lin Oliver, Laurent Linn, and Cecilia Yung

Laurent opens by speaking of how it's not just one thing, "It's everything coming together to tell a good story."

In reference to our current global pandemic, he says,

"Stories and art have survived through every catastrophe of civilization... Now is the time, not just the world needs your stories, but we - I'm a writer and illustrator also - we need to tell our stories."

Cecilia begins by discussing the inner life of the character or story, which transforms how we the reader see ourselves, and/or the world.

She suggests questions we should ask ourselves:
The most important question is "why?"
Who is your reader?
What is the take-away?
What is your difference - that unique something that only YOU can do to distinguish this book from all the other picture books that have been published?

They dedicate today's workshop to Tomie de Paola - calling him a master who "used the book as a stage."

Read Lin Oliver's remembrance of Tomie dePaola here.
Walking us through visual examples from books they've art directed, they teach us different principles.

From Misty Copeland's nonfiction picture book "Bunheads," illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey, Cecilia shows us the drama and theater of the illustrations.

Notice the top left page, where Misty is so dedicated she shows up early to practice but her friend is already there in the studio! Cecilia speaks more of how the illustrations in the book show that friendship, and the competition between them that drove each dancer to excel.

From the fiction picture book "Sulwe" by Lupita Nyong', illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Laurent points out how even the sky is a character:

"Nothing should be generic," He advises us, adding, “Often the more specific makes it universal.”

They speak and show examples from many more picture books, discussing character design, costume design, controlling the direction of a reader's eye, getting to the heart of the emotion, narrative, and so much more.

There's a Q&A that ranges from white space to compositional tools (line composition, color composition, and light/shadow), to the selection of an illustrator.

It's a master class in how two brilliant art directors look at and think about picture books and the illustration of picture books.

Thank you, Laurent and Cecilia!

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

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