Posts tagged illustration

Drawing mutant carnivorous plants: a chat with Sabrina Malcolm

How do you turn ordinary looking plants into walking, talking mutants? That’s what the wonderful illustrator Sabrina Malcolm has to do in The Fly Papers books. I asked her a bit more about how …

sabrinaWhen you start coming up with ideas for turning particular carnivorous plants into sentient mutants – what are some of the things you think about?

Sabrina: I always need to think about how the creature will move around, and how it will perform whatever actions are required by the story. Dion’s roots, for example, became his way of getting around; and his traps came in handy for things like opening louvre windows.

The eyes have always been particularly important, because they’re one of the most important ways of showing the creature’s thoughts and emotions. Other parts of the creature can be helpful with that, too — for example, Dross’s leaves can look bedraggled, or lively and excited; and similarly with his eye stalks.

Of course, these things are always decided in consultation with the author and designer!

dionDo you use real plants or photos for reference (or both)?

Sabrina: I use real plants when I can, but photos can be useful too, especially if I’m drawing while a plant has died down for the winter. Venus flytraps, for example, can look very poorly during the winter months.

How do you make the plants’ eyeballs express emotion?

 Sabrina: Eyelids are the crucial thing: without them, it’s much harder to show emotion. They can take on some of the job of eyebrows — pulling down for a frown, narrowing together to show suspicion, or rolling right back in fear.

The eye stalks can be helpful, too — if they’re rearing back, it can convey fear, and lunging forward can show aggression.

Okay, if you were Bette Noire – and you could create a mutant plant or animal in your lab – what might it be?

 Sabrina: A cow with cheesecake-flavoured milk. Oh, and edible brussels sprouts.

 

Sabrina is the illustrator of all The Fly Papers books, and also an author. Last year she wrote and illustrated a beautiful picture book: Blue Moon Bird.

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Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of my favourite books because of the way that the story is told.  The ‘creator’ Brian Selznick uses a mixture of words and illustrations to tell the story.  One minute you’re reading the words and the next you’re looking at the amazing illustrations to try and piece the story together. Brian has used the same storytelling technique in his new book, Wonderstruck.

Wonderstruck is the story of two children, set fifty years apart.  Ben’s story is told using words and is set in 1977 and Rose’s story is told completely in pictures and is set in 1927.  Ben has never known his father, but when he discovers some clues in his mother’s bedroom to who his father is, Ben sets out on a journey to discover the truth.  Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook and Brian’s illustrations reveal her own journey. 

Wonderstruck is an absolutely amazing book!  I love the idea of telling two different stories in two different ways.  When I was reading Ben’s story I could see the images in my head, but when I was ‘reading’ Rose’s story I was putting each of the images together to figure out her story.  The book looks huge but I read it all in one go because over half the book is made up of Brian’s stunning illustrations.  He only uses pencils, but he creates some unbelievable effects.  When you look at the faces of the characters you can see exactly what they are feeling, whether it is excitement, anger or sadness.  One of the pages is just someone pointing their finger and you know exactly what it means.  Reading Rose’s story is like watching a silent movie because you have to work out what is happening yourself.  Wonderstruck is one of those books that leave you smiling and you’ll want to read it again and again, just to enjoy Brian’s illustrations.

Recommended for 9+    10 out of 10

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Star Guest – Tina Matthews talks about illustrating

Hi, my name is Tina Matthews and I’m an author and an illustrator.  This is International Year of the Forests so I’m pretty pleased that my two books, which are both about trees , have been published in 2011. Not only are they about trees, wood was an essential part of making the pictures for both books.

The top of a tree always seemed a very safe place to me when I was small. Even at school we were allowed to climb the huge trees  and I can remember how smooth and shiny the bark was in the places where shoes and feet had found their footing as kids of all ages climbed to the top. In the weekends and after school, from way up in the big trees at home, I could see places I knew, tiny in the distance.  I could hear people I  loved near by. And I could feel the world turning as the sun and the sickle moon went down. Those pleasurable recollections led me to write Waiting For Later. I think kids still love climbing trees, but adults are more nervous about children hurting themselves than they used to be. So I’m very pleased with the cover Walker Books chose for Waiting for Later.

My first book Out of the Egg has just come out in paperback. It’s about a hen, a seed, a little red chick and a great green whispery tree.  It’s about not giving up on a good idea, and children not accepting the silly things their parents sometimes say. It’s a bit like the old story of The Little Red Hen but I’ve given Out of the Egg a new generation and a new ending.

I did all the pictures for Out of the Egg using woodblock prints. It’s a long process which involves drawing the picture on paper then transfering it to a woodblock, carving the picture out of the wood, inking it, then printing it. This is an old way of making pictures and it seemed just right for Out of the Egg. With Waiting for Later I did simpler wood block prints then stencilled over the top of them. I even drew in a few of the tiny details by hand.

 

People sometimes ask why I go to all the trouble and effort of doing pictures this way. But however you do pictures they can take time and I love the way wood makes its mark on mine. It gives me a hand to get the pictures right.

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‘How to make a graphic novel’ with Garen Ewing

Hi again!  Yesterday I told you a little about my comic, The Rainbow Orchid, and why I love comics.  One question I get asked a lot is ‘how do you make a comic?’ You could ask almost any comic creator this question and you probably wouldn’t get the same answer twice, but here is a brief guide to how I make comics…

Once I have my plot worked out and written in note form, I start by breaking the story down into one-page chunks – detailing what has to happen on each page of the comic. The next thing to do is write the script, which is rather similar to what you might imagine a film script to be – I describe the scene in each panel and write out the dialogue said by the characters. At the same time as writing the script I’ll sketch some very rough page layouts which are called ‘thumbnails’, because they’re so small, just to give me an idea of how the panels will fit on the page, with perhaps some loose composition for the actual drawing in there too.

With the script written and the thumbnails as a guide, the next thing I do is draw larger rough versions of the page so I can work out how the drawings will look and where the characters need to be in each panel so they can talk in the correct order (speech balloons generally need to be read from left to right) and also to make sure their actions and the visual aspect of the storytelling is clear.

Those rough drawings help a lot when it comes time for the next stage – pencilling the actual artwork. I’ve already worked out, in rough form, the poses and composition, so now it’s just a case of spending a lot more time on the drawings to get them looking good. After pencilling (and lots of rubbing out along the way) I need to ink the drawings. This involves using a dip pen and a pot of Indian ink and drawing over the pencils to end up with a nice clean finished drawing.

This is the point I turn to modern technology and scan my black and white line art into the computer at high resolution. Using Adobe Photoshop I colour the artwork and also make up the speech balloons. Although I do the lettering in the balloons to make sure they’re the correct size, my publisher sets the actual final lettering onto the page so it is as crisp and clear as possible for the printer. The font used for the lettering is one I created myself based on my own hand-lettering.

When all this comes together you have a finished page! Depending on how detailed the page is, a single page can take me anywhere from two to four days of solid work. Making comics is a lot of hard work, but you get to play the part of writer, director, set designer, special effects wizard and actor, and it’s always rewarding when you see the finished book finally come together.

Tomorrow on the blog, you can see images of the process from start to finish.

Enjoy your comics!

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Congratulations to Shaun Tan!

Shaun Tan, the award-winning author of some of the most amazing picture books, has won the biggest prize for children’s books.  The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was set up in memory of Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking, and is awarded every year to authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and those who promote reading.  It is the richest award for children’s literature, with a grand prize of close to $NZ1 million!

If you’ve never read or looked at a book by Shaun Tan you don’t know what you’re missing out on.  He has illustrated more than 20 books, including The Lost Thing, Rabbits, The Red Tree, The Arrival, and my favourite, Tales from Outer Suburbia.  His illustrations are weird and wonderful, and he can tell an amazing story without using words.  Shaun Tan has been super lucky recently because his short film of his book, The Lost Thing, won an Oscar at the Academy Awards.

Congratulations Shaun!

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