Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Interview for a Dissertation

A student contacted me some time ago and asked if I would answer some questions regarding children's illustration. This post is a bit long, but I thought some other students might be interested in my responses. I hope it is helpful.

"How are compositional features of your illustrations used to create meaning?
There are so many aspects to consider when producing an illustration and it is important to produce the image for the intended target audience. 
For example:
Colour
Colour is really important to convey the emotion of a piece.  Warm, bright colours are happy, while cool blues and greys can be used to make a piece feel sad or lonely.  The right choice of colour has to be considered when creating illustrations, not just for children books, but also for the adults who are more than likely purchasing the book.   In children’s picture books, colour needs to flow from one page to the next adding to the pace of the book, or it can change quite abruptly to create a different mood or emotion, this is quite exciting.
Scale
I think it’s quite important for children to have some recognition of the characters and the size of one object to another but scale can be used to emphasize certain points or features within an illustration e.g. having extremely big ears or a large nose.  This is quite an important aspect of character design and helps to shape the personality of the character, whether it’s a person or animal.  Scale can also be used to enlarge a portion of the illustration to show more detail or to alter the composition so that it is varied throughout the book.  This helps to engage and surprise the reader.
Medium
Medium varies between one artist and another and personally I don’t think this matters in the least, what is important is that the medium is used to reach and convey the right message.  I tend to work with a mixed media style, merging Acrylic paint with Watercolour, pen and sometimes photographs.  I use Photoshop to finalise my images and bring these separate components altogether.  This works well for me at the moment, and although it is a little time consuming, it is very flexible if changes to the work have to be made.  Children’s book publishers seem to want a consistent style so that the artist style is recognisable and they know what to expect when they commission you.  
Expressions/Body language
This is usually considered at the character development stage and certainly brings the character to life.  Drawings  are created to ensure that the character can perform a variety of movements that are needed throughout the book and that facial features can show their mood.  Even slight changes help to develop a personality for the character and this forms a relationship between the character and the reader.
Perspective 
This is my downfall.  I tend to illustrate using one-point perspective as I think it suits the younger reader.  However, I do try to introduce some depth into my work to add interest.  I would certainly do a more complex drawing if the project required it, but I like to keep things simple.
Light/Dark/Shading
This depends on the medium being used but certainly contrast is important as well as the detail of a piece.  Illustrations for older readers tend to require a bit more detail than those for younger readers.  It really depends on the text being illustrated and the style of the illustrator.  Contrast in the image, makes it more exciting, believable and creates a response.
Are there differences when illustrating a children’s book as opposed to any other form of illustration?
Most definitely.  Not all illustrators can illustrate children’s books.  Children’s book illustration is just one area of illustration and is approached in a different way, for example, to editorial illustration.  All illustration has a creative process but the thought processes and outcome are quite different.  It’s quite difficult to explain, but the approach is different.  In Children’s Illustration the imagination is child-like, playful and the illustrator becomes engrossed in the story, trying to capture all the important parts whilst still deciding what to leave out.  Storyboards and dummy books are created to ensure continuity, consistency and pace are correct.  In Editorial, the illustrations are more complex, the thought process is different, more adult, and the final image is a conclusion of research and sometimes, quite abstract ideas.   The time-frame is also a lot quicker in Editorial work.  
What process do you go through when creating an illustration? 
It really depends on the project, but a lot of aspects are the same.
Single Illustration Project.  Brainstorming ideas, Initial thoughts - writing and drawing everything down in a spider diagram, even if it’s stupid.  Find a link, link ideas.  Think, Think .... Research ideas - Read about subject (sometimes this comes first), Internet, books, magazines, life experience, subconscious.  Brick Wall.  Space.  More thoughts and writing.  Thumbnails.  Brick Wall.  Sleep.  Wake up, new ideas? Development of ideas - Eureka!
If you are given words to illustrate to, how does this impact upon your image? 
The words need to initiate a response.  This could be an emotion or a visual image.  There needs to be a connection with the words and the image and I try to convey this in the illustration.  Sometimes, I am too literal.
What are your understandings of the term ‘Visual Literacy’?
Understanding and analysing an image to interpret its meaning.
What do you think it means for a person to be considered as ‘Visually Literate?’
Somebody who can interpret the meaning of images.
Do you think that it is important for children to learn how to ‘read’ art?
I think children already “read” art and interpret images in a playful and inquisitive way.  I think that holding a picture book and flicking the pages to look at images is essential to their creative development and social interaction.  I hope the picture book is not replaced entirely by e-books, although I welcome the advancement of new technology.


THANK YOU for completing these interview questions!! "
© mariaforrester

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