Monday, August 12, 2013

Picture Book Workshop #26: Sketching the Dummy

By this point you should have the picture book laid out in some kind of rough form, be it stick figures or rough sketches or what-have-ya.  If you are strictly a writer, then this might be all you need to do to help you shape your manuscript a bit better.  But if you're willing to go a little further (and those who illustrate must,) then let's draw!

At this time, I decide if I want square pages or rectangles.

WINK THE NINJA WHO WANTED TO BE NOTICED is a standard tall (or portrait) rectangle.
KITTEN'S FIRST FULL MOON by Kevin Henkes is square.
FLOTSAM by David Weisner is a wide (or landscape) rectangle.

I tend to go tall rectangle a lot, but the new book THE SIMPLES LOVE A PICNIC (Houghton Mifflin, 2014) is square.  It changes the way you sketch things out so it's good to have an idea.

I have a few templates on my computer that I have made over the years that look like this...

I print up a bunch of these and then I have something to frame my compositions.

If you can't make this on a computer, then just draw it with a Sharpie and go make some copies at Kinkos, or just draw a bunch - they're just rectangles!

It's usually a little intimidating to stare at this and think, I am starting to sketch a new book.  Jiminy Christmas - the pressure!  So just relax, look at your rough layout, and start small.  Also remember, no one ever has to see this.  Ever.  It can be just for you - just like a first draft.  If you go in expecting it to suck, it may free you up a little bit.

Also remember, this is a tool.  You don't have to produce the most gorgeous sketches ever created by a human being.  Some artists do.  Some artists get the shading just right and it's so neat and gorgeous you want to publish it as is.  I, however, aim for clarity of story without making an accomplished sketch.

Here's an example of what I try to do at this stage. (Note, this layout is not in MONKEY ONO.  This is from an early draft.)

Considering what the final art looks like, this is not an accomplished sketch.   But the storytelling is clear, and there are enough details for me to know if I can cut chunks from the manuscript.

For example, if the text here reads:

     Monkey Ono clutched the plan and followed Java into the living room.  
     "I know my plan will work," he said.

A lot of that info is in the illustration, so I might rewrite the manuscript to read.

     "I know my plan will work," Monkey Ono told Java.

The task at hand is to go through the whole book producing clean, clear sketches.  This usually takes me a few days and I usually trash a lot of it, either while drawing because I find a certain composition doesn't work, or later on, because this is only a draft as well.  Then, when I'm happy, I look at the manuscript and re-write so the two smush together well.

Here's a few more example sketches:

The Simples Love a Picnic sketch

Wink the Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed sketch

Authors, it can really help shape your story and your writing to try to go as far into this process as you can, even if you can't draw.

Illustrators, remember that you're first composition might not be the best composition.  Try a few options.  And if you get stuck, look at other picture books - they are filled to the brim with layout inspiration.

Also, that this probably goes without mentioning, remember to leave space for the text!  :)

Thanks for stopping in.  Have a great week!


Mirka Breen said...

I *LOVE* seeing the illustrator's process, Julie.

Leandra Wallace said...

Me too! It's like being offered a glimpse behind the emerald curtain. =)