Final project: Final thoughts

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Installed at last!

This is it! Here’s my display for the exhibition installed at last! Less is more…

I had planned to display the other two pieces: the book carved into a box filled with Max and Misty’s Did you know? cards and objects memorabilia as well as the wordless tunnel book. All three books have the same narrative in a different format.This is this aspect that fascinated me and I sought to explore.

However, after having a conversation with my tutors, we decided that it may be distracting from the main book itself and its innovative format. (You have to flip the book over to read both sides of the story and the resolution is in the middle). Since the book’s ending has  a 3D element inside it in the form of a pop up, I didn’t mind too much. Instead, they recommended I showcased the pop up but I chose not to. It is after all the resolution of the book and readers don’t start a book by its ending. So I will let the visitor pick the bookt up (with white cotton gloves please) and discover the surprise inside it.

Creating the book has been a roller coaster. I had to wear so many hats: author, illustrator, graphic designer, bookbinder, printer and all that with some non existent skills.

I had to learn: handling watercolour since I usually paint with oils and acrylics – manipulating my artwork in Photoshop: very different from playing with special effects.  I especially had to master how to hide blemishes and enhance colour so that it looks good and real and still hand painted. I am very pleased to have retained this element. It was crucial for me.

I had to discover InDesign for the layout of my book from scratch.  I have definitely only scratched the surface here.

I had to think about typeface and created my own. And even though it looks amateurish I am  particularly pleased with the tile  because it is mine and it enhances the meaning of the book.

I had to learn how to bind a book and needless to say I am very unskilled with a needle. Preparation (flattening your signatures before hand) and preparation are key.  In the end, I had to give up the idea of the hard cover. Having hard a conversation with a book maker expert, the artist in residence, Richard Nash, I agreed that the cover would look thicker than the book itself. It would have looked ridiculous. He suggested a coptc stitching but I failed to deliver. In the end I applied a basic stitching giving it my own twist to make it look pleasing to the eye.  I also decided on a book jacket having had to include the cover in one of my signatures to have a multiple of 4.  You live and learn, don’t you.

The most interesting aspect was the interplay between text and image. Not so much what you say but what you leave out – not so much what you show but what you leave out. It is wonderful to write and draw, you have the ability to choose the best medium for a scene. At every time, I kept my audience in mind. And although I wanted the story to be accessible I didn’t want to do all the work for them. If not what is the point of reading?

I very much enjoyed all the research about visual storytelling, child development, child psychology, and reading about semiotics. I also tried to cover the cultural aspects by researching the distribution of picture books. Children in the world are not all equal and in underdeveloped countries books are not an accessible commodity. Similarly we  get to see work by a few talented artists only. Distribution of picture books is very pricey.

I also touched on the development of publishing and expressed my concern about the trend of epublishing  It has a place but it is too soon to assess the impact it has on children’s literature and its audience. I personally feel that at young age, holding a tangible object and sharing a moment with a special person enhances a child’s experience. Opening a book is entering a magic world that will hopefully resonate with you for a very long time.

Finally I wanted to bring to the fore that there is not just one format for books.  Books can be sculptural and many artists have demonstrated the truly amazing possibility of paper as a medium. Creating the pop up was extremely challenging and at times I didn’t think I would succeed. I am planning to also explore book arts a lot more from now on.

I wish I had more time..I will revisit my project and very likely take it apart to start all over again! I will take my time and get it right.

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Final Project: Book Layout and Typeface

Now that the story has been written and the final artwork has been completed, I have the task to scan everything and find out whether all the careful planning is coming to fruition. For this I am using inDesign….for the very first time!

The objective will be twofold: to place the artwork in 5 signatures and type the text with the type font I selected as well as making the most use of what inDesign has to offer to make my text curve, climb, skip …just as my characters are doing. From inception I very much wanted to treat the text as illustration in the same manner as Sara Fanelli or Lauren Child. Art and text are there to complement each other in meaning but also aesthetically.

I also intended on the text mirroring the mood and emotions through scale and spacing. If I had kept to Microsoft Word, I would have had to make do with fewer possibilities and this is why despite the tight deadline, I have endeavoured to tackle a new software. Again, I apply the same process as for the whole book where less is more. I was careful not to overdo it so that the meaning does not get lost in the multitudes of effects. For most part, the text remained straight and sat above or below an image. The text curled and swirled only when necessary: a change of pace, a turning point in the story.

I also made the decision to have two fonts: one for each character since both stories are read from each point of view. It is not distracting but it adds another layer and I hope that the font will further illustrate each character’s personality: Max is more bouncy and Misty is calmer.  Another crucial decision was to leave the font black. I had thought f colour coding it as Max’s things are blue and Misty’s are red but after careful consideration, I thought it would have been overkill and would have defeated the object. Instead, I colour coded the tile and created Max’ name in bones and Misty’s in fishbones. It took a few attempts to get the right size and the spacing regular. And even when I thought that I had achieved this in the lightbox, I hadn’t completely once I had painted over with blue and red watercolour paint. I therefore had to clean the blemishes in Photoshop.  I had a basic knowledge of the latter software but now I have leant a whole new set of tools. For example, the clone stamp has proved particularly useful for importing an image over a background whereas the rubber even the soft rubber left some soft edges. I intend to carry on learning more techniques on Photoshop and inDesign before tackling Illustrator once the course is over.

Overall I am pleased with the result and my learning curve but it is far from perfect. But with more time, it would have become easier and quicker to move from tool to tool proficiently and to gauge effectively what worked or not instead of having to print even spread to check it out. I intend to carry on working on the book to improve it further.

 

 


Final Project – Research Continued

I ‘ve wanted to get to the final project for so long that I find myself intimidated by the task at hand now. I feel more research is necessary before indulging into the creation of my picture book. Having looked at Maurice Sendak’s masterpiece more closely made me realise even more that planning is crucial for a successful outcome. I therefore decided to analyse the work of other successful and more contemporary author/illustrators whose work resonates for various reasons.

It is one thing liking a book and remembering it long after you’ve read it. It is another to understand why this is the case. In some ways, the analysis takes the magic out of the subconscious experience. I guess it is the same process whenever you are trying to create: artists look at old masters, film producers analyse  classic movies, writers analyse books…

First of all, I am invariably coming back to Oliver Jeffers whose style appeals to me for its simplicity and its depth. For the purpose of this blog, I will first of all focus on Lost and Found.

Lost and found front and back

I like the way the back and front cover form a single image

Of particular interest is the use of space – more specifically the negative space that informs the reader on the character’s emotions although the boy’s face itself is devoid of expression. The positioning of a strong horizon line in his landscapes is equally important as the vignettes floating on a white page to give us a breather.  The reasons why it works are twofold: the variety between the settings and layout from page to page and the focus on the main character makes us care for his plea more and more – the boy has to succeed in making the penguin happy / once he realised he didn’t do the right thing, he has to find the penguin no matter what!

  Film effect: the camera is zooming on the boy as we are sharing his doubt about his decision

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Double spread on white background
The character is the focus.

The interaction between the boy and the penguin is kept to a trip to the South pole with a boy telling stories and the penguin listening quietly, followed by an accolade as they part and go their separate way. This adventure is on two colourful double spreads —  as if it is just the two of them in the world – mimicking the centrality of a child in the world. Jeffers makes us look at the world through the boy’s eyes. What else matters? Nothing. But even though not much happens and not much is said (well nothing by the penguin actually), many emotions are shared by the two characters and conveyed to the audience: sadness, doing your best to make a friend happy and loneliness that follows the loss of a friend.

A double spread for a stormy adventure:

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Double spread – Landscape only
Scale of characters and landscape speaks for itself

Simultaneously, the simplicity of the cartoon looking drawings, almost childlike, makes it accessible to a child himself. The boy is a blob with a featureless face and a very prominent nose. His legs are two sticks and footless. The penguin and the boys are lost in a gigantic landscape painted with soft watercolours and a limited palette of blues and green. The scale of their cold surrounding makes their loneliness and fragility believable and makes us care for them. The ‘boys books’ as Jeffers refers to them, namely  How to catch a star, Lost and Found, Up and Down, The way back home, have been a very successful series turned into pop up books, apps or short animations proving that if you respect your audience and that you do not dumb down, everything is possible. Jeffers also agrees that ‘children are smarter than we give them credit for’ and ‘I totally avoid forced content, thinly veiled morals, anything preachy or funny for the sake of it.’ (Brazell, 2011:118)

While it deals with sadness or loneliness at times, the illustrations are full of little and hilarious details that lift the whole story like a mother’s hug. The stories are uplifting and make everything possible. This is why Jeffers’ books are so popular.

Like a pantomime:

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A child will see the arrow on the illustration
This distracts from the tension.

The more unbelievable, the better:

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Double spread from Stuck

Jeffers constantly changes and innovates. For instance, he is passionate about the relationship between text and image and has a background in graphic design and visual communication. He plays and experiments with typography and treats it as illustration itself. He seems to  find routes that connect words and pictures going through one medium to another. A talented artist will create a synergy. In Jeffers The Great Paper Caper, an environmental whodunit, the credit on the opening page is designed as a tree. The text emulates the type of an old typewriter used by detectives to type their report.   Jeffers is totally aware of  how just a few words and the choice of the typeface can totally change the meaning of a picture.

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Credit page for The Great Paper Caper

In the Incredible book eating boy, Henry’s story is wittily told visually and textually. He devours books (the right hand side corner of the back cover has been nibbled too) and acquires knowledge but invariably gets very sick and has to read books instead. The artwork combines collage with drawings onto pages from ancient fly-blown books. The paint used is acrylics and Dulux homepaint. The background is made of lined, square and graph paper as settings for classroom.

Overall, Jeffers can easily be identified as contemporary conceptual artists. His style cannot be classified because he uses a wide range of media and succeeds to convey a remarkable breadth of emotions with very few details and lots of white space in a more linear narrative.

Jeffers has contributed to enhance children’s reading experience and exploration of the world with a unique and innovative approach.

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The Incredible Book Eating Boy