Friday, 19 September 2008

Picture Book Illustration: Computers Are Wonderful Again...

Now my monitor trauma is over, I've been able to finish the scans for Dragon's Dinner, so I love my sweet computer again. What do think of the cover now it's got this lovely lime background? I'm SO pleased with it!

Newer illustrators (and all kids) won't remember life before computers, but I do. I started with an old fashioned typewriter (I couldn't type though and used buckets of Tippex - does that still exist?), no email of course, not even a telephone for the first 6 months, just a phone box on the corner of my road (mobiles wouldn't exist for a decade or so), a photocopier in the post office and a fax machine at a local newsagents.

Now of course Photoshop is KING, but then, whenever I needed to enlarge an image, I took it to the post office lady, who would spend what seemed like hours, trying to work out how to get it to print the right way up, so it didn't cut half the picture off.

And no tinkering with illustrations: once done, they were done for good. Now though, all sorts of things are possible. Above is an image from Dragon's Dinner, as I originally drew it, in pastels. But going through the scans, I realised the shadows on the house weren't dramatic enough, so darkened them up slightly in Photoshop. I also corrected a shadow error (can you spot it?) and enlarged the fireball a fraction, to allow more room for the text.

It's all fairly subtle stuff, but the overall effect is much better.

I am not responsible for the text: Jenny, the Designer at Hodder has done that bit. She chose the font and had last word on the text position. Look carefully though: can you see the name of the little cottage? That was done by me, but notice it's not on the original. That's because it's done separately, to allow for translating foreign editions. Whatever Mouse Cottage is in Spanish, Dutch, Korean etc can easily be dropped into the image, in place of my English version. The easiest way for me to create the text, is on a layer floating above the image, drawn in 'virtual' pastels. I use Corel Painter for this, which emulates pastels. I can even create a virtual version of my textured paper to draw on! (see Tracing Up the Cover of Dragon's Dinner)

So, though they can be a pain in oh, so many ways, computers are still wonderful, don't you agree?


Damian Harvey said...

These look wonderful Lynne, and I must admit – I would not have noticed the shadow error if you hadn’t mentioned it. You’ve darkened the shadow from the steps too haven’t you which I think makes it look good.

Leaving incidental text off the artwork and then having it added later for translations is a interesting thing isn’t it. It’s just a shame they don’t always take care when they add the text in other countries. Sometimes they make a real slap-dash job of it.

The text look sgood too... It always makes me smile to see new rhyming stories being produced especially when publishers claim not to like them due to translation problems – despite the fact that some of the biggest selling picture books are written in rhyme.

Lynne Chapman said...

Thank you!

You're right about translation add-ons: I take all this trouble to make it look like it's part of the image, but the co-edition text is often just slapped on any old how.

True about rhymers too. I remember being warned off writing them from the word go, but a good percentage of my books rhyme. They're so much fun to read aloud.

weechuff said...

To a layman like me it is amazing how complicated it is to get a book finished and published. But what satisfaction you must feel when you see it in print and on sale in the shops!

Lynne Chapman said...

Yes, that's still a great buzz.

It takes so long to come out the other end though - a year after I've finished everything is the norm. Sometimes even longer.