Saturday, 20 September 2008

Picture Book Antics: An Itch To Scratch


Kids always ask me which of my books is my favourite, but I don't really have one. I have a special love-hate relationship with whichever book I'm working on, but I tell them I enjoy certain characters more than others. Ugly, naughty, crazy, evil or stupid are always more interesting than cute.

One character in particular that I had special fun with, was Big Gorilla from An Itch to Scratch by Damian Harvey. He's a little been ugly, but also rather grumpy, and with good reason - he has a terrible time!

Damian has him contorted with itching until the very last page. Not much fun for Gorilla, but excellent fun for me!! I have a mirror on my studio wall, not for gazing at myself while I work, but for posing. It's often easier to look than imagine, so when I need to know how a gorilla would twist himself up to scratch his back, I act it out in front of my mirror. My neighbours must think I'm nuts.

Damian tells me that he based Big Gorilla on his wife (I bet she's really pleased). He says her legs are not quite so hairy (what a charmer!). Actually, it's because she always has an itchy back. Their little girl, Laura, generally scratches it for her. Ring any bells?


I also have a funny story about An Itch to Scratch that always makes school children snigger. When I sent the first drawing of Big Gorilla to the publisher, Gullane, they were not as enthusiastic as I'd hoped. 'We need an American co-edition,' they said, 'but we can't possibly show that to the Americans.'


The question needed asking: 'Why not?' I said.

'Because,' said my Art Director, 'he's got nipples. Americans don't do nipples.' And apparently it's true: in US picture books, nipples are taboo, even on animals. So the art director went to work in Photoshop and erased Gorilla's nipples. When she emailed him back across, he had two rather odd, bare orbs. It didn't work at all. Interestingly, it actually drew attention to the nipple-factor, like a great, big, neon sign saying 'This is where my nipples should be!!'

So we put the nipples back. But then there was the issue of the 'bottom-crack'.


It seems Americans aren't that keen on them either. 'Perhaps we can stick some extra straw and bits across his bottom,' suggested the publisher, 'to disguise his bottom-crack?'. So as you can see, that is what I did.

You'll be glad to hear that despite the nipple/bum-crack factor, we did get that US co-edition, although they changed the title to Just The Thing. And I've not yet had a letter from a shocked American reader....

If you want to read more about Damian Harvey's exploits, or find out what else he's written, check out his blog and website.

16 comments:

weechuff said...

Hahaha! Just the right sort of story to get the kids sniggering I should say! And just another of the many things you probably have to learn when illustrating for other countries I suppose.

Croom said...

Please tell us the funny story that makes your children laugh Lynne, after all we are only big kids at heart!

The little girl scratching the Big gorilla, rings all sorts of bells with me Lynne, as it will with most of my Aunties. When your Granddad was working nights we took it in turns to sleep with Mum, my nick name ‘Spider’ has nothing to do with the hairy eight legged variety , except maybe the legs. It was given to me because of my ‘scratching’ Mums back like a spider walking all over her! Ugh!

How strange it is that America do not like nipples or ‘bottom cracks’ lol I would not have thought that such a liberated Country would be shy of nipples! Could you possible show us the illustration of the offending Gorilla please!

Thank you for a fun blog Lynne

Tinaxx

granny grimble said...

I've been waiting for that story to surface. I'm sure that readers don't realize the silly rules and regulations that apply to illustrations. I remember that you came up against a few with Smudge and Stripe.

granny grimble said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynne Chapman said...

Glad you like that one! thoght you would - the US are a constant source of amusement (at least after the event - rather frustrating at the time).

Not sure I like the image of the spider scratching the back in bed Croom!! By the way, that IS the funny story - about the nipples etc!!

Damian Harvey said...

What a great little feature on Itch To Scratch Lynne... I'll put a link directly to it on the Itch part of my website. Do you mind if I add your picture to the page too as I know that readers will want to see who has done the wonderful artwork.

Lynne Chapman said...

Glad you like it! It was great to add the bit you told me about your wife.

Yes, feel free to add a photo in fact any images you like of me or Itch from here or the main site.

J. E. Morris said...

Well I think he's great, nipples and all. Funny the things publishers get hung up on. My book has an alligator that wears a shirt but no pants. Hmmm.

suzanne said...

This story is just tooooo funny. Us Americans...so easily offended :)

Lynne Chapman said...

Interesting you should say that, because I had a badger several years ago, wearing just a jumper, and the US tried to make me put trousers on him! I stood my ground, but his friend, a mouse, was not allowed to wear just a skirt - it had to be turned into a dress so she wasn't topless!!

Crazy stuff.

Lynne Chapman said...

It's funny Suzanne, but I have never met a single one of these stragely prudish Americans! Have you?

Damian Harvey said...

Hi Lynne - thanks for the link to my blog/diary... unfortunately though I've had to move it slightly due to boring computer technical problems which suddenly stopped me adding anything else... very annoying but I think it's all sorted now. My blog/diary is now at http://damiansdiary.blogspot.com/
but can still be found through my website.

Lynne Chapman said...

How irritating for you (I grit my teeth in sympathy.

Thanks for letting me know. I'll re bookmark it.

andrea joseph's sketchblog said...

Oh how cool. Love the baby!

Paige Keiser said...

I had a similar experiences with cow udders and had to go back and remove them all from my sketches (they were deemed too suggestive by the publisher lol). :-)

Lynne Chapman said...

That doesn't surprise me. Although, weirdly, I had cows in The Show at Rickety Barn juggling up on their hind legs, with massive swinging udders in front, and nobody batted an eyelid!