Sunday, May 20, 2012
Too Much Frosting?
It began when I started seeing books from Mo Willems and how much attention they were getting 4-5 years ago. I have to be honest. I was trained in a more traditional illustration program so to put it bluntly I wasn't a fan- in fact I felt it didn't deserve all the hubbub. How could such simple primitive art be of equal or apparently greater value than mine? This is hard to admit because it more than suggests arrogance towards my art. I'm pointing the finger of shame at myself here.
Over time I've realized that I've had it totally backwards. It started by watching kids respond to books like: Don't let the pigeon drive the bus (which I had wrongly judged by the cover.) Kids love it! -but I was looking at the simple line work and primitive drawing with a critical eye. How could anyone fall for it? -but they were in droves! What I was missing is how well it communicates and draws kids in to Mo's magical world and now I realize - THIS IS OUR JOB!
The movie transformers also really helped change my mind. Sitting through 45 minutes of CGI had my skin crawling- it was over frosted! -too much of a good thing. Was I guilty of the same sin? And digesting Caldecott honor book "First The Egg" by Laura Vaccaro Seeger was enlightening. I had been basing my value judgements of children's books on small pieces of art taken out of context. Now I've realized that the book IS the art and to take it apart and judge it is akin to rating a movie from a 5 minute section.
What really solidified my new found religion was getting a critique from David Small- Caldecott medal winner for "So You Want To Be President?" I asked his opinion and he kindly gave it. He said, "beautiful work but you don't give your reader any break from your full blown color!"..."it's like your trying to kill em with color!" Wow- how did he get it so right? I didn't want to kill em with color- I wanted to annihilate em with color!!! I used to think that if I crafted each image in my book better than the last- the viewer would love it too. Unconsciously I was creating my 45 min. of boring CGI. Frosting is great when applied judiciously...too much and you just want to scrape it off.
Now I look to illustrate the story first...if it calls for lots of color I'll use it but I'll also look to hold back at critical times so that the "frosting" tastes that much better!