A Special Guest Post from the Delightful Hazel Mitchell
We are delighted to feature this guest post from established illustrator and now debut author Hazel Mitchell. She'll be talking about that elusive quality known as "style" and lots of other good things. And because we didn't get the word out well about this wonderful giveaway, we've extended the deadline to the 17th!!! Wahoo!! Just leave a comment at the end.
As an illustrator one of the most important decisions I make when I receive a manuscript from a publisher is the style I’m going to work in. For some illustrators this is not the first thing they think about, if they work in the same style for every book. But I’m not like that. It’s not that my style changes out of all recognition from book to book (line work and color palette give me away!)– it’s just I see the illustrations for each book differently. Which keeps things interesting - I never get bored! Neither do I say to myself ‘I’m going to use style A, or style B, or even style C. What I do say is ‘How does this book make me feel?’, ‘What age group is it aimed at?’, ‘What is the mood?’, ‘Where’s it set?’, ‘Is it a full color picture book or a black and white chapter book?’, ‘What does the story call for?’. All these things inform the illustrations. Often when an illustrator begins to work in children’s books, or is looking to break in, style becomes a bit of an obsession. You can hear little knots of illustrators at conferences discussing their style or someone else’s style or wondering if they should jump on the latest bandwagon and be a clone of so and so who just won a Caldecott?
I am here to tell you that you should not think so much about ‘style’ as what the words in the book are telling you. Begin by writing down your feelings … happy, sad, thoughtful, sweet, hilarious? What color scheme is suggested? Bright, loud, subdued, monochrome? And so on. Even if you create your illustrations in the same style, delving deeper into the words the author has written will give you a real feel for the pictures you will create.
When you are both author and illustrator of a book how does that change things? For one thing, you are master of the world you are creating. Both the words and pictures come from your own imagination! You have free rein over style, because you dictate all the elements in the book. What power you have! Oh my. Which, of course, can be somewhat daunting.
I’m telling you this because after illustrating many books for other authors (some rendered in pen and ink, some watercolor, some digital, some mixed media) I finally found myself looking at my own story and wondering just what kind of images I wanted to create to give it life. So, I employed the same technique I do when I receive a manuscript from a publisher. I thought about mood, setting, characters, age group, and the themes I had woven into the story.
‘Toby’, my tale about a dog adopted by a lonely boy (based on my own experiences with my rescue dog of the same name), is a quiet story. It’s aimed at 4-6 year olds. It’s about relationships and emotions and not giving up. Most of the book is set inside the boy’s house and garden, so there are few panoramas or fantastical elements or fireworks or crazy stuff. But there are lot of small incidents, inferences of body language and facial expression and everyday exchanges between the dog, the boy and the boy’s father.
I knew I wanted to have a limited color palette and line work that was gentle and not overpowering. I chose to use graphite in a loose way and a one color-watercolor wash and then over colored that sparingly in Photoshop. I kept everything light and matched the color palette to the mood. There are night time scenes mostly in blues and grays and daytime images that are washed in browns and beiges. The illustrations have a retro anywhere feel to them that does not distract from the journey of the boy and his fearful, adopted dog.
The one bright color I used in the book is red and I made it the color of Toby’s collar and the boy’s sneakers. It gives a nice, visual and emotional connection between the main characters.
The endpapers of the book are important … they lead in and out of the book and are the most detailed illustrations. I like to think that the reader is at a distance when he sees the front endpapers, then he or she goes into Toby’s world and at the back endpapers he sees again from a distance the boy and his dog for a first time going for a walk in the park. I don’t think that was planned, it was a happy accident! But because I considered the overall feel of the book before I began the artwork, it happened naturally.
Even if you work in one style for the most part, give yourself a little time to really feel the words and story before you begin to illustrate a book. Make color and line samples, try making a mood board. I guarantee you will have a better handle on the direction of your illustrations before you put pencil/brush/digital pen on paper.
TOBY is Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA
Here's a synopsis of Toby:
When a young boy and his father move from one house to another, they decide to adopt a dog from the local rescue shelter. But their chosen dog, Toby, is having a tough time adjusting to his new life outside the shelter—howling all night, hiding fearfully from his new humans, forgetting where to go to the bathroom, and chasing a ball through the flower bed. The boy has promised to train his new companion, and he’s trying his best, but Dad is starting to get exasperated. Will Toby ever feel comfortable with his new family and settle into his forever home, or will Dad decide he’s not the right dog for them after all?
A heartwarming story about the growing bond between a child and a new pet—inspired by the author’s experience with a rescue dog of the same name.
And a little about Hazel:
Hazel Mitchell has always loved drawing and still cannot be reliably left alone with a pencil. She has illustrated several books for children including Imani’s Moon, One Word Pearl, Animally and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? ‘Toby’ is her author-illustrator debut from Candlewick Press. Her work has received several awards and been recognized by Bank Street Books, Learning Magazine, Reading is Fundamental, Foreword Reviews, NYCReads365, Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, Charlotte/Mecklenburg , Chicago and Maine State libraries among others. Originally from England, where she attended art-college and served in the Royal Navy, she now lives in Maine with her poodles Toby and Lucy and a cat called Sleep. She still misses British fish and chips, but is learning to love lobster. See more of her work at www.hazelmitchell.com. Repped by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd.
You can find Hazel here: http://www.hazelmitchell.com/toby • tweet@meetToby
http://www.facebook.com/meettoby/ • Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TgIF-6Yo1o • Buy it here http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763680930 and here http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/toby-hazel-mitchell/1123282586.
To win a FREE signed copy of TOBY and Toby SWAG, leave a comment on this blog post! The winner will be drawn on 9th October.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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