I'm completely awestruck by author/illustrators. To be able to write amazing stories and skillfully illustrate your imaginings is truly awesome. When I write, I have vivid and clever full color illustrations in my head. When I draw them on paper they just don’t seem as…shall we say…vivid. Thank God for picture book illustrators!
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of looking through some of my kids’ writing assignments. School is just about out and they’ve been bringing home stacks of portfolios, workbooks and the contents of their desks (yikes…). I miss doing the kinds of writing assignments that kids do. There’s always space to draw pictures. In fact, no elementary school story is considered complete without pictures.
After reading through their stories and admiring their art work I’ve decided that one of the most endearing things children offer us adults is their unfiltered artistic expression of the world whether it be words or pictures. They have no self-critic and express their thoughts freely and completely.
At some point though, the picture box disappears and the self-critic may emerge. But the destined artist continues to doodle in the margins, silence the critic, and alas a picture book illustrator is born!
Over the years, I’ve learned how important it is to leave room for the illustrator. For a long time it was difficult for me to understand how someone else could interpret my story and I wrote superfluously as if I needed to guide them. After meeting some brilliant authors and illustrators the concept has finally sunk in. The written story, even if it isn’t theirs, should spark their imagination and they will add depth and beauty that wasn’t previously envisioned.
If you’re working on a story, try illustrating it. No one ever has to see the drawings, but it can provide valuable insight and perspective. Put the picture box back on the writing assignment. Dare to put on an illustrator's hat if only for a moment and see what emerges.
Picture book illustrators, what sage advice can you share about the ways authors can leave room for you?
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
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