Thursday, February 17, 2011
Writing & Illustrating Tip/Developing Character with Leslie Helakoski
The problem was that good design and execution are not the same thing as good children's book illustrations. For me, the answer lay in better character development.
Just as we strive to develop strong characters when we write, we must develop them even further when we illustrate. We have to do more than show what the text is saying, we have to show something extra about the character than can be seen visually.
Authors often fill out character trait forms to get to 'know' their characters. I do the same sort of thing when I start drawing. I make many rough sketches until I start noticing specific character traits that come out as I work. Here are some questions I ask myself when I start
sketching a character:
1. How is this character different from others of his species. (What physical traits make him/her stand out? Big feet, nose size, crazy hair? Bowlegged?)
2. What does the character's stall/home look like? (Neat, messy, extravagant?)
Of course, I also spent a lot of time viewing other's illustrations and learning just by absorbing--which sometimes just takes time. But I did find that as an illustrator, I have to do all the things I do as a writer.
Revise, develop strong characters, show changes, show humor and emotion. Include more information than you see at first glance. And I thought all I had to do was draw.
Book trailer for Fair Cow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7Ok7haxPWw
Book trailer for Big Chickens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RStUVypk4gQ
Woolbur (Harper Collins, illustrated by Lee Harper) Nominated for 9 state
Big Chickens (Dutton, illustrated by Henry Cole) Michigan Reads Award,
Great Lakes Great Books Award
Big Chickens Fly the Coop, 3 state book awards
Big Chickens Go to Town
The Smushy Bus
PERSONAL NOTE FROM LYNNE MARIE: I had known Leslie previously from an online critique group, but you can imagine what a pleasure it was to meet her in person at the Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua in 2001. Just another example of the fabulous(!), talented(!) people you can meet at those spectacular(!) writing retreats, which you have noticed, I cannot say enough about (LOL).