I don't know a single colleague who does not read picture books voraciously. "Read. Read. Read." is the very basic key to all aspiring picture book author-illustrators. The other basic key is "Practice. Practice. Practice." Just like everything else in life, the rules are simple but hard to follow. Perseverance is the key; there is no short cut. :)
Today, I would like to share how I study picture books.
First, I pick a bunch of picture books and read them just to enjoy them. I don't want to see myself analyzing anything at this point, at least not intentionally.
Then, I pick out the ones I loved. Yes, it is a subjective selection, based purely on my own picture book tastes. It's okay though. The important thing is that these books resonate with ME.
On a 8.5x11 paper, I copy the entire book as rough thumbnails.
My study of David Ezra Stein's wonderful book
published by Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013.
This process is helpful because I now have the benefit to step in that artist's shoes and absorb the composition skills. I don't copy the details, but the process forces me to truly see and absorb.
I also write down the key words of each page. I like to then go back and circle what sentence structures or story structures are repeated. How many repetitions were there? How did they affect and enhance the story?
|My study of "Lucky Ducklings",|
written by Eva Moore,
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter,
published by Orchard Books, 2013.
The copying process also helps me understand the story arc at-a-glance. Where did the author-illustrator put in clues to the ending's twist? How are page-turns executed? How was the problem-solution arc tackled?
I find this exercise very helpful. The more I do it, the more I develop a good sense of what makes a great picture book. The best ones look some effortless! What a great art-form!
I encourage you to do the same too. Maybe there is only time for one study per week. That's okay. Like I mentioned earlier: perseverance is the key.
How do you study picture books? I would love to hear from you and learn from your methods! :)
~ Maple Lam
Illustrator of Two Girls Want a Puppy by Evie and Ryan Cordell (coming June 2015)
Author/Illustrator of My Little Sister and Me (coming Summer 2016)