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Today is my first official day at work for 2012. Both kids are in school and I’m sitting in the library’s teen section, where it’s typically quiet all day. The seniors stay out of here and the children’s library (with the occasional screaming toddler)–is tucked away downstairs.
But I need a little help getting motivated again. And it’s not just because they moved my favorite table away from the window. I’ve been hanging out in my jammies for two weeks! It’s tough to get moving again when you’ve gotten used to being stuffed in rainbow flannel.
Maybe you need motivation, too. Well, you’re in luck. I roamed the stacks when I first got here and found the lovely “Artist to Artist”, a collection of children’s illustrators talking to children about their art. And here are some get-up-and-go gems I found inside:
“When people look at my work, they often say, ‘Your picture is so good. I can’t even draw a straight line.’ I think everyone can learn to draw. The important thing is to keep trying, keep drawing.” ~ Alice Provensen
“If I have an unusual gift, it’s not that I draw particularly better than other people—I’ve never fooled myself about that. Rather it’s that I remember things other people don’t recall: the sounds and feelings and images—the emotional quality—of particular moments in childhood. Happily an essential part of myself—my dreaming life—still lives in the light of childhood.” ~ Maurice Sendak
“The most important thing in the whole of life is to love what you do. If you want to be an artist, don’t draw from movies and television. That’s something someone else has already imagined. Draw from your life. Draw all the time. Expect to be different from other kids, because if you are an artist, you are different. Sometimes it’s hard to be different. Sometimes it hurts when people don’t understand you or laugh at you for not being cool enough, but stay the course. Believe in yourself. Believe in the paintings and drawings that come out of your mind and your hand.” ~ Rosemary Wells
“Your ability to see and respond sensitively to the beauty of the world around you will, in turn, be transformed into the ability to create art that other people will find to be beautiful. As long as you have this visual sensitivity, you will discover that the actual techniques you need for drawing good pictures are very easy to find. They are within you.” ~ Mitsumasa Anno
“Making pictures is how I express my truest feelings, my truest self.” ~Eric Carle
“In our earliest years there’s no how? to our plunge into art. The doing gives the answer. There is no one way. Your work is original and there is no end to the adventure…HURRAH!” ~Ashley Bryan
So get moving, friends. Keep doing what you’re doing. There’s joy for you and joy for the children who read and view your work. Joy to the world!
I drew this illustration to accompany an old story I wrote about my pencils and pens–who felt used and abused by my ceaseless creating, so they up and staged a revolt and escape! I never told my agent I could draw. I don’t think it’s good enough to be in books, but I thought I’d share it here. Maybe a coloring contest is in order?
Copyright 2011 Tara Lazar
This post is just one in a series about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.
Chad Beckerman is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. He worked at Scholastic and Greenwillow before taking on the role of Art Director at Abrams BFYR and Amulet Books. Besides designing book jackets, he illustrates YA covers and creates the artwork for novel interiors. In addition to all that, he’s got a wry sense of humor and knows how to work a microphone.
Chad told us he’s unlike an editor. “They like to put their hands in everything,” he quipped. “I just have to make things look nice. And that’s…really nice.”
One of the things he likes to do is check out the competition. “I’m in the bookstores every weekend,” he said. He eyes what’s on the shelves, but he’s keenly aware that “you shouldn’t try to be what other books are being.” His job is to remain as unique as possible. “Look at what is out there, but do something totally original.”
Chad talked about translating novels into cool visuals and how difficult a task it can be to get it right for the audience. He recently worked on a book where a school prankster shoots classmates you-know-where with a watergun so it looks like they peed their pants. “That’s great,” he said, “here’s what we’re gonna do. We’ll put a watergun on the cover squirting yellow liquid!” But there’s some lines you can’t cross. It’s only a watergun, but it’s also a gun. And urine. “They told me we can’t do it, we just can’t. It made me sad, but I got over it.”
Chad is the savvy designer behind Jeff Kinney’s blockbuster novel-in-cartoons, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. “That one was really hard to do, even though it’s really simple.” There’s no color in the book; the interior illustrations are simple black drawings. But the book still needed a color identity if it was to be noticed on the shelves. People often associate a diary with a brown leather cover, but Chad felt that was “too literal” a translation for this book.
The Diary is a journal that the character’s mom gives him, so Chad looked at a lot of different diaries to get a feel for what this book should be. They settled on a typeset font for “DIARY” to suggest it was a bookstore purchase by Mom, but they scribbled “of a Wimpy Kid” in handwriting to demonstrate it was personalized by the main character Greg. Then they placed a ripped piece of paper with a drawing of Greg on the cover, seemingly torn right from the diary. (I personally love the wimpy, slouching pose.) The background is red to make it stand out, but it’s not a solid red—it has a slightly worn, leathery appearance. And each book in this series is color-coded. There’s a green one, a blue one and a do-it-yourself version in orange. “Some people think it’s brown, but it’s not brown, it’s orange,” Chad reminded us. The different colors help kids easily pick out the ones they don’t yet have!
People often ask Chad where he finds illustrators. In this digital age, he loves to browse websites and blogs looking for new talent. But the best way to get to him is by sending a postcard with a web address. It sits on his desk and reminds him to go online.
One point Chad emphasized to the RUCCL mentees is that “if you like what you’re writing about, then you need to go with it.” No matter what it is, he promises to make it jump off the shelves.
To wrap us this series, next I’ll post about the audience questions!