It’s the first Sunday of the month, when I typically feature student illustrators or those brand-new to illustration, but I’m breaking the rules today.
And that’s ’cause, earlier this week, I was chatting with author-illustrator Carin Berger about how she turned in the art for her upcoming book, Finding Spring (Greenwillow Books), which is about a bear who doesn’t want to hibernate and, instead, goes in search of Spring. The art is what Carin describes as “somewhat 3D”—like her most recent illustrated children’s book, Jack Prelutsky’s Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: And Other Poems (Greenwillow Books, February 2013)—but “more like tiny toy theaters or Victorian raree shows.”
I haven’t seen an early copy of this book, which won’t be on shelves for a while, but I always enjoy reading about Carin and how she creates her artwork. In fact, Carin and I did this back in January of last year, way before Stardines came out. She visited back then to share images of her dioramas, her three-dimensional art from that book. Hmm. Maybe I can just make it a 7-Imp tradition to check in with Carin at the first (or nearly first) of every year. I’m a fan of her artwork. That’d make me happy anyway.
So, without further ado, here’s Carin, and I thank her for sharing.
Carin: I have just completed and delivered my newest book, Finding Spring, which is the story about a little bear, Maurice, who goes on his own in search of Spring, rather than hibernating. The idea for the book grew around my own memories of childhood adventures, exploring my world without adult supervision. I was remembering just how magical and empowering those solo discoveries were.
When I started thinking about the illustrations, I wanted them to have an intimacy and to somehow capture that magical quality. I wanted to give the reader the sense of peeking in. I have always been captivated by toy theaters and Victorian optical toys, such as stereoscopes and raree shows.
“Early Visual Media” from Thomas Weynants)
Also, when I make my illustrations I first make all of the pieces, which—before being glued down—float around my desk, like paper toys, so the idea of toy theaters was rather intuitive.
I suppose another reason that I wanted to do the illustrations in 3D (or, more precisely, like shadow boxes) is that I had such fun doing the illustrations for Jack Prelutsky’s book Stardines Swim High Across the Sky. The collaborative part of the project, where I worked with my friend and photographer, Porter Gillespie, to photograph the art and create the final images, was incredibly rich and rewarding.
The story is a rather simple one. It is about a little bear, who has never seen Spring and is a little obsessed with it. Rather than hibernate, he decides to adventure off on his own in search of Spring. He has a magical adventure but mistakes his first Winter for Spring. Still, it is a transformative experience, and his own private discovery still resonates for him even after he awakes to the splendor of his first Spring.
In order to make reading the book more intimate and engaging, I wanted to play with visual storytelling. I sometimes used multiple panels on a spread, rather like a comic book or graphic novel, allowing the reader to, step by step, join in Maurice’s journey.
Creating the art was a long process. To start, I needed to make all of the characters that were appearing on each page of the book — so that they would be consistent throughout. That meant gathering enough paper to use, which meant a trip to a fabulous magazine shop to choose magazines that had images with the perfect browns for the bears and other characters. There was then some marathon cutting, until I had a whole menagerie of bears and bunnies and birds and squirrels tumbling around on my desk.
It was only after all the animals were made that I went back and created each piece of final art, building up depth on the pages with foam core and balsa wood and even, sometimes, tiny pins. I wanted to allow for a feeling of artifice and make-believe, so snowflakes were attached with the pins, and painted shadows didn’t necessarily jibe with the actual shadows cast in the photographs. Porter and I had worked together shooting Stardines, and in some ways our process for that book, which we figured out very much on the fly, was the same. But for Finding Spring we did a combination of things to enhance the peeping quality. We cast shadows on the art as we were photographing it, and we also added digital vignettes to many of the images, working hard to keep things loose and organic and to mimic the darkened edges one gets when peeking into a stereoscope.
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
My next project is completely different. It is a book that I wrote, called Fabulously Fiona: A Self-Portrait, Told Alphabetically, From A to Z. In it, Fiona describes herself using adjectives in alphabetical order. Sometimes her self-descriptions are accurate; sometimes, not so much. The illustrations provide a fuller context and sometimes contradict the story that she is telling about herself.
And the illustrations are DRAWN!!! In pencil with light watercolor washes. A complete (and somewhat scary) departure for me. Gulp.
I am also in search of another manuscript to illustrate, because I find that collaborative process very rewarding in a different way.
All images are copyright © 2013 by Carin Berger and used with her permission.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
1) Speaking of Carin Berger, I bought a print from her this week, since she’s got several for sale now. It’s one of my favorite illustrations, and it’s from her 2008 book, The Little Yellow Leaf (named a 2008 Best Illustrated Book by the New York Times). I once posted the illustration at 7-Imp. It’s here. Isn’t it gorgeous?
3) My daughters sang back-up on a song on this CD from a local Nashville artist/storyteller/puppeteer. A good friend of mine served as co-producer and engineer (and also plays on it), and it’s neat to see the CD finally out.
The movie’s very premise makes me think of my favorite holiday picture book (and one of the best picture books, no matter the time of year), John Burningham’s Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present.
5) Teaching my girls about saving money and seeing them get it.
6) I’m grateful for my warm, snug, scrappy house when the winds are cold.
7) Warm cocoa with steamed milk when the winds are cold.
What are YOUR kicks this week?