Thursday, May 27, 2010
Just a little color study for my book with Tricycle Press. I'm about to start painting! I've also included an article I wrote for the Local SCBWI Newsletter. Thank you to Linda Boyden for editing the article.
What makes a good picture book? In January of this year, I began teaching a graduate children's book class at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where I had just two years earlier been an MFA student myself. As I created lectures for my very first class, I was forced to try to understand exactly what I believe makes a picture book successful. Two years out of school I was proud to be embarking on my sixth picture book. While there is a laundry list of technical terms that came to mind, I realized that the core of a good picture book is simply INSPIRATION. I believe it enables an illustrator to develop a world full of dynamic characters. With my most recent published book, Let Me Help! (Children's Book Press), I had three major inspirations.
My first was Alma Flor Ada's wonderful story. After reading the manuscript for Let Me Help!, I set out to do Alma Flor's uplifting tale justice. Let Me Help! is about a parrot named Perico who wants to help his family prepare for Cinco de Mayo. Despite repeatedly being shooed away, Perico manages to save the day in a very big way. Through the course of the book, Perico shows us to be accepting of others, and to be true to ourselves–two of the most important lessons a child can learn.
From there, my second inspiration for Let Me Help! came from renown artist, Diego Rivera. His ability to convey a variety of faces and body types, but make it read as one united group was a quality I really aspired to portray in the book. As a person of Mexican descent, it was really important to me to depict each character as an individual part of one large family.
The last major inspiration came to me while I was observing parrots at the zoo. Seeing the parrots side-shuffle across the branch and say hello at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, it became incredibly easy for me to picture them dancing and singing as well. I began to wonder what Perico would dance to, and by the end of the day "Fantasy" by Earth, Wind, and Fire became Perico's theme song. Playing the song, helped motivate me to come back to the drafting table to draw my charming winged protagonist.
Inspiration can come from anywhere if your eyes are open to it. It's simply about looking at the world around you for ideas and allowing yourself to be creative. The more inspiration, the more wonderful details emerge. In the words of renowned illustrator and educator Andrew Loomis, "The creativeness is in the planning, pure and simple, and the rest is good carpenter work."