Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sketch Phase...where does the story happen?

Every story happens in a place.
Tiny the Birthday Dog has already been written and I am now interpreting in pictures what the author has put down in words.  When I read the manuscript, there are no mention of "places" in the; back yard; library; pool; store; etc.

I get to turn on my imagination and make this story happen in the place I think makes the most sense for my beginning readers.
I must keep it simple to help them.

In a beginning reader book, the name of the game is "simple".
So I embrace the acronym, KISS....keep it simple, stupid.
When I make things too cluttered with details (that are not really needed to push the story along or communicate what the spread is saying), it doesn't read as well and it creates a whole lot more work and frustration in the painting stage.  The more I put in, the greater the design problems to work out in the art space....and the opposite.

Every art piece does not need to be a master piece (I have to tell myself that over and over!)'s like a base ball player on a team...he carries his own weight.
A team needs nine players for a game...all of them carry their own responsibilities; all needed; leave one out and you can't play; none are more important than the other.

My illustrations have to be a team together.   A good visual understanding of the place beforehand helps me accomplish that.  
My pictures have to be easily readable and clear because my reader (pre-s to 1st grade) is just beginning to read .  My job is to help him have clear "visual clues" so he can try to figure out what the words are saying and ultimately be able to tell everyone, "Hey, I can read by myself!"

I told you in a previous post that I had begun to work on where the story is happening.  
At that point I had made no final decisions.
I now have a space that will house all the actions in the story and allow it to make sense.

After reading the manuscript, I visualize Tiny the Birthday Dog story having three main places:

1)the big room (living room) with a window that looks out on the back yard and a door leading to the kitchen
2)kitchen with a back door leading to the back yard
3)back yard with a ball in the yard  

Here is my initial unedited sketch once I saw the ingredience:
(click on pictures to see them larger)

When I lay out this floor plan without having to visualize the rest of the house, it leaves me alot of options and I can make it functional as well as charming.  I don't have tell my viewers everything...right?

After doing six Tiny the big dog books, I've made these decisions already and am now following through once again.  Two of those books already had pictures of the backyard where Tiny and Elliot live.  And two of them have parts of a kitchen...and one of them of the big room.  But I purposely didn't show every thing in those rooms so that it could stay flexible according to the story's visual needs.

The kitchen gets a checkerboard floor because I like them!  They add color and interest to the whole picture even though they are more difficult to paint and figure out in the sketch stage.   In my opinion, it's worth it.  Since things will be simple, I want to get the most out my painting real estate area.

One other thing, at this point, I don't put the furniture in the rooms yet....I don't want to complicate things here at the beginning.  Creativity needs space to expand and try ideas that come to me.  I need to walk around in these empty rooms first in my imagination....then bring my characters into the rooms and see how much furniture and "do-dads" I can comfortably put in after that.
There may not be much room in a certain part of my floor plan and if I'm bound and determined to squeeze in some furniture that I like, it will make the whole thing look contrived and squeezed...over crowded.
I have to remember KISS!

To show you how determining the place helps me move into my story layout,
in the opening spread when Elliot is introducing you to Tiny,
I draw him opening the kitchen door into the big room and whispering to the reader because Tiny is sleeping and he doesn't want to wake him.  The whole story is about Elliot creating a surprise birthday party for his lovable big pal, I'm starting the book on that "secret" note.  My layout for the place has helped me to do that pretty easily.

This is why it's worth my time to figure out where I see the story happening and be able to draw it out so that it is readable, flows well and makes a little sense.
I'm excited to have this piece in place and am ready to sail into the rest of the manuscript...this is a very charming story and I think it will have the potential for being timeless since kids love dogs and kids love birthdays and most kids wish they could have a dog as big as Tiny!

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