Thursday, May 26, 2016

Telling A Story Within A Story by Illustrator Wendy Martin

As an illustrator my job is to tell a story within a story. When I get a manuscript from a publisher to illustrate, it generally comes without any art notes or comments on what to create. In the case of my new picture book, “The Story Circle,” by Diane Gonzales Bertrand, the text was less than 100 words long. I had to create a lot of the story via the images. No matter how long the text is, an illustrator’s job is to add story to the author’s contribution. Some authors always add a family pet, others incorporate a favorite animals or a personal symbol into each image. Some other artists create a side story through their art. Of course all these embellishments have to stay true to the author’s vision as well.

Try to be an illustrator today and draw something to extend the story. You can draw an animal, a person or an alien. Maybe your main character is a toaster. Go wild. Tell the story behind this prompt with your art.

::Last week, all the cows went on strike.::

Have fun, and don’t worry about starting with stick figures. It’s how I begin all my art, in swirls and scribbles and lines that look like a huge mess!

“The Story Circle” is a tale of what the children do to replace their classroom’s books after a big flood destroys their school. With the wisdom and encouragement of their teacher, each child creates their own story prompt, and illustrates it. They create new books to fill their empty bookshelf.

Wendy Martin
Co-Founder of #kidlitart Thursday night chats and the #PBDummyChallenge on Twitter.
See more of her art and find out more about her at

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They are always glad to hear if their advice, inspiration and/or writing exercises were a help to you! 

Thank YOU! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

From Manuscript to Storyboard with Claire Lordon

I am very excited to introduce a valuable Member of one of my own critique groups, Claire Lordon, author of "Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster." Here's Claire:

Today I'm going to share my approach to storyboarding a picture book.

First I start off by looking at my manuscript. I read each couplet and bit of action then I decide how to best group passages together for what is going to be on each page. It's important during this process to think about page turns and not having too much text on one page or spread.

Here is an example from my book "Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster" of how I looked at my manuscript and decided how to pace the book. 
Note: This isn't the final version of the story or how the pacing for the pages turned out, but it was where I started.

Then, I decide what size I would like my book to be. Do I want it long and horizontal? Or do I want it tall? 

I look at the story and figure out what the illustrated action needs. I look at various current published children's books to help give me an idea on what size I want my book to be. When I first started storyboarding picture books I would just choose a size and go with it. If during the process I realized I needed more horizontal or vertical space I would scrap my current storyboard and change it to a storyboard with the correct proportions.

After that it's time to work on preparing the storyboard. I have two storyboard templates, a taller more vertical version, and a more horizontal version.
I print out two (or three in case I make a mistake) of my chosen size onto 11"x17" paper.

Next I look at my text with the pagination notes and write underneath each spread what goes on each page. I make sure I use pencil in case I need to erase anything.

Then, I cut out the rectangles on one of the storyboards. These are what I draw on. I cut them out in case I need to move them around or replace them. I use a masking tape loop to stick them to my storyboard.

After that it's drawing time. During this process I am very loose and am focusing on the big shapes and composition. It's important to be mindful of the gutter and page turns and where the text is placed. I also remember that I need to leave room for front matter (title, copyright, dedication, etc...) and end pages.

Usually the sketches help inform me of text changes, which can then change the storyboard. It can be a back and forth process until the text and storyboard tell the story in the best way possible.

At the end of the process I have a complete storyboard. I use the rough thumbnail sketches to tell me how to draw my initial black and white sketches for the book.
Here is an example of my second to final storyboard from "Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster." Note that this is before I started using the cut outs of the pages. 

I hope you find this helpful and insightful. 

Claire Lordon is an illustrator and designer who creates artwork, surface designs, murals, and greeting cards for many companies. She earned her BFA in Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. "Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster" is her debut picture book.

Claire’s work is inspired by her lifelong spirit for adventure, a love of the outdoors, and an enthusiasm for travel. She enjoys long distance running, hiking, and snowboarding. She wrote and illustrated this book in Brooklyn, New York, which fortunately has a lot of delicious cheese pizza for her to eat! You can find out more about Claire at

Claire Lordon Design

Author and Illustrator of  Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster 
Coming May 2016 from Little Bee Books

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Please support our authors and illustrators by buying their books if you are interested, and leaving a comment. 

They are always glad to hear if their advice, inspiration and/or writing exercises were a help to you! 

Thank YOU!