Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Author-Illustrator Relationship

What relationship?

A lot of people think that picture book authors sit down with their illustrators and discuss their vision of their story. This is not how its done.

I would never have even met my illustrator, Olivier Dunrea, if I had not dragged myself and my huge pregnant belly down to Books of Wonder one day when he happened to be doing a signing there (and when I say huge, I am NOT frickin' kidding.)

The norm is for there to be no contact at all. Seem counter- intuitive?

I guess the theory is that the illustrator should not be unduly influenced. It is his or her job to come up with the visual expression of the story and the author just has to trust them to do exactly that.

I certainly wouldn't tell my OB-GYN how to do his job. But there is something very difficult about giving up all control to the illustrator. I guess that's why someone invented "art notes."

18 comments:

taralazar said...

OMG! You *were* huge! (But cute. Very, very cute.) It's amazing how those "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" chicks get away with not knowing.

I like what I heard Carolyn Crimi once say about the illustrators who have worked on her books. To paraphrase: the illustrators have never done what I expected. They've done FAR BETTER than I ever could have expected!

I think one of the most exciting things about being a PB author is getting to see how an illustrator brings your story to life. Awesome. Can't wait for that.

Corey Schwartz said...

Yeah, I have a good illustrator story coming tomorrow via Aaron Reynolds! (This was really just a lead in)

B.J. Anderson said...

What a cute belly! I was sooooo huge as well, but I had healthy kids, so I can't complain. :D And that would be really weird trying to give up the control of something like that. Yikes!

Linda said...

I completely agree with the goal of allowing the illustrator (and editor and book designer) to make their creative contributions without being constrained by the author's ideas. Candlewick allowed me to make comments on the sketches, which were filtered to the illustrator based on the editor's experience and knowledge. That seems like a good compromise and I believe the final product was better for that second-hand interaction.

Natalie said...

I thing giving up all control would be a little hard but also kind of fun. I mean, you get an artist (and a very good one in your case) to interpret your words. It must have been exciting to see what he did with them.

Lazy Writer said...

That's interesting. I did think you would work closely with the illustrator. I'm sure it's difficult to let go of that.

Deb Markanton said...

Isn't it kind of fun also, to be surprised by the illustrator's vision? Hopefully in a good way. :)

Suzanne said...

Call me crazy but that photo made me ALMOST miss it all...

I wrote a story for an illustrator once. It still hasn't been finished... (the artwork part...) but it's so funny... I don't think of it as mine. Hmmmmmmm. should I?

MG Higgins said...

How interesting! I had no idea writers shouldn't be in contact with their illustrator. I wonder if before they came up with that rule there were some gnarly incidents of authors harassing artists and trying to force their ideas.

Tess said...

Adorable pic! I remember those days all to well....

and, I remember when I first learned about the fact that the PB writers and illustrators don't mix. It's an interesting thing, for sure. I heard it was also because the pub houses will often pair a new author w/ an established illustrator or visa versa in order to increase sales.

Hardygirl said...

Whoa! Was that baby lying sideways?

It is funny that the author and illustrator usually don't collaborate. I (personally) think it could make the book better to have a little give and take between both of you . . .but what do I know?? I'm sure publishers have a good reason for working this way. Too many egos, perhaps?

sf

Rebecca said...

It's a beautiful pregnant belly picture! Aren't pregnant bellies one of the coolest things?

I think it will be exciting to see what an illustrator comes up with for my first picture book (or our first picture book--either way!). Even so, whenever I think about an illustrator, I can't help but wonder, "What if I hate the pictures?" Just gotta let go when that day comes, I guess!

Kelly H-Y said...

Love that pic!!! People are always so surprised when they ask me about illustrations and I tell them that - as a writer only - finding an illustrator is up to the publisher! It does seem counterintuitive! You make a great point about the reason why!

Jody Hedlund said...

So you weren't lying! But I bet you are a tiny gal and so there was no room for that baby but out! Very interesting about the illustrator aspect! I'm sure it must be tough to give up some of that control!

Tamika: said...

Aren't you glad to have your body back?! You feel like you can breathe again too, don't you!

Giving up control is never easy, or casual. I am not looking forward to the day.

Blessings to you...

taralazar said...

MG's comment reminded me of a story I heard from a self-published author (from Tate Publishing).

Tate hired the illustrator, but gave the author a lot of artistic control. Turns out the author insisted the main character be redrawn several times to look just like her own cat. She even caused the delay of the book's release, and it was a holiday book with a limited sales window. It was ultimately released too close to the holiday. This, surprisingly, didn't bother her because the cat in the book bore a striking resemblence to her beloved pet.

I personally love how the illustrator is given artistic freedom. An artist thinks in a different way, in a different expressive medium, and can interpret the story in a way that goes beyond what the author could have ever imagined. That's an exciting quality to bring to the book, to elevate it above the text, to make it into something even more amazing.

*Sigh* I love picture books.

Corey Schwartz said...

Hmm, Tara, but look how many art notes you put in your last PB manuscript? :)

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

I've always wondered exactly how this process works. When I write stories, I tend to think about them in pictures so I think I'd probably have a few "art notes" too. :)