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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | artwork

Jennifer A. Bell

Jennifer A. BellIn this interview with Jennifer A. Bell, illustrator of many endearing books, we’ve asked about the process of illustrating Little Cat’s Luck, our Bookstorm™ this month, written for second, third, and fourth graders as a read-aloud or individual reading books.Jennifer was also the illustrator for Marion Dane Bauer’s earlier novel-in-verse, Little Dog, Lost.

What media and tools did you use to create the soft illustrations in Little Cat’s Luck?

These illustrations were rendered in pencil and finished in Adobe Photoshop.

Little Cat's LuckDo you use real animals for models? Are they animals you know?

I do have a cat. I find Google image searches to be a bit more helpful when I need to find details of different animal breeds or specific poses.

How are the decisions you make about drawing in black-and-white different than those you make about drawing in color?

I love working in black-and-white. I get to narrow my focus onto lighting, value contrast, and textures. It’s much faster than working in color. Color adds another layer of decision-making and can make things more complicated.

Little Dog Lost

The covers for Little Cat’s Luck and Little Dog, Lost are so vibrantly colored. Do you get to choose the color palette for the covers or are you asked to use those colors?

Initially, I had submitted many cover sketches for Little Dog, Lost. Most of them were moody nighttime scenes with the exception of a daytime park sketch. Simon and Schuster thought that image worked the best and we went from there. That cover went through many revisions. The dog changed, the composition was adjusted, and the colors got brighter and brighter. When we started working on Little Cat’s Luck the cover needed to look different than the dog book but still coordinate.

Little Dog, LostHow did you interact with the art director for these books?

There was a lot of back and forth on the covers but I had more freedom working on the interior illustrations. I had a set number of illustrations to come up with and they set me loose with the manuscript. The art director then used my sketches to lay out the book. Once they could see how it all came together we made some adjustments and I was able to work on the final artwork.

When does the book designer get into the process?

The art directors for these books were also the designers.

What does the book designer do beyond what you’ve already done?

So much! They design the cover and book jacket. They choose the fonts. They paginate the text and illustrations and prepare the book to be printed.

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Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to share these insights into your work with our readers. One of the reasons we fell in love with both Patches and Gus, and with Buddy in Little Dog, Lost, is because you have such a deft way with characterization.

For use with your students, Marion’s website includes a book trailer, a social-emotional learning guide, and a teaching guide that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.

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Catherine Thimmesh: Researching Paleoartistry

cover image How did you learn about paleoartists?

 While I was working on my book Lucy Long Ago, part of that research revealed the work of a paleoartist who reconstructed living creatures from paleo times based on fossil evidence, including the hominid, Lucy.

 How did you decide which paleoartists to contact?

I researched the world’s top paleoartists—as defined by the paleontologists and paleoartists themselves. Then, from those artists, I selected the art I personally connected with and thought might mix well together in a book. I then contacted those artists to see if they would participate in the project. (One artist contacted declined.)

How do you ask them for information?

It’s pretty straightforward—just ask! Most of the time, I’m able to contact the artists initially through email. That’s helpful for a cold-contact. I am able to introduce myself and attach a link to my website to familiarize them with my work. Then, after some initial correspondence with email, I set up a telephone interview.

from Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled, image copyright Tyler Keillor

from Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled, copyright Tyler Keillor

What’s the process you went through for obtaining permission to use the art in this book? Where did you go to find the art?

Usually the artists own the copyrights to their artwork (or sometimes a museum has the copyright), so it’s just a matter of negotiating a usage fee and the terms with which to use the work. I scoured the internet, some books, and artists’ websites to find the art. Later in the process, after the artists were selected, I would email specific requests to see if anyone had, say, a Triceratops with the scale pattern fairly visible (or some such).

How do you write so that both children and adults are interested in your books?

Hmmm …. I choose topics that interest and excite me and that I feel will interest and excite kids. Both elements must be present or I won’t do the book. I’ve started several books and then somewhere along the way either I lost interest or I felt the interest level for kids wouldn’t be there and so I abandoned the projects. I don’t consciously write for any age. I do purposefully write with a fairly casual tone—which I think tends to make a book more kid-friendly. It surprises me, still, that so many adults tell me they enjoy my books and perhaps that’s because while I try to write in an accessible manner for kids, I also refuse to dumb anything down for them—which in turn, might make the material more appealing.

Were you interested in dinosaurs as a child?

Nope.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book?

My initial thought—the thought that led to digging deeper into the topic (How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?)—was: ‘Well, obviously the artists just make this stuff up. They’d have to; there’s no reference to draw upon.’ But that thought led me to this: ‘But how can they just make stuff up and present it in a scientific context (without an attached disclaimer: THIS IS COMPLETELY MADE UP)?’ This of course got me agitated; which, in turn, led to: ‘The scientific presentations of dinosaurs (as opposed to movie dinosaurs or picture book dinosaurs) MUST be based upon something. What could it be?’ So, it was enormously surprising and gratifying to learn that paleoartists base their art not just on “something”; not even just on a handful of fossils, but on a tremendous backbone of scientific evidence and scientifically based inference (with some artistic license taken when absolutely necessary—for instance with color).

Thank you, Catherine, for writing a book that addresses questions we didn’t even know to ask, but which intrigued you enough to research and write Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like? And thank you for sharing some of your book-writing journey with our Bookology readers.

 

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Gifted: Walk This World

Walk This World: a Celebration of Life in a Day Lotta Nieminen, a Finnish-born graphic designer and art director Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, November 2013 As you consider gifts for this holiday season, we suggest … (book #2 in our Gifted recommendations) … Visit 10 countries in one book! This stylish […]

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