Most author/illustrator groups will critique your manuscript once you've got it as finished as possible, but are there groups that help develop a seed of an idea into a first draft?
In a large room with two walls of floor to ceiling windows, about 20 graphic designers, theater people, art teachers and others, gather to develop portfolios and create children's books. They make up Monica Wellington's Monday (and Wednesday) night class, Children's Book Illustration, at the School of Visual Arts in New York City on 21st Street.
Monica's class is different from other classes I've taken. In the past I haven't presented a picture book idea to a group until I had at least a rough draft. In this class, we begin by drawing a sample illustration of a picture book concept that we are thinking about. We post our images on the wall.
Sometimes Monica introduces a story prompt. In one class we wrote down jobs that our extended families have had. I was thinking of my brother-in-law who is a chef, so developed the idea of a witch who was a chef. (Think Oily Snail Soup and Crispy Spider Legs.)
For each new story idea, we create an illustration. Monica asks each artist how their artwork relates to their story idea. The class critiques the artwork, and discusses the possibilities of the related story concept.
We are entering the second half of the semester, and the class has introduced a lot of new art and ideas for picture books. We now choose one story and are asked to create a thumbnail dummy with the story written under the pictures.
From here our art will expand in size and detail as the story line evolves.
My classmates have a unique, insightful and sometimes funny takes on the work. They are kind and sharing, and bring a wide variety of illustration styles and techniques.
For me, Monica Wellington's approach to creating a picture book from one sketch feels like tiptoeing up to a sleeping tiger. It's a smoother, easier method than sitting down at a keyboard facing the open jaws of a blank screen. And artwork that doesn't develop into a picture book, works as a portfolio piece.
As a visual thinker, I appreciate Monica Wellington's unique approach to creating children's books. It's wonderful to have support from a terrific teacher and classmates when you're going from the fragile, uncertain beginnings of an idea, across that wide abyss to a picture book dummy.
|Helpful comments from Sophia Dookh, Estella Morgan and Monica Wellington. ©patriciakeeler|
Twitter: @patriciakeelerInstagram: @patriciakeelerbooks