My first takeaway is one that I go back to really often, especially when I'm stuck. As a set designer, when I’m sketching out a scene-- any scene— whether it's a Late Night skit, Hamlet Act IV scene iii, or “Luck be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls, I don't start with the set or the lighting or the special effects. That's kinda huge, no? The set designer doesn't start with the set! So where I start? I draw only what’s necessary to depict the action of the scene. If I'm designing Romeo and Juliet Act II scene ii, I know right away that Juliet has to be up on a balcony, forlorn and wistful. Romeo is down below about to surprise his true love. Not much else is needed to tell the story in that scene. (And Baz Luhrmann would tell you you don’t even need the balcony. He did it with a pool.) I'm not worried about what the backdrop looks like or the lighting or the style of architecture that best describes the palace. That's all icing on the cake. The same holds true for any two page spread in any picture book. Establish the characters' relationships correctly and put down on paper only what you need to complete the action in the script. Once that's solid you can get to bells and whistles. I always draw characters first and backgrounds second. (It has nothing to do with the fact that I don't like drawing backgrounds. I pinky swear.)
|Rough Sketch "Luck be a Lady" circa 1997. Don't judge harshly|
|Got the characters down. The emotion is clear. Backgrounds come later.|
|Establishing shot of the Brady Bunch house.|
|Establishing shot of Mr. Particular's house.|
By day, Jason is a set designer for television, with credits that include The Meredith Vieira Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. By night,
Jason is an author and illustrator of children's books. You can find his debut picture book, Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion on shelves in bookstores everywhere. See more of Jason's work at www.jasonkirschner.com. Follow him on twitter @jason_kirschner .