by Carol Hinz, Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books
I’m endlessly fascinated by how illustrators create artwork for picture books. It’s not so much the technical details that I find compelling; it’s the process of determining what image will best accompany a given word or phrase or paragraph on a page.
When we hire an illustrator for a given book, we set deadlines for sketches and for final art. However, an artist may also have other in-between steps as part of their process that they never show me or the book’s designer or art director. That is . . . unless I ask about it for a blog post!
For the new book A Girl Like Me, Nina Crews illustrated a poem written by Angela Johnson that encourages girls (and all of us!) to reject societal limitations and follow their dreams. Nina’s photocollage illustrations were assembled digitally. For that reason, you might be surprised to learn that her illustration process started with pencil sketches. The sketches helped her to determine compositions and to figure out exactly what she’d need to photograph for the final art.
In describing her process, Nina told librarian and blogger Betsy Bird, “In A Girl Like Me, I created patterns, scanned hand-made textures and used vector shapes created in Photoshop and collaged these with my photographs. Keeping up with new technology can sometimes be a challenge. (Cue the online how-to videos.) But art making is essentially problem solving—a largely intuitive process only resolved by spending time on the work. That challenge remains the same whatever tools I use.”
Here is a look at how one particular spread from the book took shape:
Amazing isn’t it?
In a recent review, School Library Journal said, “Crews’s signature photo-collage style is the perfect artistic choice for this book, using photos of real girls and beautiful cityscapes in combination with recurring shapes, textures, and symbols that tie the dreamy spreads in with the real-world ones. VERDICT An excellent addition for all collections.”
Here’s a peek at one last spread from the book:
May we all have the courage to dream big in our own lives–just like the girls in this marvelous book!