Backgrounds and Photography

I’ve been considering a number of options recently regarding the process of my illustrations. The joy of drawing my characters has been a tremendous experience, but I am not nearly comfortable with backgrounds. Backgrounds are a whole other half of the work that really needs to be put into my children’s book. It’s something I needs to be addressed while working on this story.

I looked up lessons on the construction of backgrounds and discovered there is much less to offer beyond general character sketching. I understand that tye eyes are fixed mostly on the activity in the front and in many popular children’s books the background does not even exist. I can think of a few such as Elephant and Piggie or You Are Not Small. But backgrounds can be world creating if they are done well. Perhaps I am over emphasizing the point because the books I just mentioned above are best-sellers. They connect well with readers, and I personally love them.

Then, randomly, I decided to give something out of the blue a shot… photography… mostly, manipulated photography. I thought it would be a great experiment to incorporate photos into my story and use them as backgrounds. When I thought of this, I said to myself: why not use the world around you to tell a story? Why not use the imagination- not to depart from the real world- but to play within the confines of the real world?

Sure that means I am going to have to do a lot of picture taking, but that might just be part of the fun- a little adventure that goes beyond my desk and couch. I have also been testing out a few apps to use with my photography to help manipulate the images I take to help soften the contrast between my characters and the world they will be playing in. It’s a lot of cartooning apps. I take a photo and then run it through a filter.

I worried that it would be like taking a short cut, but I was listening the other day to an NPR Radio interview. I have no idea who was being interviewed, but the professor speaking was going on and on about how nearly every medium in today’s society was modern. Everything from movies to music was refurbished, revamped, and an improved experience. But reading was not. He said it would be wonderful if writers started using the media available to enhance the experience of the reader. I still love my reading, don’t get me wrong. Picking up a book and disappearing into the pages is fascinating. But what about picking up a children’s book and for 9-15 minutes, playing with the actual world we live in everyday, just with a few imaginary characters? It was about 10 o’clock at night last Thursday that I heard that interview, and I thought: I am going to give this a shot. After all, isn’t this just what it all is anyways? Just playing?

We’ll see how it goes.


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