Please, Louise and voice

Summertime has become the time of year to tie up loose ends, plan, and organize for the future. Because I am so busy during the school year serving our students at MICA, my personal work moves at a slower pace. Recently, I wrapped up and delivered final art for Toni & Slade Morrison’s latest picturebook, Please, Louise. It will publish with Simon & Schuster in the spring of 2014! I am so very proud of the work I have done in this book. There was never any pressure, it’s just a Nobel Prize winning author and icon. 😉

When I wasn’t stressing over the deadline, I really enjoyed creating the art. In April, Pat Cummings posted a question in a publishing group frequented by artists and authors on Facebook that asked:

When illustrating for different age levels, what considerations do you make for your target readers? To what extent does imagery change when doing books for Toddlers, Picture Book, Middle Grade or Graphic Novels? . . . any thoughts on things like the difference in layout, color, style, figures, emotional expressions, etc. would be appreciated.

Most of my books have been aimed toward slightly older readers. Bird leading the pack at a hefty reading level of 8-12 year olds, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen aimed at 5-9 year olds, according to Amazon, and White Water, with a recommended reading bracket of 5-8. I have been able to work in a similar way (some would say “style”, I like to call it “voice”) for all three books. Each one was characterized by realistic modeling of faces and landscape, muted color palettes and a strong linear element that supported secondary ideas in the text.

crayon, watercolor dyes, salt
crayon, watercolor dyes, salt

I avoid working in one particular style for a few reasons, mainly because each manuscript has a different personality and requires a different “look” than the other, but also, because I am an artist first and I love experimenting with different material and ways of working. Some of my favorite illustrators are ones who experiment and play with the idea of style in their work like The Dillons, Jan Ormerod, Tom Feelings, and Chris Myers, to name a few…

For the Morrison project, my main character is much younger and the story is very poetic, which I loved, because it allowed me to insert myself and play with ideas and visual metaphors instead of simply sticking to a linear thread. The materials I used were my go-to watercolor, gouache, and watercolor inks, but I was drawing with a wax pencil and lots of crayon!!!! I love Bernadette Watts’ Little Red Riding Hood and was so thrilled to look to her work for inspiration.

So, please look for Please, Louise this Spring from Toni and Slade Morrison, designed by the fabulous, Laurent Linn, and published by my lovely and patient editor, Paula Wiseman over at Simon and Schuster Books!