Mac McCool - Children's Book Illustrations and Graphic Novels

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday Tip: Sprinkling Creativity Throughout the Process

Making changes to a graphic novel that's well underway usually involves redrawing loads of pages and discarding hours of work. If one page takes about 1 to 3 days on average, then redoing 10 pages could represents nearly a month's worth of work. In such types of creative processes, where the toll of editing increases as the project progresses, pre-planning becomes crucial to avoid disasters in the long run (animation is another such process). In reaction, some artists will front-end the creative (and fun) work, only to find that they've turned themselves into drawing machines for the rest of the process. To keep the creative fun throughout the process, only plan early on what you must to ensure smooth transitions from phase to phase, and keep as much as possible to be decided, invented, created for the rest of the journey. For example, when you are the same person penciling and inking a page, "push your pencils" (draw and redraw until it's correct) only on the important elements. For the rest, say for trees or landscapes, merely sketch approximate shapes, so that you can playfully and creatively ink them in later on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Another Month, Another Children's Comics Imprint: Toon Books

It's official! We're experiencing a renaissance of comics for children. The latest imprint to offer children's graphic novels is Toon Books. It is introducing graphic novels for very young readers, 4 years old and up (similar to Punaise & Puceron in the French and Belgian markets). Toon Books founders, Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman, who have long advocated for quality comics for children (notably with their lavish and smart Little Lit collection), bring their artistic flair and editorial know-how to an already promising catalogue. (More info on Toon Books' blog and in Calvin Reid's PW article)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dave Roman's Freelancing Tips for Illustrators and Comic Artists

Dave Roman is surrounded by children's comics and graphic novels. At work, he's an Editor for Nickelodeon Magazine. At home, he's the spouse of the delightful Raina Telgemeier (who draws the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels for Scholastic). And he even makes his own comics! Now, we're all lucky he's sharing all his insights about working as a freelance artist in one place. Thanks, Dave!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Children's Graphic Novel Day Roundtable Summary (Part 4)

On online comics, conventions and communities:
Most everyone agreed that starting to show your work online helped to generate interest and word-of-mouth, opening doors to many opportunities. The Flight anthology owed much of its early success to the online buzz generated before the release of the first volume. Every panelist agreed conventions played a critical role in bringing your art to the public and to publishing pros. Moreover, Kazu Kibuishi likened the group of creators behind tables at conventions as a village, and for him, attending conventions such as the San Diego Comic Con gave him the chance to meet and socialize with friends and peers in that village.

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the Children's Graphic Novel Day Roundtable with the list of our guests.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Children's Graphic Novel Day Roundtable Summary (Part 3)

Part 3 - On the role reviews play in the success of a graphic novel:
J. H. Everett, who worked at bookstores (Borders, Waldenbooks), said reviews almost did not matter to most customers. Conversely, Tommy Kovac and Michael Payne explained that librarians made many of their purchasing decisions on reviews alone, especially with trusted sources, such as VOYA. Moreover, Kelly Sonnack reminded the audience that strong reviews in established venues, like the New York Times, build your credibility and impress publishers.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Children's Graphic Novel Day Roundtable with the list of our guests.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Children's Graphic Novel Day Roundtable Summary (Part 2)

Read Part 1 of the Children's Graphic Novel Day Roundtable here with the listing of our guests.

Part 2 - On the best format and avenues for submissions:
Writers face the added challenge of selling a graphic novel proposal to publishers without visuals to support it. Douglass Barre stressed that writers approaching comic book superhero publishers like Marvel and DC have little chances of having a proposal accepted with a manuscript alone, and so they should find an artist to draw sample pages. Comic artist Tommy Kovac suggested starting your publishing career with smaller publishers to prove your abilities. Agent Kelly Sonnack recognized that with children's book publishers, no submission standards or protocol presently existed for graphic novels. Kazu Kibuishi said that many artists are struggling to finish their graphic novels, so shopping a completed graphic novel not only proves you have the required discipline, but also makes it easier for editors to take or reject your project (since they are still new to editing graphic novels).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesday Tip: Drawing The Soundtrack of a Comics

On the comics page, font weight correlates with the perceived volume of speech. A wavy baseline (the line where text rests) suggests a melody, mimicking the up and down movement of keys on a musical score. Beyond these two conventions, the comic artist can design letters that "play" very specific timbers, pitches, resonances and other audio qualities in the mind's ear of the reader. It's the power of synaesthesia, the ability of one sense to evoke another, like a color evoking a taste. One warning: computer fonts look too perfect and generally fail to evoke lively sounds, so hand-draw your onomatopoeias (sound FXs) instead. In so doing, consider the materials generating your sound and find visual analogies to shape your letters -- is it soft, hard, gas-filled, liquid, metallic, organic, static, vibrating, etc.? Seek shapes and line styles that convey emotional qualities like harsh, tender, deep, superficial, angry, silly, etc. Finally, your onomatopoeia can also mark moments in space. If the sound is moving, like a jet roaring by, your letters can act as motion lines tracking the passage of the plane across your panel. So remember, an evocative lettering enriches your comics' soundtrack, and your reader's "ear" will love you for it!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Children's Graphic Novel Day: Thanks So Much!

To all of you who attended the 1st Children's Graphic Novel Day, organized by the SCBWI Tri-Regions Chapters of Southern California, a MAGNIFICIENT THANK YOU! Our speakers shared so much, from Marilyn Scott-Waters's funny intro and survey of the history of comic art, to Bob Singer's ever-so-insightful critiques of all your comics pages (congrats on completing those!), and to our panel of speakers who revealed the potential and complexities of this trade! We even had a surprise last minute guest speaker, Kazu Kibuishi, who showed us his first published copy of his upcoming graphic novel, Amulet. And to all our terrific volunteers and organizers, thank you, thank you, thank you!

If you couldn't make it, I've condensed notes from the roundtable and will post them in a few installments starting today. Our speakers included Douglass Barre, J.H. Everett, Kazu Kibuishi, Tommy Kovac, Michael Payne, and Kelly Sonnack (bios).

Part 1: On Trends in the World of Children's Graphic Novels:
The Harry Potter series proved to adults that children could read longer books, so one of the trends affecting graphic novels is higher page counts (Baby Sitters Club, Amulet, Avalon High). Another continuing trend is the broadening appeal to girls, from Babymouse to Fruit Basket. Books that increase social and playful interactions (with Harry Potter bringing parents and children closer or Captain Underpants with flipbook animations in its pages and other fun activities) connect and engage readers beyond the mere reading experience, with the universe of the story entering the real world of the children.