Science, Nature and Children’s Books – Get The Facts!
A reminder to those of us, (myself included) illustrating for the children’s publishing industry, to make sure we get our facts right. A little “up-front” research goes a long way, even for a children’s picture book.
Simply making a cute character or a colorful scene is not enough when it comes to works including or about nature or science. An example is an up-coming picture book that features an Emperor Penguin. Since they are only found in the South, Antarctica… a phrase that says “the best Penguin in the North” would not be accurate. And if an illustration of a Polar Bear is shown as the Penguin’s friend, this would not be accurate because Polar Bears are not found in Antarctica! Now, I’m not saying to throw all creativity out the window and keep everything literal, I am just saying that as a general rule of good practice it’s not a bad idea to do some real research first so that your characters are not too far out of their element! 😉
This of course is a much more important point to watch if the book is meant for educational distribution in schools. In the picture book, “A Sweater for Duncan” (to be released by Raven Tree Press in the Fall of 2010), the Emperor Penguin is surrounded by other animals found in the Antarctic such as Weddell Seals, Adelie Penguins, and Blue-Eyed Shags. Yes… I said Blue-Eyed Shags!
I am also currently working on a sketch for a 2 page spread which includes a tree frog and crickets… once again, I am researching first since I don’t want to use a poisonous tree frog, (even though that would give me the most color!) This sketch will be finished into a final color image and it is for an upcoming “illustrator’s day” conference in Princeton, NJ on Nov. 15th. I will have a December article on that event.
Here are a few interesting links to check out on the subject of reference…
Illustrator Thomas James reviews a great resource called posemaniac for help with accuracy in human poses… Pose reference.
Here are some great sketches and the “ever-so-important” reference that was used by illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi… (great work Tony)
There is so much available for use as reference on the internet that it makes it easy to do research first. Be prepared before even attempting your sketches. Watch videos, scan through magazines and books. Get to know your subject before you ever lay a pencil to the paper. This goes for non-realistic characters as well as realistic ones. But most of all have fun learning all you can about the subject or area your story takes place. I have to say that in preparing myself for this book, I learned so much about Antarctica that I never knew before… and had so much fun developing all the characters! 🙂 I can’t wait for the book to come out next Fall. “Happy researching everyone!”
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FREE Vector of the month from Deystudio, LLC:
click on image above to get a PDF file.
This month’s featured website or blog…”illustrator Dani Jones”
Dani’s book, “THE BEST MARIACHI IN THE WORLD” was published last year by Raven Tree Press, (My Publisher for “A SWEATER FOR DUNCAN“)
I admire Dani’s work and enjoy watching her live broadcasts from time to time. We have a very similar technique. 🙂