Lesson #7: Your illustrator is the other half of your team.
For this blog, I thought it would be useful to look at the book illustration process from the illustrator’s point of view, to help us budding authors out there to understand what they’re doing at their end. And so, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my illustrator, John Balsley. He’s a saint in illustrator’s clothing. He must be – he’s worked with me and not lost his rag at my OCD tendencies. Not even a little bit.
What do you think are the most common misunderstandings that authors have about illustrators?
Ha ha, sometimes it can be funny if you're showing your portfolio and they say "Well I want a children's book about dogs with hats, I didn't see any dogs with hats in your portfolio?"
How to make a dog hat...
What can a budding author do to help keep the illustration costs down?If the author has a general layout of the script or even a rough layout of the images [See How to to make the perfect picture book, for more guidance on how to go about this] and descriptions for the book, that can often make it a little cheaper rather than going in where the author has no idea where things are going to be going.
|Book illustration layouts don't have to be a work of art!|
As a freelance illustrator, is it possible to focus on one job at a time, or do you have to juggle several projects at once to pay the bills? And, you know, eat.
Usually you are juggling various projects as well as your own work which can, at times, be a bit of a struggle but I like to maintain a constant dialogue with my clients and let them know if I have any questions or if there will be delays. It can feel like art school in a way as you are always working on various things at once, so multi-tasking is a good skill to strengthen.
How do the payments for illustrations usually work?
It depends, I like to work that out initially as some clients pay by the project, sometimes half up front or even all of it upfront. Some clients also pay by the hour, although I haven't worked like that so far.
What different stages
are involved in illustrating a picture book?
|Book illustration - character designs|
Generally, assuming the client has a script or story written, I like to start with designing the characters by going from rough scribbles to the final design, this is like playing catch with the client in a way as you go back and forth until they look right. The pages and layout are similar, sometimes I'll make only a quick doodle of where the page elements are going to be, and refine it from there.
Right now I'm using Photoshop with a drawing tablet and I start with a rough pencil layer, then I'll make another layer for the inks and then one for the colors. Then, after all the images are finalized, that's when I usually add the text. It's also good to keep in mind where the text will be going if you are planning to incorporate it into the image.
I also like to do a few swoops through the pages with the client to make sure everything looks good and that there are no misspellings or coloring errors.
The next step in assembling the book for printing or even for an e-book. Different publishers and printers have their own rules or set ups but they are similar. After a template is chosen, I set up all the page layouts and send them to the client for one more scan to make sure everything looks good. Then I send the client the final files to be e-mailed to the printer. Printers usually will send you a proof, sometimes for a small fee to, once again, make sure everything looks good. From there the book will be available for customers online and even at book stores, if a distributor picks it up.
How long does it take to illustrate a picture book? What slows down this process?
It depends, usually a few months 2-5 months, sometimes even longer depending on the amount of detail or pages. Sometimes, if either of the illustrators or the clients schedule gets busy, that can slow things down too.
Do you mind the author offering creative suggestions relating to the illustrations? Or do you prefer to have a completely free-rein?
When it comes down to it, it is the authors vision and I'm doing work for them, often I am asked for my suggestions so it's usually a two way road and we are essentially working together. For completely free-rein, I have my own projects I'm constantly working on, so as long as I'm doing that I always feel creatively fulfilled.
What can the author do to help support their illustrator?
I think if the author enjoyed the illustrators work and enjoyed working with them, it's always nice to spread the word about them and vice versa.
Is a contract really necessary? What is it for?Contracts are not always necessary if you're are working for someone you generally trust or a quicker, smaller illustration. But any work that you know will require a good amount of time and effort, a contract is very important. For more information on contracts, please stay tuned for next week's blog.
Thanks very much, John, for giving us such a useful insight into the illustrators point of view on book illustrations.