“Little toddler feet and hands all over my wall…”

Children’s book illustrator Patrice Barton begins a picture book with a spiral ruled notebook that she soon fills with ideas, tactics and to-do checklists related to the project.

It’s almost as if the words come first. The drawings, which for her are a series of tireless explorations only a tiny fraction of which make it to the book, spring forth after she’s worked out the notions, notations and marching orders for herself.

In the previous post she told how she assembled her scraps of sketches on tracing paper to develop finals for Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark (Knopf Books for Young Readers.) This time she reveals the earliest stages of her artwork for the picture book Mine! by well-known children’s author Shutta Crum.

Released in June, Mine! is Patty’s second book for Knopf.  Patty’s work for Mine! is being included in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibit, 2011!

At the end of our video interview minutes before class time at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art Patty walked through the F&G’s for her third Knopf title, Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Knopf editor Allison Wortche — due for publication in December. Here are sophisticated first graders, not babies or toddlers. With their glances, gestures and placements on the pages, Patty orchestrates a very funny elementary school drama of evil plans, remorse and redemption.

Watching her interpret Wortche’s scenes as text gives us insight into how she thinks about her characters and re-constructs a story in its most telling images.

SCBWI happenings for your calendar

Southern Breeze Illustrators Day poster

Southern Breeze Society of Children’s BookWriters and Illustrators Illustrators Day   – Friday, September 2 on the lower floor of the DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, Georgia.

Kristen Nobles, art director for Candlewick Press will give the keynote, Thinking Visually: The Illustrator as IlluminatorKristen Nobles

Michael Austiin will mentor 12 illustrators (first come, first serve) with an assigned project before the workshop. Also featured will be Robert Agis, Editor from Sterling Children’s Books, Illustrator Mike Lowery  speaking on Self Promotion and Sketchbook  and picture book author Laura Murray. There will also be a portfolio review.

The Annual SCBWI Eastern PA Illustrator Day, Saturday, September 24 is a one day intensive at the University of Pennsylvania Golkin Room,  at the Perelman Quadrangle featuring Clarion Books senior designer Kerry Martin. Kerry’s workshop involves an exciting pre-workshop home assignment. You’ll receive the assignment when you register. He and illustrators agent Kirsten Hall with The Bright Agency will be doing portfolio reviews.

Storytelling in the Digital Age – Embrace the Change  – Saturday, October 8 at St. Edward’s University, Austin Texas. Austin SCBWI symposium on the fast-evolving  e-publishing scene features presentations by professionals who are doing it in the Austin area and the key address, via Skype by SCBWI Executive Director Lin OliverSCBWI  and Digital Storytelling.

St. Edwards University, Austin Texas

St. Edwards University, Austin Texas hosts “Storytelling in the Digital Age”

Other scheduled sessions:

Creating and Maintaining Your Web Persona by Erik Kuntz,

Standing Out in the E-book Crowd: Storybook Apps, Enhanced Content, and Digital Marketing Extras by Deanna Roy

Your Story as Electrons: Breathing Life into Words in the Digital Age by PJ Hoover

There’s an App for That by the illustrator and art director of  Spider, the Secret of Bryce Manor  Amanda Williams

Spider - the Secret of Bryce Manor

“Spider – the Secret of Bryce Manor” game app

How Do They Do That? Creating Digital Books by Meridith Blank Taylor

From Oop to App: The Transformation of Picture Books to Apps by Lindsey Lane

Paper to Pixels: The Art of the Digital Paintbrush presented by Clint Young

Extranormal: The Storyteller’s Dream Software
 by Zack Gonzales

YouTube and the Science Behind Visual Learning by Joel Hickerson

Storytelling in the Digital Age: Imagine by InteractBooks’ Ezra Weinstein

Children’s Book Illustrators and Technology by the Girllustrators

Social Media 101 by Nick Alter

Getting Discovered: Why You Should ABSOLUTELY Give Your Stories Away for Free by Bear James

Traditions and Technology: The Transformation of Children’s Publishing  is the theme of this year’s North Central/North Texas SCBWI regional conference, October 7-8 at the Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. The Saturday event features Simon and Schuster art director Laurent Linn, a line up of editors from Scholastic and Random House, an agent from Andrea Brown and authors Bruce Coville and Tammi Sauer.

More fine notes

Illustrator Amy Farrier’s blog Three Ravens Press has a great interview with talented illustrator and Etsy artist Audrey Lopata. Audrey meanwhile, interviews illustrator Dallion McGregor on her blog  with fun results. (Dallion was recently interviewed here about his winning logo design for the Storytelling in the Digital Age Symposium.)

Hugo Cabret

School Library Journal asks Brian Selznick about many things, including his new illustrated children’s novel Wonderstruck  (Scholastic) and the Martin Scorcese movie adaptation of his Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Read the story here.

An online course on illustrating children’s books, Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! shows you how to draw nearly anything, unlock beautiful design and color in your art and what to do, step by step when you land that assignment to illustrate a story for a book, magazine or digital product. You can read more about the course here. 


Patrice Barton's "Rosie Sprout"

Tiny Dummies

Who would have guessed that Caldecott Medal Winner Brian Selznick’s final pencil illustrations for his picture books were so small?

This  video emulates the silent film montages that are in the spirit of the book that won the American Library Association’s 2008 Caldecott Medal.

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Michele Ammon interviews  Selznick for a nifty Expanded Books video on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”  He explains his interesting reasons for working in such a small graphic style — with his original  images  one quarter of the size they appear in the finished book!

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In this video Niko plays Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano as we see selected illustrations from the book unfolding some of Hugo Cabret’s  story.

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For anyone in the Austin area this Saturday(July 11), don’t forget author Chris Barton’s signing for his just released picture book, “The Day Glo Brothers”  (Charlesbridge, 2009)  at 1 p.m. at BookPeople on the second floor.

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Author Cynthia Leitich Smith interviews  Chris Barton on the publication of his picture book bio “The Day Go Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand New Colors” (Charlesbridge, 2009)  illustrated by Tony Persiani. The book has been getting great reviews  and you can learn how to enter to win a free copy in the post in Cynthia’s  blog Cynsations.

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Mark Mitchell hosts the “How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator” blog.
To enjoy some free watercolor lessons from his online course
on how to illustrate a children’s book go here.

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Caldecott Conversations: “Hugo” has the pictures…

Movie montage technique of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznik

So much for the requirement that picture books have 32 pages. Brian Selznick told his children’s story The Invention of Hugo Cabret in 530 pages — and it won the 2008 Caldecott Medal.

You know? The Caldecott Medal !! The American Library Association (ALA) awards it each year to the artist of what the association decides is the most distinguished American picture book for children.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret has reviewers saying that Hugo has invented at least the new format of the 21st century picture book and maybe that of novels and books generally.

Have they never seen a graphic novel? Anyway the book started a conversation, which of course is the right thing for an intellectual property to do.

Selznick’s book also was named a finalist for the National Book Award and was included on the The New York Times list of the Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year. It’s already been optioned for the movies. Martin Scorcese wants to direct.

I leafed through it the other day at a nearby Barnes and Noble.  I have not read the book. When I do, I’ll talk about it here.

I’ll give you my reaction anyway:
It’s a movie between hardcovers. A storyboard in a book. The pictures are rendered in pencil with beautifully orchestrated darks and lights, and they stream at us like the montages in an Eisenstein  filmexcept occasionally they’re interrupted by pages of text and some still photos from some very early silent movies.

Weighing as much as a hardcover edition of War and Peace, the book bustled with set pieces, props and gizmos. I thought, “This is all too gadgetty and complicated for a small child to understand, much less enjoy.

“Why, if I want a ‘storyboard for a child’, I’ll go for Peter Spier’s 1978 Caldecott Medal winner Noah’s Ark. Now there’s visual storytelling perfection. It is huge but simple and human-scale — and it busts the 32 page rule, too, I continued the conversation with myself as I stood in front of the store-shelves of Caldecott-winners.

Hugo Cabret, the protagonist of Brian Selznik’s Caldecott winner But even then as I thought of Noah’s Ark, the fascination of The Invention of Hugo Cabret was starting to settle in. By the next day it had taken hold — and I hadn’t even read the book.

How did this happen? Well it is hard to deny the assured draftsmanship, clarity and gray-scale splendor of Selznik’s illustrations. They use the kinesthetic kick of the movies and the black and white magic of the silent movies to tell a story.

A character in the story is one of the world’s earliest film-makers, so it’s quite appropriate.

There are poignant nonfiction truths behind this fiction of a boy who lives in a Paris train station at the turn of the century — and there meets a toymaker who
turns out to be a real life historical person, George Melies.

The moon from the 1902 film, “A Trip to the Moon” one of the hundreds of fantasy films made by George Melies Melies was a one-time stage magician, tinkerer and film-maker who made the movie, A Trip to the Moon that he based on two novels of the day (one by Jules Verne and the other by H.G. Wells.)

His little “science fiction” fantasy reel became a hit in 1902 — long before Charlie Chaplin or Abel Gance ever thought of making movies.

Hard times fell on the elderly Melies, who wound up working in a toy booth at a Paris train station to feed himself.  His collection of life-sized mechanical robot toys (which also figure into Selznick’s story) was given to a museum that neglected and finally trashed it. His films, which he had sold off many years before, were melted down to make a material for shoe and boot heels.

Talk about a commentary on the impermanence of art…

Will children find a rapport with such ideas? We’ll see.

In the meantime see a NY Times review by John Schwartz.

The ALA’s Award announcement page has more and covers the finalists, those Caldecott Honor books:
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine (Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic.) First the Egg, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.) The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, written and illustrated by Peter Sís (Farrar/Frances Foster) and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, written and illustrated (with cartoon/photo collages)  by Mo Willems (Hyperion.)

The website for Selznik’s book is fun and full of links, including one that lets you see The Trip to the Moon and another that takes you to the Expanded Books website for a lovely short  video interview with Selznik.

“Reads Like a Book, Looks Like a Film” declares the headline in a New York Times piece on Selznik by Motoko Rich. The feature begins, “Brian Selznick, the author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret uses the word ‘obsessed’ a lot.”

It goes on to report how Selznick, as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design once skipped a visiting lecture by Maurice Sendak — he was that ambivalent about a career as a ‘children’s book illustrator.’

A School Library Journal article by Joan Oleck surveys the (mostly enthusiastic) reactions of librarians to the award announcement, while Christine V. Baird of the Newhouse News Service profiles the creator .

In a Scripps Howard News Service story by Karen Mcpherson Selznick recalls how he “took out big chunks of text and replaced them with narrative [illustrated] sequences.”

Graphic novel, as I said.

Brian Selznik illustration from his “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”

So there you have it — a book report from someone who’s not read the book.  (Why do I feel like I’m back in school?)

Does The Invention of Hugo Cabret really change things on the kid lit scene? Who knows? In the meantime, let’s have fun talking about it — and looking at Selznik’s wonderfully realized pictures.

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog and offers an ongoing online course in drawing and painting for children’s book illustration, “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks!”