Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jack Jumps over the Candlestick.

Here's my latest mailer. No mailers have actually been mailed as of yet--still waiting for a proof from the printer on the first.

This was inspired by an exercise that Kristen Nobles from Candlewick Press had attendees attempt at the 2010 SCBWI Spring Spirit Conference. She gave us all a very short time to thumbnail the nursery rhyme, "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumps over the candlestick". After the exercise she asked how many people drew Jack as a boy, and pretty much everyone had. She then suggested that Jack could be an animal, or just about anything that jumps. She then asked how many drew the candlestick on the floor, and pretty much everyone had. Then she asked, why was the candlestick on the floor? Where do you usually see candlesticks? She wanted to encourage us to look outside of our first impressions and basic assumptions about a story.

My approach to illustrating my recent children's book subjects has been to try to be as accurate as possible to what I felt was the author's intention, but most of the subjects I've been illustrating have been prose chapter books. Since picture books have very limited text, the process is much more of a collaboration. The artist does a lot more narrative heavy lifting because the text doesn't always suggest exactly what should happen on the page, so this is my attempt to stretch the text in a different direction.

Also wanted to try to do something interesting with the typography since in picture books, type is often integrated into the imagery in a more meaningful way. The typeface is Futura, a typeface that the illustrator Frank Staake tends to use often, and I was inspired by the way he uses type. I wanted to have they typography mesh nicely with the imagery and reflect the character of the words. I've found that generally when I distort type, it doesn't tend to look as good--the characters of the best faces are designed to fit together well, and everything is considered, including the negative spaces between characters and the way characters fit together. When you distort type you change all of this. That doesn't mean that distorting characters can't be effective, but in my personal experience, it looks better when I leave it alone.

So for "nimble" I wanted the type to look flexible and stretchy, without stretching it out, so i curved the path of the text and made a dotted line thread through the words to emphasize the path, alternating the color of the characters to give it a kind of rhythm. For "Jack be quick" I made a dotted line that bounced from one word to the next, with the word "quick" larger, and in the condensed form of the typeface to make it visually correspond to the build-up of speed, again using the same color scheme but making the emphasis in red on the word "quick". I thought about doing something similar with "jumps" by making the text appear to jump over the candlestick, but this ended up making the image too busy with text, so I decided to keep the last passage simple.


  1. Looks fantastic. The drawing is great and so is the design. Really eye catching.

  2. Thanks Eric! You've been doing children's illustration for a while, so I definitely appreciate the feedback!

  3. Thanks for detailing your thoughts behind incorporating text with your images. You know I love that kind of info!