Start With the Text
When I set out to create and illustration for written text I always start with the text. This seems obvious but it’s amazing how many times I’ve been asked to come up with ideas before I’ve seen the text or when the story is not finished. Even when I write my own stories I make sure the text is finished before I start sketching.
Once you get your text, read it. Seriously. If don’t know what’s in the story how can you create the images. If your a visual person like I am, (You don’t have to be an artist to fit into this category) you probably see the images in your head as you are reading. When I read a word, I don’t see the word, I see the image. I’m pretty sure this is why I failed miserably at spelling when I was in grade school. If only spelling bees could have been drawing bees I would have had at least two less traumatic experiences in grade school.
But I digress. Back to illustration.
As I read the text I see images in my mind. I can see what the characters are doing and how they are acting and parts of the setting. This is my starting point. There are usually scenes that feel like they would be more fun to draw than others. I make note about those scenes and then I start to thumbnail my images. Learn more about thumbnails in this post I wrote a few years ago. The thumbnail stage is where I really nail down what part of the image I’m going to create.
Here are the thumbnails I created for my Hans My Hedgehog story. They are just scribbly but you can see my thought process. The story is short and as I wrote it I had two images in mind. The first was Hans the hedgehog entering town and the other was his wedding to the princess who is telling the story. While I wrote, I ended up taking out the wedding scene so I started thumbnailing the first scene.
You can see my thought process in the thumbnails as I experimented with different points of view until I found one I liked. Then I carried that one idea forward until I thought I had a composition that worked well. The last thumbnail is the one I used for my first sketch.
As artists or illustrators how do you decide what part of the story you illustrate? Is your process similar to mine?