Thursday, December 23, 2010


In Mordicai Gerstein's Creating the Picturebook, we began the semester considering framing and spreads. Using nursery rhymes and then fables, we created short dummy books. Here are a few examples of the exercises.

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Frog and the Ox

The Fox and the Grapes

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nursery Rhymes

In Mordicai Gerstein's Creating the Picturebook, we began the semester considering framing and spreads. Using nursery rhymes and then fables, we created short dummy books. Here are a few examples of the exercises.

Little Boy Blue

Little Jack Horner

BaBa Black Sheep

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Molly Bang & Picture This

The first book we looked at in Megan's Picturebook class was Molly Bang's Picture This, a book my mom has had around the house since it was published and a book she bought me in the eight grade. In Picture This, Bang explores how the color, shape, and size of various compositional elements directly affects the emotional response of the viewer. Her beginning example focus on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, while later images explore the differences between diagonals versus horizontals, and round versus geometric forms. For someone who has studied art and sat through critiques, the information in Bang's book is already second nature. What I found most interesting was how non-visual people related and processed the concepts in the book. Watching an adult move pieces of paper around, trying to understand the dynamics of a composition is incredible- even more so in that compositional elements may be something they've never before considered. As an illustrator and intrinsically visual person I find this rather astonishing.

Below is Hansel and Gretel told in 5 pages (and one title page) using the concepts and exercises outlined in Molly Bang's book (one of which is two colors plus black and white, hence the controlled palette).

Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother, tired of the sound of children playing, sent them into the woods with naught but a hunk of bread. Hansel and Gretel’s father had never let them play in the woods. Afraid they would become lost; they left a trail of bread crumbs behind them.

But the birds of the forest flocked to food and Hansel and Gretel were soon lost. Spying a house through the trees, they headed toward it and were soon welcomed inside. Though the cottage was sweet, there was something strange about the Old Woman who lived there.

That night the Old Woman grabbed Hansel, cackling, “I do love a good roast child!” Though terrified, Gretel would not see her brother condemned to the oven. As the Old Woman muttered to herself, Gretel reached out, pushing with all her strength, and shoved the Old Woman into the oven, pulling Hansel to safety as she did.

Hansel and Gretel fled the cottage, weaving and twisting through the trees. As dawn approached, they found the edge of the woods.

“Children! Were have you been?” Their father greeted them with hugs and admonishments; “You must never go into the forest alone again. Oh, I missed you so!” Their stepmother, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's been going on this fall...

It's been quite a while since I've posted here, the result of a full-time job and full-time graduate school (and I actually attempt to sleep sometimes). I've just finished my first semester at Simmons at the Eric Carle Museum where I'm getting a MFA in writing and illustration for children. This semester I took two picturebook classes. The first, an introduction to the picturebook, is taught by Megan Lambert. This class is not designed specifically for illustrators and explores form, history, and criticism of the picturebook. Michael Patrick Hearn gives a series of guest lectures during the class and these focus on the history of picturebook illustration.

The second class, Creating the Picturebook, is taught by Mordicai Gerstein (the Caldecott Award winning illustrator of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers). Creating the Picturebook is a studio-based class that culminates in the creation of a picturebook dummy, finished cover illustration, and two finished interiors. Building up to this we also did exercises story-boarding nursery rhymes with and without frames. It's amazing to watch someone like Mordicai look at a drawing, and then sketch the same drawing but with the character in a slightly different place. This simple change suddenly creates a much more dynamic composition. In my undergraduate thesis class, I found that Whitney Sherman could do the same thing with text and layout. A simple move and bang, the piece worked (in a seemingly miraculous way).

Over the course of the next week I hope to post some assignments from the semester, as well as give some information on the program at the Eric Carle museum (and my experience of it). While the MFA in illustration and writing was added this fall and is only available at the Eric Carle, there are also programs in creative writing and children's literature which are available at both the Carle and at Simmons College in Boston.