Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jillian Tamaki: Subconscious influences

Here's something that really rings a bell when it comes to how important Children's picture books can be and how they influence you in a subconscious way big time.

This bit is from an interview Jillian Tamaki did with Hellen Jo in Bust Magazine. The whole interview is good but the part I thought was so on point in relation to the topic of this blog hereeeee is right here below. In fact, when Helen mentioned Candy Candy I was reminded that I too was once into Candy Candy and that there was a candy shop really close by where me and my friend used to buy bubble gum to get the Candy Candy comics in them (and of course pig out on the candy) I also used to have a Candy Candy poster that I totally worshipped. I can remember thinking how absolutely beautiful Candy Candy was and then I'd go out and pretend to be her... and so did my friend really, people must have just seen two identical Candy Candys walking down the street when they saw us instead of some little six year old German kids in Teneriffe:

Jlllian: I hate questions about “influences”, but let’s try this: I find some things are “conscious” influences, for example, buying a artist monograph or watching a lot of French New Wave films because they speak to you in an artistic way. But some influences are “subconscious”, like your favourite picturebook you studied for hours as a child, or a piece of art that was in your childhood home. Do you agree? What are your “conscious” and “subconscious” influences?

Hellen: I’ve always believed that everything you consume or absorb or witness in life, whether you liked it, hated it, or had no opinion about it, influences your creative output in some way. As much as I can control the quality and content of my work, I can’t completely filter what I see or hear, nor can I really control how those things will affect me. I definitely agree with you that there are “conscious” and “subconscious” influences, and I’ve had many of both. As far as “conscious” influences go, the most obvious ones are my favorite comic book creators, including Taiyo Matsumoto, Xaime Hernandez, Julie Doucet, Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, Junji Ito, Suehiro Maruo… the list goes on and on. All of these cartoonists deal in some way in their writing and art with the horror of coming-of-age, which is my primary motivation. Similarly, coming-of-age horror films fit that niche nicely for me, of which my favorites are Tale of Two Sisters, Let the Right One In, and the Whispering Corridors.

In terms of “subconscious” influences, I’d say the most important one was probably the Japanese girls’ comic, Candy Candy. As a comic, I can’t really say much about it, because I owned a Korean version when I was too young to be able to read it, but the drawings! I’d always liked drawing when I was a kid, but I think Candy Candy was the first book I’d seen where I thought the images were absolutely beautiful. The characters had large sparking eyes, they were constantly surrounded by furious floral windstorms, and everyone wore a tuxedo or frilly lace dress at all times. I stared at those drawings for hours, and I think I was eventually convinced that the only good art was pretty art. I don’t believe that now, but it has definitely affected my preferences in comics and the style in which I draw.

Charles Keeping: The Highwayman

So I was re-reading Charles Keeping tonight in an effort to perhaps see something there that I hadn't seen before and to convince myself that I should agree with it receiving the Kate Greenaway medal that it did in 1981.

Yes, I am desperately trying to find something that would make me want to agree to give it this award because I grew up with all sorts of scary stories when I was little in Germany like about ghost ships and dead horse heads that hung in alleys that talked (Falada) and sisters that got murdered by being rolled down the hill in a barrel with nails in it (the original Cinderalla)... and so yes, I am a bit supporter of letting children also be exposed to stories that can be scary but still, I just can't get over how super gruesome this book is and how I would NOT want to read it to any child!
Maybe when they'd be at least 9, and even then.... I don't know....

The illustrations which are amazing no doubt, are adding so much extra horror to the Alfred Noyes poem that would otherwise be up to the listener themselves to decided just how scary they want to make it. It's a great example of how illustration can add to the text and make it richer. And yes, I think it's an fantastic work by Keeping, amazing really, BUT... I do not think it should have received the Kate Greenaway medal which is awarded by Children's Librarians for illustration in Children's Literature and young readers. It seems a bit of the wrong category. What do you think?

Richard Scarry: Just draw a ribbon on it then dang it!

I think I might have put a link up for this before in my Richard Scarry post, but if you hadn't checked it out then, you really gotta do it. It's too hilarious. ... but also very interesting in terms of how norms of what is 'appropriate' for children (and for adults too as a matter of fact) are in constant flux.
There are several other images from Scarry posted on this flickr site where you can see the original and then the new political correct altered version after Scarry and the publisher got a bunch of letters from angry moms. The originals were all published in the early 60's. The altered editions started to appear in the late 60's around 67' 68'.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Marc Boutavant

Hurrahhhh finally! This blog entry is so overdue and I've been putting it off consistently thinking that it had to be this really well thought out oeuvre of a blog entry, but you know what.... let's just wing it as it comes out and get it out into the world instead of spending so much time preparing what you're going to say that you end up not actually having the time to ... well, say it!

So here it goes, today's topic will be non other than one of my all time favorite if not favorite contemporary illustrator MARC BOUTAVANT! The man is a complete genius and I am pretty much totally in love with everything he does. He can do no wrong and he consistently gets better and better at what he does, which is something we should all strive to do when it comes to our expertise and passions, no?

I can't remember now how I first discovered Marc Boutavant, but it was quite some years ago now, when I still worked at a children's book shop. I think initially I had seen his images online and was immediately taken by them because of his amazing ability to create hundreds of fantastic and unique characters and his seemingly flawless technique when it comes to his creation process. I saw his images on the Heart Agency site and looked at them for a long time trying to figure out how he worked. Then I found an article on him where it mentioned that he strictly worked in photoshop. This blew my mind! My guess had been that he used acriliques, guache and ink, but no, it was all this thing called Photoshop. I had played around with Photoshop back then, but had always associated it with the very obvious photoshopped images featured in some books that lack a lot of personal touch and mistery, or... on the other hand I associated Photoshop with the likes of Dave Mc Kean where I couldn't even image where to start and still to this day it's hard to figure out how he creates certain effects. Either way, it was not something I had seen myself using to create the type of images I was interested in creating. Marc Boutavant changed this.

All of a sudden I realized that Photoshop can be used as a most effective tool to bring out your strengths and hide your weaknesses when it comes to creating an image. Boutavant had mentioned in an article that he only used the bare bones of photoshop, in other words, he created his own means around the program to do with it, exactly what he wanted to do. You don't have to learn everything about Photoshop in order to make fantastic use out of it, you just have to figure out what works for you and for your own images and go from there. One step at a time. Having followed Boutavant's work over the years I can see how he, over time, learned new Photoshop techniques and tricks and has so masterfully worked them into his images.
Marc Boutavant's work for the comic 'Ariol', written by Emmanuel Guibert is the reason I took a French Class in 2008. The comic is so beautifully illustrated and the narrative is so hilarious. Unfortunately, or... perhaps, fortunately the comic has not been translated yet and only exists in its original language. My french is still pretty much non-existent but I can make out most of what's going on in the comic now, (mostly due to Boutavant's ability to create such strong narrative through his characters). Some books you have to check out for sure, and that are also easily available here in North America are: 'Around the World with Mouk', 'For Just One Day'and 'All kinds of families'.

Anyhow, I could talk forever about Boutavant and his work, but the best thing will be for you to have a look at his images for yourself. You can check out this page on the Heart Agency site and of course I have posted a storm of them right here for you. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy....

These are probably my favorite end pages of .... EVER...yup. So beautiful, no?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Break is OVER!

So I haven't posted anything for two full months now because I have been busy with a little outside project of mine. However.... the non-posting times are now over and the start of my new section of Illustration for Children's Picture books is fast approaching. To get both you and me back into the swing of things, here are a few random images I love but have unfortunately not kept track of where I got them from nor who is responsible for them. Nonetheless, pretty great no? Ok. back soon!