Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blake on The Crocodile

Can you ever get enough of this man?


Here Blake talks about the making of his book Crocodile. Once again so insightful and really hits home in terms of using the right mark making tools for just the right story. He -as he also mentions briefly in his amazing book "Words and Pictures" - specifically used a harder reed pen to ink the Crocodile than for other work. Also I love what he says about leaving room for the imagination when it comes to creating an illustration. We don't want to make it too detailed and realistic so that the reader can image the story along and it can truly come alive...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why I created The Story Activity Kit

The following Essay was what came out of my pen when I set off to write a guest post for the local Toy Shop Dilly Dally where my line Draw Me A Lion is available. I thought it would be neat to talk a little bit about why I created one of the items in the shop. The Story Activity Kit. The outcome of the kit is that you end up making your very own mini Picture book/illustrated story that you both write and draw.

While I ended up writing something (not entirely) different and most importantly a lot shorter for Dilly Dally's blog, I thought that I should post the original essay here for all of you interested in Picture Books to read. I think it fits quite nicely on this blog;)

Hope you get something out of it.


-How and why I created the “Story Activity Kit”-

By Lisa Cinar, creator of the Draw Me A Lion Story Activity Kit.

People often think that all children are chock-a-block full of imagination just by way of being … a child. In my experience this is not the case. Sure, children can have a much easier time grasping the boundless freedom that imagination can provide. Once discovered they may develop and grow their imagination faster, (just like children learn ANY new task faster and easier), but they often struggle just like their adult counterparts to get started. Both children and adults often simply need someone to hand them a little key to their secret super power…their imagination!

It’s pretty simple really. If you don’t read your child stories and picture books and if your child isn’t exposed to stories on a regular basis in any other context, they are probably not going to be making up any stories of their own. Just like we learn any new thing, we start with imitating that which we already know. A kid who gets read a lot of fairytales might make up a story about herself being turned into a frog or a cat by a witch because she remembers and fancies a similar story. A child who reads comics might make their own comic titled “super-dog” where the main character wears a red cape and fights crime, but happens to be a dog rather than the well known comic book character Super Man.

Both of these kids have grown up with stories. To them it’s no big deal to come up with a whole bunch of different story lines and ideas just off the top of their heads. Sure, they’re probably not perfectly thrilling stories, and the stories might often resemble one another quite a bit, (ie. next comic is ‘Super-Armadillo’) but still they differentiate from one another and will soon get more and more sophisticated as well as removed from the original story they were derived from to begin with. For example, all of a sudden the comic will be called ‘Armadillo and Frog’, which is now it’s very own story and nothing in it immediately reminds back to the origins of the childs inspiration for making comics in the first place, mainly Super Man.

Long story short, I think that a lot of times we rely on children to be creative individuals just because they are children. But children are not necessarily creative by nature. They have to be surrounded by creativity in order to grow to be creative themselves. Creativity needs to be encouraged whenever an opportunity presents itself.

I have written and illustrated two children’s picture books and I teach illustration and writing for children’s books. I teach adults, not children. But I have also taught workshops with young kids and visited many elementary schools on my booktour that was sponsored by the BC Bookprizes a few years ago.

A year ago I started teaching a companion class to my introduction to illustration for picture books class that I teach at Emily Carr. This second class focuses more on the writing aspect of creating a picture story book. The end result being that students complete an entire ‘Dummy Book’ (ie. sample book of a story they have both written and illustrated) ready to submit to a publisher.

I noticed two things right away. 1) Adults who do not usually write as well as a lot of adults who do are intimidated by the concept of writing and often had a hard time setting their imagination loose to get started. 2) These same adults would write really great stories when presented with some very basic prompting questions 3) A lot of these same adults had an even easier time getting started when I combined the prompting questions with an image I would provide for them.

Here’s what I did. I would print out a funny image from the internet. Something that has potential to be part of a story, for example a dog sitting in the drivers seat of a car with sunglasses and a hat on. Then I would ask my students questions like: Who do you think this is? Where do you think they’re going? What city do they live in, etc…

From just a few of these ‘prompting questions’ presented along side the image the most diverse stories were spun by my students. And most of all, they loved it! All of a sudden writing was fun and easy! And once it’s fun the gates are open. If you use prompts as often as you need to get started, soon the idea that writing can be intimidating is lost. Instead you will learn to associate writing with fun and play.

After teaching a story-workshop with kids who were in grade 1 and 2, I realized that the same was true for them! If I asked all of them to come up with a simple story out of the blue, there would be some kids who had no problems but there were a lot more that were moaning and groaning. ‘Excuse me! I can’t think of anything!” I came over to one girl and said, “Ok, you can make up anything you want!” Then, knowing that making a more specific request might be helpful I said: “How about a fairytale?“ She nodded and seemed relieved to have a more narrowed down task. She started:” Once upon a time……………………….uhm….Ooooonce upooooon a tiiiiiiime….” she stopped again. “I just can’t think of ANYTHING!” she said and seemed a bit perplexed. She was not alone.

These experiences lead me to creating the Draw Me A Lion Story Acitivity Kit. I created a Kit that’s fun enough for kids (and smart enough for adults) who just need that little extra push to jump start their imagination. I put a lot of work into creating it and tested it out with children ages 4-9. I gave them the kit, and asked them questions about how it could be improved so that it would be more fun and helpful for them the next time around. Kids have the fantastic quality of being brutally honest about things when asked to be and so it was great for me to see the kit evolve into what it is today. The input of the kids helped shape the way the activity book was designed in a big way. The kit contains a purposely quizzically designed poster print, an activity book designed to make it fun and easy to write and draw an accompanying story and a little booklet to write and draw your finished story. The result is your very own illustrated storybook to accompany your poster! Now the poster is not just a poster anymore, it’s part of a story that YOU created!

The end results of the kit are always great! Sometimes you can definitely relate the story back to the poster print, but sometimes the kid has veered into a completely different direction. For example I remember a story a boy came up with about a guy swimming through a shark invested water and then encountering a stop sign in the middle of the ocean. There is no trace left of the starting of the story to the poster print. The activity book and prompting questions were merely a jumping board for him to dive off into his imagination and create this fantastic story of his own. All these kids and adults needed was a little push. A key that helped them open up that little hidden door inside themselves and fire up their imagination! After that anything is possible!