So where have I been this week?
No, I'm not still sick.
I've been holed up reading my latest Amazon.com purchase - Anne Lamott's book, bird by bird, which I started Monday and finished today. It's basically a funny collection of her thoughts about writing and life. (and I highly recommend it!)
The book was full of very inspirational stuff to me, but one thing she said made me realize a connection between what I do
and what Jake does
Let me explain.
In bird by bird, Lamott mentions that being a writer makes you a better reader.
In her words:
"Becoming a writer can also profoundly change your life as a reader. One reads with a deeper appreciation and concentration, knowing how hard writing is, especially how hard it is to make it look effortless. You begin to read with a writer's eyes. You focus in a new way. You study how someone portrays his or her version of things in a way that is new and bold and original. You notice how a writer paints in a mesmerizing character or era for you, without you having the sense of being given a whole lot of information, and when you realize how artfully this has happened, you may actually put the book down for a moment and savor it, just taste it."
I read this and I thought, that is so true. The more I write, the more I'm able to notice great writing. I might read something and think, wow, that was amazing how they did that. And I can look at the words and decipher the specific choices the author made to create such a wonderful, seemingly effortless effect. And it's awesome, because it makes me feel that much more connected to the writer and the work.
But now, when I'm looking at illustrations - say, when I'm flipping through a children's book, I can't do that. I'm not an illustrator, so I don't know what to look for. I can't pick up on the specific choices that the artist made to better visually tell the story.
Jake can, though.
And we had an interesting conversation yesterday.
One thing he mentioned, which he has only recently discovered, actually, is that illustrators have to be very deliberate with the shapes they choose. A character's body shape can subconsciously communicate so much about who that character inherently is and how he or she is feeling.
Healthy, happy characters tend to be more rounded in shape, and this makes the drawing more accessible to children. Angry or sickly characters have a lot more angles; they're more triangulated.
And then Jake sent me to this website, and it all became clear.
It's the website of this guy named Will Terry, who also illustrates children's books, and he does this online tutorial about character design, and it was fascinating to learn how much psychology actually goes into the simple drawings for kid's books!
Seriously, check this link out:
And then, next time you're flipping through a children's book, you can feel a little bit smarter.
Like an insider into the process.