Exploring the Narrative Picture
My first twenty-five years as an illustrator began with assignments from a variety of advertising agencies. Illustrating magazine stories was soon to follow along with magazine covers and the occasional book jacket. In 1985 I was approached by Running Press to illustrate a new version of Beatrix Potter’s “Tales of Peter Rabbit.”
It was my first book and designing it was for me an epiphany,and a career changing experience. I soon realized that all the illustrations I had done to this point — whether for the advertising or magazine markets — were essentially posters. All the visualin formation in a given assignment had to be synthesized into a single attention grabbing image. One picture designed to convey the entire message — a poster!
Picture books on the other hand gave me the opportunity to spend more time developing the characters. Time to get to know them and the world they inhabit. As I choreographed Peter’s movements through Mr. McGregor’s garden, I became aware of the importance of the cadence and pacing of the picture within the context of the book. I now found I could design quiet pictures,pictures that can slowly, rapidly, or whatever the case may be,build into a great finale. It is for me not unlike staging a ballet or visualizing a musical composition.
Each book takes about two years to complete. I often feel like a journalist taking notes and making sketches as I follow my characters through their various adventures. For Dorothy, Snow White, Paul Revere, Santa and me, each trip presents new obstacles to overcome and new challenges to meet. I started this journey with the narrative picture in 1985, and after sixteen picture books I’m still on the road.