Another illustrator who worked on a LRFO (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out series from HarperCollins) with Anne Rockwell is Frané Lessac.
Born in New Jersey, Frané (pronounced fra-NAY) traveled all over the world, and has lived in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Montserrat, and London, among other places. It was her stay in Montserrat that inspired one of her best known books, “My Little Island.” Her art is exhibited all over the world.
6. Frané Lessac was a terrific choice for CLOUDS. She renders bright colors in a painterly folk-art style, to happy effect. Of course, she has observed the sky from all over the world!
It feels almost like a whimsical tale, yet CLOUDS is packed with facts. Not a typical way to treat children’s nonfiction. In other words, very non-textbookish, yet basic and personal in approach.
Anne Rockwell: I agree. I really don’t like charts and graphs and cross sections and arrows for little kids!
Joy Chu: If you (Anne) do not supply pictorial references, then much of this had to be done by both the artist and the editorial staff.
These books are terrific because they are an amazing science resource for kids and teachers. On the other hand, it did limit the amount of fantasy I could inject into the book.
I had to find a way of making a science topic personal, fun and accessible. The illustrations had to be very clear in the way they depict the science — in this case the various clouds.
When I was thinking of what is an almost universal element of clouds and kids, I remembered lying on my back in the grass and looking up at clouds as they floated by.
Joy Chu: Do the editors / copyeditors / art directors look through all your preliminary sketches with a fine-tooth comb?
Frané Lessac: My sketches would come back (with comments) on post-it notes.
I just went through my CLOUDS file and found all sorts of interesting preliminary ideas and sketches. This book had three (yes, THREE) editors — Phoebe Yeh, Mark McVeigh and Melanie Donovan.
This book took over six years to complete, from concept to published work. In addition to three successive editors, there were many assistant editors, and perhaps a couple of art directors.
My initial idea was to create the book by collaging different papers and textures to represent the clouds.
The next idea was to paint the art on top of real photographs of the clouds.
In the end the art was created with gouache on paper.
Joy Chu: Did you find it more painstaking compared to illustrating a story?
Frané Lessac: Clouds are a hard thing to illustrate. The brief was that kids who read the book should be able to then go outside, look at a cloud in the sky, and know immediately what type of cloud it is.
Being a science based book, I wanted to be accurate and with my naïve style. I was anxious whether my clouds might just look like poos in the sky.
Joy Chu: How were you chosen?
We were determined to collaborate on a book. Unfortunately, another editor took over the LRFO series from her. One day we hope to see a book all the way through from conception to birth.
Joy Chu: Did you use the Internet for your research?
Frané Lessac: Every which way possible: books, internet. Since I spend a lot of the time flying, I visited clouds at eye level, up-front and personal.
I even got in touch with the Chief Information Officer at National Weather Service to look over my art and give my clouds a gold star.
Joy Chu: Any contact with Anne through your editor, Phoebe Yeh?
Frané Lessac: Iʼve never had any contact with Anne, but would love to meet her one day. Iʼve admired her work over the years. When asked to illustrate a book of hers, as you can imagine, I was delighted.