More collaborations

Anne’s books cover such a wide range of topics. It’s lovely to see the variety of artistic styles applied to her work — whether by herself, or by others. Visit Anne’s book page, and you’ll see the categories at-a-glance.

Anne Rockwell's book categories

Anne Rockwell's book categories


8.  Let’s look at other collaborations. . .

Here’s a charming selection of illustrations from Bernice Lum. This title is another Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out book :

"My Pet Hampster," by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Bernice Lum

"My Pet Hampster," by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

Anne Rockwell: I think it is overall charming!  It’s a rather humanized hamster, don’t you think?

Joy Chu: It’s certainly an adorable hamster. For this book, the hamster has to be rendered likeable for us (the reader), so we are sympathetic to it. I think the “humanization” is a good thing.
I do note that that the hamster’s happy-closed eyes echos the little girl’s. I like it when we see its eyes wide-open, too. Kids really respond to eyeballs that move, and look around — the way they do, I think!

Overall, the book makes the subject of caring for hamsters really come alive. I love Bernice’s use of “action lines” to spice up the drawings. Everything really moves . . . the book is purely factual, and yet  not all step-by-step textbook-like in the least.

Joy Chu: Collaborations can take on different methodologies. For Whoo Whoo Goes the Train, you rendered the drawings. Vanessa van der Baan colorized the illustrations.

"Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train," Text and art by Anne Rockwell, colorized by Vanessa van der Baan

"Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train," Text and art by Anne Rockwell, colorized by Vanessa van der Baan

Anne Rockwell: When Vanessa van der Baan agreed to help me with digitally coloring my line art for Whoo Whoo Goes the Train, I wasn’t sure what it would look like.  Some computer art is rather cold and flat for my taste, and from what I’d see of her animation on The Kids Next Door TV show, I doubted that would be her approach.

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

All the same, when I saw her first piece of sample art — the train going over a bridge with fisherfolk and boats underneath— I was bedazzled!  Fortunately our editor at Harper/Collins, Phoebe Yeh, responded as I did, and we were on our way.

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

Whoo Whoo Goes the Train was to be followed by a sort-of companion book about a visit to the local police station.  As I wrote it, the problems I was having with arthritis in my right thumb joint were getting worse, and I’d been told that my only hope was complicated surgery with a lengthy recovery.

By this time, The Kids Next Door had finished all its episodes, and Vanessa had given birth to an adorable little girl.  Her commute was horrendous, so it wasn’t at all surprising that she decided to stay home (way out on Long Island) and be a full time mom.

Wonderful Phoebe accepted my idea that Vanessa not simply color, but illustrate the entire book.  Well, sort of.

First, Vanessa had to do a book dummy.

storyboard diagram

storyboard diagram

For some reason, dummies have always come naturally to me, perhaps because I had drawn a daily comic strip when I was very little on my father’s shirt cardboards.

And I loved Egyptian art in the museum.  I suspected that Vanessa’s experience and training in animation would enable her to understand the pacing of a dummy, too.  And I was right!

Egyptian art sample

Egyptian art sample

When  I saw her dummy for the new book, Vroom Vroom , I was amazed.  It ran the gauntlet at Harper and there were only a few miniscule suggestions.  So she’s at work on  it now.  I’d love to read what she has to say at this stage of the game!

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15 responses to “More collaborations

  1. Sorry Bridget! Where is my head? I thanked you for [creating] Bijou le Tord’s book by mistake. Well, it’s still beautiful. Just shows that all roads lead to Matisse.

  2. Bridget, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for the arrival of your beautiful book, A BIRD OR TWO! I just read it, and was so touched. I hope M.Matisse’s birds will carry it to him as he looks down on his beautiful Baie des Anges!

  3. bridgetstrevensmarzo

    Thanks for your replies – love Anne’s comment about Mozart and his nose. And yes, that’s good to remember Joy – visual continuity across the book. And that indefinable something that makes a Matisse recognisable despite his changes of style.

  4. Forgot to say–the voice can chatter or shout, whisper or sing, but it’s always the same voice. It’s what makes a Matisse a Matisse, no matter what his current style is.

  5. I agree with what you are saying, Bridget. Ultimately, an illustrator must find their own “voice” first. That “voice” will manifest in the form of a confident technique. As an art director, I seek out the illustrator that has total command of their technique, such that there is visual continuity as a whole between front-and-back book cover. It’s all part of that “voice.” Like being an actor in a role, in that one remains in character within the same movie, and not be all-over-the-place. They can take that role, and propel my imagination to new places, large and small.

  6. Thanks so much for your interesting comment. Yes, I absolutely agree that “voice” is more important than style, or anything. And it isn’t anything you can do anything about, except control your tools well-whatever they are.

    Someone once asked Mozart what made his music sound so “mozartean” and he replied that it was whatever made his nose so big!

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  8. I love what you say Ann about the conversation with the child that you were, and also that Matisse quote, painting without a paintbrush, looking, thinking. And somewhere here you talk about intuition which I think is precious too. And how kids, and illustrators ‘read’ pictures. And yes how every book requires a new approach.
    Lots of nuggets – thank you!
    I’ve found from my own experience running workshops etc, that illustrators starting out are often too worried about style – getting a ‘brand’ style. A French art director told me she has two sets of illustrators. One set she’ll use for the one particular brand of style that they work in but that makes their use more limited and fashions can change. The other set she prefers, (she was encouraging me at the time!) because they think more about requirement of each book and surprise her with new ways of doing things. This second bunch may change their style or approach, but they have what she calls a ‘voice’ which is more important – a voice that can chatter or shout, sing or whisper as the book dictates. Do you agree?

  9. Vanessa van der Baan

    Hi Anne!
    It has definitely been an interesting transition from the animation world into the world of childrens books. I have really enjoyed seeing through the process and how it differs. It’s much more fun to have your artwork seen for more than a millisecond and it allows me to spend more time focusing on detail. It’s also more rewarding to have something tangible in the end! Creating the dummy for the first time was also a challenging process. It is a lot like story boarding for animation but you also have a lot less of a moment to tell the story in than with animation. One image must relay a large chunk of the story. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge working on this new book and I can’t wait to see how it turns out once all the color is in place!

  10. Thanks Melanie and Vanessa and Lizzy.
    And of course, thank you Joy.

    Joy wondered if I had any advice for illustrators just starting out.

    Hmmm. There’s no easy answer, for everyone has a unique work style. I would say, study the masters.

    For example, right now I’m doing a book for toddlers on the moon. In the process I’m looking at the moonlight masters, Albrecht Altdorfer, Peter Paul Rubens (only one painting comes to mind but it’s perhaps the greatest moonlit landscape ever painted), Albert Pinkham Ryder, Charles Burchfield and Graham Sutherland are good starters.

    Then of course, I look at the moon itself, night by night. At this point I’m doing what Matisse called “painting without a paintbrush”-looking, thinking, looking, thinking.

    But any illustrator, beginner or experienced, needs to always remember that the pictures tell half of a story–words do the rest.

    I’m convinced that children develop their visual intelligence sooner than their verbal, and they aren’t just looking at a picture in a book and thinking “Nice color and composition.”

    Uh-uh! They are thinking “Where has that mouse that was under the sofa, just peeking out, gone?” And the illustrator must know the answer to that question.

    When I first started out, I illustrated manuscripts written by other people. I learned the hard way that what reads well on the page may be a short story–not a picture book.

    I made the mistake of accepting manuscripts — I suppose because I was flattered to be wanted — that often had spread after spread of conversation, with nothing visual except perhaps characters turning heads, changing expressions, or perhaps raindrops suddenly falling outside.

    And no matter how bright and festive the colors are, or how pretty the words, such books don’t become the ones children return to again and again.

    There’s much more I could add, but you have to find it out for yourself. So check your ego at the door of the studio and remember that you are having a conversation with a child–probably the child you were.

  11. Pingback: From “My Pet Hampster”, art by a friend of mine,… | deepthinking

  12. My collaboration with Anne on GOOD MORNING, DIGGER gave birth to a book that still sells well in stores.

    Illustration from Good Morning, Digger

    I hear from parents that their children sleep with the book and/or know it by heart. Sweet! Anne is very nurturing towards artists and has good taste when choosing them 😉

    text spread from Good Morning, Digger

    Anne and I met at the Mazza Museum of International Picture Book Art in Ohio. We were on faculty there. We bonded in the car ride from the Columbus airport to the town of Findlay where we spent several days at our conference for children’s librarians and teachers. I met Chris Demarest there, too.

    I remember that Anne came to my break out program and thought the way I depicted the urban landscape was harmonious with her quiet text for DIGGER. I was happily surprised she requested me for the book and I’m forever grateful. The rest is history…

    Congrats on all the beautiful books, Anne!

    Good Morning, Digger cover

  13. Yes. WE have done another Mrs. Madoff book, FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL which will be published in spring 2011. I’ve seen proofs of the artwork and it is adorable.

  14. There’s another book with Lizzy coming soon, yes?

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