Anne actually posted the comments below yesterday, at the end of the More Collaborations page. I’m re-posting it here, as it deserves its own page —JC
Anne Rockwell: 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.
[Landscape by Moonlight by Peter Paul Rubens]
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.