Flashlight and an interview with Lizi Boyd

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

by Lizi Boyd (Chronicle Books, 2014.)

I really love Lizi Boyd’s work. It’s this perfect mix of oh, of course and oh, I never. Once upon a time I wrote about Inside Outside over on Design Mom, and I’ve been looking forward to this new book for a good while. It’s a great thing to have room for more.

And can you stop looking at that cover? I can’t. It’s beckoning, it’s comforting, it’s hurry-up-and-get-adventuring.

So I was lucky enough to have a chat with Lizi Boyd about creating books, the sound of picture books, her process, and her dogs. Thanks for welcoming your book to the world with us this way, Lizi.

(Click any of the images to enlarge.)breakerCan you talk about where this book came from? Was it always in the pipeline along with Inside Outside, or did working in that form spark the idea for Flashlight?

One night when I was working on Inside Outside I realized the dogs had been out for a long time. It was very dark and I took a flashlight to look for them. I heard noises in the field and when I flashed the light suddenly there was color; their eyes, collars, the apples and grasses. It was so cool! And then I thought, oh, a book. I couldn’t wait to get inside and google around to see if it had been done. It seemed so utterly simple and wonderful. I began the sketches for it the next day. So, yes, Inside Outside influenced the idea because in working on that book it was utterly quiet and still in my studio and that encouraged the idea for Flashlight.Flashlight by Lizi BoydHow do you know when something is working, and how do you know when something is overworked?

When it’s a wordless book I need to just go along with a very quiet head and allow the idea to tell itself. I actually have to ‘see’, by making the drawings, where it’s going to take me. And I need a completely empty house because my studio is in our house.

Mostly I know when to pause and wait it out or take the dogs for a good long walk and think about what I’m working on. That being said I just filled up a box with sketches for other projects that are little beginnings and seem not to be ready to tell me what they’re about and where  they’d like to go.

Why do you think your stories are best suited to the form of the picture book? And specifically in Flashlight, I feel like a sensibility exists with the excitement and adventure of something so seemingly dangerous: the night, the dark, the strange creatures. Can you talk to that a bit?

It hadn’t occurred to me until I was making Inside Outside that a book and its story could belong to the readers ‘telling of the story’ not just the one the author is writing and illustrating. Picture books are all about this but I want to see how far I can stretch this idea. So I’ll surprise you by saying that the nighttime element; the dark, the strange creatures, a sense of danger was never part of my thinking. My sons weren’t afraid of the dark. The notebook I kept while working on Flashlight has these words; story + imagination + silence. Sound/elemental. A book one can ear if one really listens. (One does ‘hear’ books!)Flashlight by Lizi BoydCan you talk about the physical design of the book? The paper, the ink, how you got such lush blacks (which I think is difficult!) and how you engineered the peeks and surprises of the die cuts? Did the design of the book drive what had to happen in the story or vice versa?

I tried out several shades of gray / black papers and settled on the blackest one. I loved the way the beam of the light popped and the colors too, all of which needed to be painted over several times to get their finished strength. The die cuts were made with templates so on the finished illustrations there weren’t any holes just a tracing of where the cuts would be made. This part was difficult and there were quite a few changes done by Sarah Gillingham, art director, with her brilliant eye and computer skills! Many of the die cuts surprised us.

What are some of your favorite books and/or art from childhood? What is your favorite piece of art hanging in your home or studio?

I grew up in an artistic, visually inspired house. Our mother was a mid-century potter who moved her studio from NYC to VT. There were lots of books every kind; art, nature, children’s books and interesting objects of design all around us.

I love primitive masks and have a few real beauties. (A man recently came with his five-year-old son and said, “Do these masks frighten you?” – something that hadn’t occurred to me. His son was so busy with his iPad that I don’t think he noticed them. Maybe they could have frightened him away from his iPad for a moment?)Flashlight by Lizi BoydWhat modern picture books do you look to for inspiration and encouragement?

I have a stack of picture books in the studio. My friends, far and wide, send me books from everywhere; France, Italy, Germany. And I have some new ones from Chronicle, all exquisite; the printing, the paper and the design. Flashlight became the book it is because of Chronicle’s eye, care and hand in the myriad production details.breakerAnd take a look at this lovely trailer for more of a sense of Flashlight’s magic.

breaker

To all of our boxes of little beginnings!

ch

Thanks to Chronicle Books for the images, a review copy of the book, and connecting me to Lizi Boyd. Thoughts and opinions my own. 

Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure

by Nikki McClure

published 2014 by Abrams Books (reissue)

Every soul who has seen Nikki McClure’s art has loved it. I’m sure there are studies and statistics on that, trust me. It looks as elegant on an iPhone case as it does on a gift tag or greeting card.

But then there are books, and thank goodness she makes them.Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureThis edition of Collect Raindrops has been reissued in an expanded form and a new format. It’s based on her ongoing calendar series, and begs to take up permanent residence on your coffee or bedside table. Don’t just stick it on the shelf. You’ll want this one at easy reach. It’s gorgeous to touch, to see, and to behold.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureHere, her pictures are gathered by their season, each introduced with love letters to their very time and place.

“Some people just need help to see the obvious. And that’s what artists are for.”

That sentiment comes from this short film that demystifies her process but reveals a lot of magic. She calls it corny, but I call it lovely:

breakerShe says her paper cuts are like lace, and everything is connected. Before it’s in a book, can’t you picture what that art looks like held up against a light? Physically, the paper that remains envelops the paper that is gone. Like knots, or filaments, or branches. How beautiful then, that her subject is often community. Shared memories and experiences.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureThe contrast is what connects us. As much story lives in what’s been carved away as what sticks behind. But by simple definition, contrast means difference, and in design, your brain is searching for dominant elements. This art contrasts light and dark, filled and white space, and in those separations paints a portrait of community.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureAnd then there’s the case cover itself. A web, a symbol itself of creativity and connection, binds the pages together.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureIsn’t that remarkable?

ch

Alphablock

Alphablockby Christopher Franceschelli, art by Peskimo

published 2013, by Abrams Appleseed

AlphablockAlphablockThis book. Swoon city. Hefty chunk of graphic design. Just as fascinating and fantastic for adults as well as the stubby fingers of the littles. “You’re never too old for picture books” is my constant battle cry at school. Let’s amend that a bit to “you’re never too old for board books.”

Because wow.AlphablockAlphablockCan you see what’s happening here? Each letter of the alphabet is given two thick spreads for the hint and the reveal. It’s a visual puzzle, linked by a die-cut of the hero letter. For real.AlphablockAlphablockFiguring it out is a satisfying read, and physically flipping the letterform for the answer is brilliant.AlphablockAlphablockNot only does the design feel fresh, but the alphabet choices are newfangled, too. I love S is for SCISSORS and the cut-out arts and crafts that accompany it. P is for PENCILS gets the lined paper treatment, scattered with sharpened pencil shavings. And thank goodness F is for FISH gives us a glimpse into an aquarium with its kooky accoutrements, and not the obvious deep blue sea scene.Alphablock

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

(And any book that uses U is for UNDERWEAR is obviously a hands down favorite, too.)

Add this to your gift-list. Perfect for babes and art buffs alike. (And pretty much anyone who loves the alphabet.)

ch

Review copy provided by Abrams Appleseed.

a funny little bird

A Funny Little Bird

A Funny Little Birdby Jennifer Yerkes

(published 2013, by Sourcebooks)

Jennifer just won the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators at their 2013 exhibition, The Original Art! Huge congrats! Good eye, jury.

A bird, a fable, and eyes that look past what’s seen to the heart of it all. That’s what’s wrapped up in these pages. I wrote these words about another story recently, but it’s truth here, too: It’s spare, but soars.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

This little bird is almost invisible, and he’s had it. He marches off with soggy, scraggly   claw-steps, and face to almost-face with a magnificent bird. This is when his love affair with beautiful things begins. Because with a collection of beautiful things, he gets noticed.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Negative space is a funny thing, just like this little bird. It’s a puzzle in plain sight, a double-take, and then a heart-smile when you get it. And illusion. An allusion.

In contrast to the stark and white expanses, the color is a splash. Vibrant patterns and saturated colors all unbound by expressive lines. It’s a mashup of flair and restraint, and it will hypnotize you.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

And while you explore this aesthetic playground, settle in a bit with this bird. You won’t be alone.

ch

P.S. – Other books I love with an exploration of negative space? Black and White and Round Trip!

Thanks to Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky for the images in this post.

What Happens When . . .

by Delphine Chedru

{published 2013 (in English), by Tate Publishing}

I’ve been thinking a lot about visual storytelling lately. Well, I pretty much am always thinking about visual storytelling. And that’s why I was so tickled and touched by this book. Thanks to Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things for introducing me to this lovely find!

I bought it because of that cover. I didn’t know I’d open page after page of wow.Instantly, I was drawn to the simplicity of each layout. A spare white page on the left, graced only with one line of text. And on the right, a richly colored illustration to match the text. On this very first spread, you get a clear sense of Delphine Chedru’s suggested shapes and mastery of negative space. It’s graphic and bold and beautiful.

So what does the text say?

What happens when my balloon floats up, out of the zoo . . . ?

And then, this:Rather than turning the page, you unfold it. The text is still there to remind you of the story that gurgled up out of that wonder. Do you see your red balloon?The pages that follow are just as curious, and just as surprising. It’s impossible to not create a scenario for each posed question, and then be awed by the illustrator’s solution. And to my bucket when I leave it behind on the beach . . . ?What you might not be able to see in that picture is a WANTED sign for the shark, and a tiny red fish with a sheriff’s hat leading his capture, all with that bucket that you left on the beach. Adore.

And wouldn’t it be fun to create your own pages like this? Or respond to these pictures in writing? Isn’t all creativity answering ‘What if?’What happens when my left sock slips behind the radiator . . . ?

Well?What happens to Teddy when I leave him behind . . . ?

That bird on the boing-boing horse is just too much. Makes me laugh every time.

And then, a big, huge, monster question:What happens to stories once a book is closed . . . ?
This last page doesn’t unfold. This answer is up to you.

I am so under the spell of this weighty book with the lighthearted illustrations. I’m not sure how to answer that last question, and sitting with the ‘What if?’ is both challenging and satisfying, isn’t it?breakerWant more Delphine Chedru? Me too. I found this book trailer, and although I can’t understand the words, I can read the pictures. So charmed.

ch

Waterloo and Trafalgar

Waterloo & Trafalgar

Tonight was for writing this post and watching some football and thinking about orange and blue. And then this commercial comes on TV. (Well, this one is a few years old. Same flavor, though.)

breakerRemember this. It means something in a bit. I promise I don’t care where you buy your life insurance.breakerWaterloo and Trafalgar

by Olivier Tallec

{published 2012, by Enchanted Lion Books}

Waterloo & Trafalgar is at once spare and very much not. It’s a book about unnecessary fighting and the two stubborn sides who forget why they are even at odds. They are suspicious, bored, but always staid. Until. A snail, a bird, a different perspective. Different looks a little bit the same after all.Waterloo and TrafalgarTallec’s goofy little men end up as a charming shout for peace. They are absurd. They are us.

Waterloo. Blue. Trafalgar. Orange. Opposites. Enemies.Waterloo and TrafalgarcolorwheelThere they are, as far from one another on the color wheel as possible. Direct opposites. Complementary colors.

Orange and blue are a combination of dominance, because each is competing for the attention of your eye. One cool, one warm, constant attention-grabbers. Because of their stark contrast, each truly shouts.Waterloo and TrafalgarThat’s why it’s a duo you see in a lot of advertising for banks, credit cards, and other Important Things. Would that Northwestern Mutual commercial be as strong if it were in a different color palette? Probably not. They want to imply strength, power, and – well, life.

And, ahem. I’m a fan of these two colors. Note my blog header and the rest of this thing’s design. Those design decisions were intentional, and since you are reading this and hanging out here with me, it might just be working.Waterloo and TrafalgarPerfect choices for Waterloo and Trafalgar, right? It wouldn’t make sense for those two ridiculous little men to be represented by closer together hues. Their orange and blues are a tenuous balance.

Besides a color scheme that works, that sings, and that smacks you in the gut, this is just a darn beautiful book. The paper is thick and rich to the touch, and some split pages inside extend the stories and heighten the division at hand.Waterloo and TrafalgarI love the die cuts on the cover – those clever windows reveal these two nuts and their telescopes at the ready. And the endpapers’ narrative is subtle as it holds the story in place. The carved out holes close up by the end, and the stream of blue and orange smash right up against each other.Waterloo and TrafalgarStill different, still far apart on that wheel. Transformed into something lovely together.chMoreToRead

Ok, ok. One more orange and blue moment I love is the opening title sequence to the James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace.

breaker(These titles are created by a studio whose motion design work is just spectacular, MK12. They are the creative minds behind the visuals in Stranger Than Fiction and the gorgeous end titles of The Kite Runner. By the way, notice the colors in the first minute of that one!)

breakerAnd! A whole slew of orange and blue on movie posters. You won’t un-see this color palette once you start noticing it. That’s a promise prefaced with a slight apology! Here’s just one:Hugo_FilmPosters

Hide & Eek!

by hat-trick design, illustrated by Rebecca Sutherland

{published 2013, by Knock Knock}

When Knock Knock knocked and asked if I wanted to take a look at this book, it was a definite Yes Yes. Check out this creepy, kooky trailer:

breakerThis would have made a great Labor Day weekend camping trip book, because you need a flashlight to read it! So maybe save it for when the dark rages at 5:00? (Sorry, Alaska.)

I have to confess, I had to peek at the eek using a lamp with its shade removed. (Which turned out to be a great reminder to update the old earthquake emergency kit!)

Still smitten.

Here’s why.

This is a book that lets you fill in the blanks. It’s wordless, and asks for interaction not just with imagination, but with a literal prop. You light up the story. It’s a tactile reading experience that’s sometimes on that edge of frightening and hilarious, and always unexpected.

You’ll never guess what this proper poodle lady is hiding!

Hat tip to Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes for spotting some action pictures of Hide & Eek!

Right? Awesome.

Sometimes novelty books have bells and whistles for kicks and not because they matter. But design is integral to Hide & Eek’s story – the imagination, the anticipation, and ultimately the transformation is the story.

Fun for kids and big people alike. (As long as your earthquake kit is up to date.)ch

Review copy provided by Knock Knock.

 

 

Round Trip

RoundTripcover

by Ann Jonas

{published 1983, by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins}

I remember the cover, the texture, and the feeling of checking out a handful of books from Mrs. Marks at the Ridge Elementary School library. Not that I only checked out a handful, but some are so ingrained you could drop a penny in that wrinkle and it would come out flat.

The Story About Ping, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (with that cover!), My Brother Sam is Dead, Strega Nona, and something with two girls in a tree on the cover. A lemon tree? That’s a lttle fuzzier.

And this one. Round Trip by Ann Jonas. When my friend Darshana recommended it to me recently, I was floored. I had been trying to think of this book for ages, and she brought it all flooding back. Thank you, Darshana!!

Ok, yap yip shh. The book.

It’s lyrical and sort of quiet, a trip through the town before the day has really started. Past closed stores, a barely stirring farm, to the empty coast. to

After watching a movie and the sun set, it’s time to return home. But. There are no more pages. That’s when you flip the book UPSIDE DOWN and read it again. Back to front, and left to right.fromThe small farm’s rippled rows are now smoky factories. The trains exhaust poofs are now puddles under rain. And home is home again.

contrast

I love the stark contrast of black and white. You know I do.

But the thing that is driving this story and these ingenious pictures is the existence of negative space. That’s where the space around an object forms something else. Maybe it’s amorphous and just beautiful fill, and maybe it’s an entire new world.

roundtrip roundtrip2

Same spread, the top is going, and the bottom is returning. The marsh becomes fireworks as the day becomes night. (Images from Greenwillow’s blog.)

A while back, (a long while back, actually!) we looked at Caldecott-winning Black and White and those crazy images that are both vase and face. You know those. And these: a series of negative space animals, take a keen eye to these and enjoy. And you do know about the arrow in the FedEx logo, right? Right. You’ll never unsee it.

So enjoy Round Trip forward, and enjoy it backward. See the negative, feel the positive. Embrace the space.

ch

Dangerously Ever After

DangerouslyEverAfterby Dashka Slater, illustrated by Valeria Docampo

{published 2012 by Dial Books for Young Readers}

I’m not usually too keen on princess books. I just…don’t get the appeal? And the pink? And the super sweetness?

Princess Amanita is my kind of girl, though. She’s prickly and fearless, and she has a killer hairdo. (I’ll overlook her love for cats. They still make me nervous.)

Remember Dashka Slater? She’s the brain behind a story full of words like stink lilies, heckle-berries, and sentences like ‘It sounded like a troop of monkeys playing tubas.’

Fun, lively, and funny, much as l imagine her to be.

And Valeria Docampo has a sweeping style that evokes a monster sense of wonder in me. This illustration that welcomes you to her website is breathtaking.

Her pictures are a perfect frame for Princess Amanita.

EOD_SHAPE

Shape is just any space that is enclosed by a line. They can be defined and pointy triangles, or round and comforting circles. Or perhaps just the space that’s left behind, in between two lines.

Princess Amanita is thorny on the outside, interested in danger and sharp things. So her hair resembles a scorpion tale, and her dress is outfitted in what looks like metal. Even her garden is prickly.

But she is sweet and friendly underneath it all, so the softness in the curves of her face and dress serve as a subtle reminder to us.

I love this spread. Gradually from left to right, the vines grow from pointy triangular thorns to the muted and organic lines of the Prince’s kingdom. Similar shapes tell a very different story.

And I adore these tiny frames that are dotted through the pages. The shape for these spot illustrations is bound by both curved and straight lines. She’s not all sweet, but she’s not all danger either.

Because really, aren’t we all a bit like that?

ch

LeoGeo

Leo Geo And His Miraculous Journey Through The Center Of The Earth

Hello and happy 2013 and welcome back to this little corner of the internet!

And a huge hello to those of you who hopped on board over the last couple weeks! It’s nice to have you.

Here’s an awesome and odd little book to kick off the new year:

IMG_1920

by Jon Chad

IMG_1921

I promise not to use bad puns like, “This book rocks!” or “Perfect for kids who don’t take science for granite!”

Much like another favorite, Sky High, Leo Geo uses size and scale in such an unusual way. Telling a story about a journey through the center of the earth calls for a different visual method than the standards we are used to.

IMG_1922

So flip it 90 degrees and read top to bottom. Of course! Its width (or lack thereof!) perfectly frames the skinny tunnels and canals through which our ‘surface man’ drills.

And just when you get to the center, flip it 180 degrees and read bottom to top as you emerge with him to the other side of the world.

IMG_1923

Throughout the entire journey, Leo Geo narrates his trip with a good healthy dose of science. You’ll get reminders of the difference between stalactites and stalagmites, what  makes up the continental and oceanic crusts, and how many miles you would have to travel before reaching the core.

Even though his voice is conversational and funny, every once in a while you might run into a Quadclops or find a magic dagger. I love that this book becomes a spectacular combination of nonfiction and comic book.

contrast

By using only black and white, the reader gets to fill in the blanks and let their imagination run wild. The contrast between the whites of the tunnels and the black hash marks of piles and piles of fossils provide a very satisfying balance. The art is so intricate that I imagine a young reader (or an old one!) could pore over these pages for hours.

IMG_1924

So yeah. This book rocks.

ch