Saturday, May 30, 2009
As I madly draw and color the art for a picture book I'm illustrating, I watch my fingers move a real pencil and then an electronic brush, hear my mind make conscious decisions about composition, content, and color and after awhile float into the meta questions. I went to college for 5 years to dally in meta-think.
For instance, I draw the baby in a high chair. I suggest a bit of the room. I look online for high chairs that aren't circa 1980s. (My brain is curiously stuck on images of things in the 80s.) But judging from my own feet, sneaker design sure changed since then so too most likely high chairs. And indeed, newer high chairs look different. Here is where the drifting begins. I ask myself what is the most high chair aspect of high chairs. A tray, a tiny seat raised to adult level, a way to strap in squirming food throwing chaos. Wouldn't it be more fun to make the high chair kind of kooky? Three legs like those jogging strollers. Lockable wheels. A force field that collects flying cheerios and funnels it to the dog dish. I push back further, am I creating a world where such fine high chairs can sit? What world would I like my characters to live in? Indeed, what is the best of all possible worlds to illustrate today?
And my characters? Take a baby's hand. What is the most meta aspect of this pudgy item? Dimples on the knuckles, creases around the wrists, a way to suggest the strong but unrefined motor skills? This leads to a consideration of the Fibinocci sequence (1; 1; 2; 3; 5; 8;... ) of finger length. Starting from the tip of a finger, if the bone length to the first joint is 1, the second bone is 1+1=2 or twice as long, the third is the sum of the previous two 1+2=3, the bones in the back of the hand are also the sum of the previous two 2+3=5... and this numeric sequence is what enables a hand to curl up like a snail shell. But baby hands are so tiny, so round, do they move in the same ways? Are the hand proportions basically the same as the ones busy drawing at the ends of my arms? Babies sure have disproportionally big heads. More research proves their hands are in fibinocci order, just can't reach an octave on the piano and are permanently sticky. But I am illustrating a particular baby, not the sum of all babies. Does this particular child use her hands in a telling character driven way? And what are the meta considerations of character gesture anyway?
I'm running out of time. I draw and draw and tell myself that the worlds I make in poems or art are worth exploring and defining. That the best picture books make arbitrary but delicious rules for themselves, such as no perspective or no light source, or only mid range value hues, or all people and animals will have very big but flat heads... it comes down to deciding what to leave in and how you want to twist it for art's sake.