Megan Frances, Guest Blogger
One afternoon in grade 3, I stood at an easel in the back of class, and painted a classic childlike image: a large yellow sun with wavy rays smiling down on a garden. When the painting was finished, I added a title, "The Curly Headed Sun."
My teacher was impressed. She thought I'd illustrated a story. I was so delighted to be noticed, I didn't tell her that the story only existed in my imagination. As a child, I was already seeking recognition for developing the connection between picture and story - the same thing I'm doing today as a writer and artist.
Except now, it's much harder. For a kid, the creative process is a spontaneous act. When you grow up, it becomes laborious, complex - even agonizing - and involves two or more parts. Part 1, the concept, could materialize out of nowhere, an immaculate conception. Like those magical mornings when I wake up with a new story idea or concept for a painting perched on the edge of my mind waiting to vault onto the page.
Usually, the concept is easy. I have plenty of ideas backlogged in various notebooks scattered all over the place. The struggle is part 2 - whether it's writing or painting - developing the concept and putting it on paper.
Here's an example of how one concept made it past part 1 to become a finished painting. For the SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day contest last spring, the challenge was to illustrate the phrase: "It was night and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but, having fallen it was..."
First, I thought about it for a while. What would make my piece stand out? I decided to frame my entire painting inside a single raindrop. Next, I needed to develop the composition. Here's where story comes in: First, I envisioned the scene - an urban street. Then, the character - a mouse - setting sail down the flooded gutter. What would a mouse find on a street to use as a sailboat? How about a discarded take-out container and a paper cocktail umbrella? Other elements were a sidewalk, an approaching figure, and a manhole cover. I did a lot of research on manhole covers and discovered they are often elaborate and decorative.
Here's one of my rough sketches:
Here's the finished piece:
After I submitted the illustration, I realized I'd forgotten to give my mouse whiskers. How negligent of me to release the poor little creature out into the world defenseless! I didn't win the contest, but it was one more piece for my portfolio. This year, I'm focusing on writing first, painting second. Now, back to my WIP - a YA novel - no mice involved.
To see more from my portfolio of children's illustrations, go to MeganFrances.com - for more ponderings on kid lit, please visit my blog, On Beyond Words & Pictures.
Pen & Ink Management would like to thank Megan Frances for writing our 1st Guest Blog. Our resident Mexican says, "Megan's a writer, illustrator, journalist... Jeepers! Is there anything she can't do? She's an avid fan of Pen & Ink which shows her good taste in blogs."