SKUNKS and SKETCHES: Thoughts on the Creative Process

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Since today is National Skunk Day, I simply can’t resist re-sharing these writerly thoughts on skunks, elephants, and creativity. So, please bear with me and enjoy! 

Can you guess what these are?

They’re preliminary sketches for the sleepy little pair skunks and the large pair of frightened elephants that appear in GOODNIGHT, ARK. When Jane Chapman first posted them on Facebook last year, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I was amazed at all the detail and artistic brainstorming that went into developing these delightful animals. They clearly show that she spent at least as much time “playing with pictures”  as I spent “playing with words” in the creation of my story.

Jane’s sketches are a wonderful reminder that there is joy in the process of creating and that creating takes time.  Don’t rush the process by just sketching one skunk or elephant.  Sketch a a full page of them!  Likewise, don’t rush to finalize your word choice or your plot twists. Keep on playing with those words and let the creative process work its magic. Fill an entire notebook if you need to. That’s what I did!

As a fun aside, and in conclusion of today’s skunk-themed thoughts, if you have a copy of GOODNIGHT, ARK, you might enjoy examining these sketches and then perusing the pages of the story to see which sketches made the final cut.  The students I share the sketches with LOVE doing this and I have to agree, it’s fun!


P.S. You might also enjoy this skunk quiz!


GUEST POST: Glean Frogs with Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch

FrogSleepwalkingToday it is my pleasure to have talented picture book illustrator and writer, Julie Rowan-Zoch, as my guest. Julie and I first connected when she was inspired to create the “Picture Books That Pack a P.U.N.C.H.” badge displayed on my sidebar after reading my post on that subject back in 2012.  Since then, she’s been busy, busy, and busy and just last month celebrated the publication of three board books which she illustrated:  You’re Here!, You’re One! and You’re Two! written by Karla Oceanak and published by Bailiwick Press. Congratulations, Julie!  Today she’s with us to share some creative thoughts on gleaning.  Take it away, Julie!

During hobby-time when I was in 2nd grade, Ricky Spiro brought in a live frog to dissect. It was so cool to watch him pull out the guts and examine them. Finally he pulled out the beating heart. Kinda gross, but I was totally into it! (I brought in my gum wrapper chain, by the way.)

And my interest in examining things beyond the surface remains. After I watch films, I watch the director’s commentaries. They reveal what had to be taken out, or left in to keep the heart of the movie beating. Interesting, and sometimes minute details can click with me and a story I’m working on.

Recently I watched Philomena (again!) on dvd and the interview with Judi Dench. She told of three pieces of advice she had gotten during her career, and my ears perked: Hal Prince had cast her as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, and said to her, “Do remember, if you speak in one way, you musn’t stop and sing in another.”

Days later I watched a high school kid doing a great job portraying Lester in The Addams Family musical, but he sang in a different voice. Beautiful, but completely different, and it stood out like a very sore thumb. As a viewer, I was thrown completely out of the story.

BUT that’s when it clicked into place for me: speaking and singing are forms of communication, just like text, dialogue, and illustrations. Year-by-Year Board Book Series:BailiwickI need to develop my character illustrations, to ‘sing’ in the same way as they speak too!

What else did she say? Interest piqued? Peter Hall told her, “Never think you have to play all of a person in one scene, just play an aspect of a person in each scene and with any luck, it will add up.” The third thing didn’t click, but maybe for you: “Don’t fret over what anyone says about you.” I stopped that a long time ago!

Now back to the frog and my own advice: don’t look away, perk your ears, and you might glean something!

Julie Rowan-Zoch Julie is a reformed graphic designer, turned picture book maker. Originally from New York, she spent a big chunk of her life in Germany, and transplanted to Colorado. Three board books she illustrated for Bailiwick Press released in October 2014.  You learn more about Julie and her work on her blog, Facebook and Pinterest