Monday, June 29, 2009

Illustration / Interview with Art Director *Cecilia Yung*

I was thrilled to work on MERMAIDS ON PARADE with Cecilia Yung, art director of Penguin's Putnam and Philomel imprints. Her talk entitled, "The Informed Message", at my local SCBWI NY Metro Chapter left quite an impression. In fact, I've expanded on that idea to teach about it to other illustrators.

Cecilia's feng shui touches transformed my densely crammed sketches and created more space, balance and simplicity. I loved how she really listened to my personal philosophies that informed each illustration. Cecilia also was a great teacher for the narrative arc and color contrasts part of my book.

We are very fortunate to share her knowledge here.

Q: What is an art director’s role when working with an illustrator?

CY: My overall responsibility is for all visual elements of a book: illustration, design and production. When I work with an illustrator, my role is in three main areas.

First, I consider the editorial issues. This is the content of the book— It includes the story, the focus and the “angle”. (What are we talking about, why is it important and why do we care?)

Second, I look at the visual presentation of the story: the casting of the characters, the choice of location, composition, point of view, and most important of all, the rhythm and pacing of the book. (Who, what, where, how)

Lastly, I check the effectiveness of the artwork: the accuracy of the details (do they agree with the text/story/fact), the legibility of the pictures (do we understand what is going on), consistency and variety, does the story have the effect intended, the impact it needs.

Q: How does an art director work with an editor to find an artist?

CY: This varies a great deal depending on the editor and the project in question. Generally, we try to find a style that complements the author’s voice and highlights the crucial elements of the book and balances any weakness or concern we may have for the story. We also try to find an artist who has expertise and interest in the topic in question.

Q: What is unique about MERMAIDS ON PARADE?

CY: It is a book that is big and small at the same time: it is both global and local, both a festive event and a warm personal story. Melanie’s folk art style gives a specific local event a timeless folkloric aura, yet the charming details bring the character to life and turns the crowds and the noise into one little girl’s story.

Thanks, Cecilia

Art: MerCecilia, Queen of the Hudson River. Copyright Melanie Hope Greenberg

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