Thumbnails and storyboards
The wolf embarks on a new storyboard, and tries not to get carried away…
Oh the joy of a new project! Especially when someone ELSE has written the words. So HERE IT IS! The nice ‘Word’ document from the editor, with the text broken down by page/spread, the character designs (in this case at least) approved and now I get to decide what it’s all going to look like. Woohoo! So now I’m the ‘director’ of the project: I can zoom in, zoom out, crop, cut, swoop the viewpoint up into the air and let it land smack flat on the ground. Perhaps I’ll have my subject lie down, sit, stand, twirl or put them in a tutu; I can add new background characters, pick a setting, style and colour pallette. OK.. so now I’m feeling overwhelmed. Breathe…
Most illustrators I talk to like the storyboarding process best. This is when the project is young, the deadline seems far away, and hope is in the air. There’s also no-one to answer to. Yet.
So I’m looking over some old storyboards. Here’s my initial storyboard for ‘The Cat Wants Custard‘ by P Crumble, done early 2015. Here I’ve laid it out to fit 24 sides and chosen a pastel, retro-looking palette.
The storyboard was fun, but showed that there really was too much text to allow the illustrations to breathe, especially over 24 pages. The publisher later cut text and changed the specs to 32 pages, and I changed to a brighter, more primary colour scheme.
I loved doing storyboards for ‘The Cat Wants Custard‘ as they could be lovely and simple – the focus of the story was on the main character, and the backgrounds could be abstract and playful. I felt this gave me more freedom to move elements around the page. I was inspired by the chunky, bold storyboarding style of Sarah McIntyre:
BTW. There is a new sketchbook for storyboarding picture books here called The Storyboard Notebook, available in Australia. It looks very organised already:
Personally, I’d find this a bit restrictive. But then my sketchbooks are messy and all over the place – smudged, creased and full of lists. I’d have difficulty squeezing my early thoughts into the layouts in the ‘storyboard notebook’. For example, here’s a sample of one of many storyboards for books that haven’t been started yet (I know what it all means):
Less messy, but captivatingly loose, here’s one of Melissa Sweet‘s storyboards:
Actually, that’s pretty messy.
As I’m still relatively new to art of picture-book-making, I’m always trying different methods of putting storyboards together. So far, my favourite method is to draw it all out in pencil until I get a storyboard together onto a couple of pieces of A3. Then I sketch each spread on a piece of cheap A3 or A4 paper with a nice thick Lyra pencil, maybe doing the underdrawing in blue.
Then I clean up a bit and add text and colour in Photoshop. I try to be clever in that I link the file for each spread as a ‘Smart Object’ into a storyboard layout file – this means the overall ‘overview’ layout updates as I fiddle with the files.
For the ‘Arthur and the Curiosity‘ storyboard though I did storyboard and roughs straight onto the computer and didn’t sketch on paper in the early stages. This saved time in the beginning but I wouldn’t do it again – there was still a lot to resolve in the final few weeks of production and I was up for hours tweaking my final artwork.
Here’s my first every storyboard – for ‘Frankie and Finn‘, published by Lothian Hachette in 2015. I fussed a lot over this one.
And my storyboard for ‘Space Alien at Planet Dad’ – I submitted this straight to Scholastic with a note, and got a contract a few weeks later. Storyboards are great!
There’s a short but thorough article on storyboarding on the SCWIBI UK site here for further reading.
Now to boil the kettle, get out the lovely thick Lyra pencils and chew over a pile of layouts. Happy as a wolf on a sausage farm.