sketchbook-thumb

Using references

Strange juxtapositions! The wolf waffles on about creative prompts. Again.

While recovering from an exhausting but delightful day of primary school presentations, I thought I’d share a bit on storing stimulating snippets – useful for writers and illustrators alike. As a constant scribbler, the wolf is a ‘visual thinker’ – but anyone writing picture books needs to think visually and prompts will get you started on those slow days. Of course, Pinterest is a good way to do this too. However: a) the screen is a bustling space where you don’t always have that much immediate control b) sometimes our senses can be stimulated to the point of being overwhelmed c) it’s good to have material off-line too (in, you know, real life…)

When I start work on a project I like to grab a big, cheap pinboard and starting pinning things to it. I prefer pinboards to sticking things on the wall because they can be moved around, and stored behind a shelf while things are in hiatus. Here’s part of a moodboard for a project I was working on last year. It has snippets of other people’s art, paint swatches (gouache in this case), some of my own sketches in the style I want to use and bits ripped from old books I’ve found in second hand stores.

moodboard

I also store found snippets: magazine cut-outs; print-outs, leftovers from previous, dissembled moodboards; flyers and postcards I’ve picked up. I shove them in cheap photobooks (‘bragbooks’ they’re called over here in Oz) that I get from chain stores whenever they’re going cheap. I flick through the books and shuffle things around when I’m stuck for ideas.

Left:  a lovely 50's style character. Right: a mother's day card my son made at school. I love the nostalgic feel and colour palettes of both.

Left: a lovely 50’s style character. Right: a mother’s day card my son made at school. I love the nostalgic feel and colour palettes of both.

2 postcards. I confess to wanting to put the Korean bride left on the rodeo horse...

2 postcards. I confess to wanting to put the Korean bride left on the rodeo horse…

The image left is a good reminder: if you get stuck for a drawing idea and ABC is always good. Perhaps (looking right) an ABC of bugs?

The image left is a good reminder: if you get stuck for a drawing concept an ABC is always good. Perhaps (looking right) an ABC of bugs?

Limited palettes, strong shapes and landscape formats; both these compositions are a reminder of how simple can work.

Limited palettes, strong shapes and landscape formats; both these compositions are a reminder of how simple can work.

A lovely Gothic idea. Evil flying monkeys (the one on the left is by my son) swooping through a spooky chamber.

A lovely Gothic idea. Evil flying monkeys (the one on the left is by my son) swooping through a spooky chamber.

There is a structural relationship between the abstract piece on the left and the illustration right - rows of elements, within the same family, but differing in form or colour. There's an idea for an illustration there, if not a book.

There is a structural relationship between the abstract piece on the left and the illustration right – rows of elements, within the same family, but differing in form or colour. There’s an idea for an illustration there, if not a book.

Now again (usually when I’ve mucked up a page so much so that it pains me to open it), I’ll stick things into my sketchbook – without thinking too hard at the time, and splash ink, or scribble around it:

Pasted and traced bits and splotches of left-over ink.

Pasted and traced bits and splotches of left-over ink.

More left-over ink, slapped onto the page before it dries out. The houses may not be right, but the tall, skinny trees definitely have something...

More left-over ink, slapped onto the page before it dries out. The houses may not be right, but the tall, skinny trees definitely have something…

Do please look away from the giraffe - what was I thinking? But the PLANT! Something HAS to be done with that.

Do please look away from the giraffe – what was I thinking? But the PLANT! Something HAS to be done with that.

Right! The wolf is feeling inspired again! Brag books are the best. Now to get out the paints and pens (after a quick bite of course). Watch out world: evil flying monkeys and carnivorous plants in Korean costume on horseback coming your way!

And writers (as well as illustrators) – check out Jen Storer’s post on making handmade books here.

Of course, if you must go to Pinterest, here is a good place to start.

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