In the continuing saga behind the wordless book I am illustrating for Books Beyond Words, I’ve just turned in the colour roughs on all 51 images. As always, I keep thinking there is more that I could do to build the world that these characters live in - more setting sketches and character sketches and colour studies, 3 dimensional models in clay and more time honing the colour themes weaving through the book. At the moment I have a colour chart that outlines all the colours for each scene, character and setting. I know this all comes from my animation background that I don’t feel I’ve done the absolutely best I can unless I have done all this style book background. But it isn’t just that, which brings me to the subject of this blog post. It’s also about storytelling and drama. In a wordless book I don’t have text or dialogue to clarify the imagery.
There are several ways to build in drama into visual storytelling; framing or scale, tone or lighting, angle, and colour . This is all after choosing the right moments to illustrate. Because the book I’m working on is for readers with learning and communication difficulties, I had to be careful about how I show each sequence. I didn’t have the option of varying viewpoints in each scene for example, because that would be too confusing. In this blog post I am going to play with cropping in the first ten frames to emphasise the drama of family conflict.
Below are the first 10 panels of the wordless book introducing the main characters and the family situation. These are colour roughs and the drawings are still in process in some areas.
The opening sequence opens up like any other family dinner with the arrival of the older son. We do get a hint that not all is well with Father’s body language and expression, but it’s with panel 4 that things kick off. Comparing the old panel 4 above with the crop below, which adds more drama to the story?
Continuing the dramatic panels:
Pushing the angles and cropping closer in in panel 6 takes us out of the usual family meal view into the realm of ruined dinners, hurt, anger and fear. The next panel (7) I was torn between the young girl feeling small on the staircase listening to the chaos in the dining room by looking up at her from the bottom stair, or, cropped up close.
All 51 panels are now being put together to be put in front of focus groups for the second time. So far the book has had three major go throughs fine tuning the narrative; dropping scenes and characters that were not needed to tell this story.
Which crops work for you?
I dream of painting and then, I paint my dreams.
Vincent Van Gogh
I’ve been working on a wordless book for a special needs publisher since last June called Books Beyond Words. Their readers range from a variety of learning disabilities and also cater to non-English speakers. Content draws on everything from confusing and difficult times to hard issues around…
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