(12/18/01 9:33:01 am)
| Is illustration immoral?|
Well I just finished a two year project, ROSE, a graphic novel consisting of some 130 pages of fully painted pages. Now I have a number of book illustration projects waiting for me to start on them and in the long, long hours of painting those last pages of ROSE it was these projects as well as having recently seen the Harry Potter movie that started me thinking about the cause and effect of illustrating a prose work that so many others have read and supposedly already formed a personal visualization of the characters.
As an illustrator am I, in doing my job, going to rob a future reader of the right to her/his own visualization of the text?
I have an artist friend who says that doing such illustration is "immoral".
I certainly had no such problem with ROSE or my previous project, STARDUST as each was written in collaboration with myself. I was thus the primary conceptualist for each world and the characters in those stories.
But now as I am preparing to work on a long list of book illustration projects (some of which are admittedly written with me in mind, so again there is no "problem") I find myself thinking seriously about my responsibility as an illustrator.
I understand that when Alan Lee was preparing his 50 illustrations for the LORD OF THE RINGS that he had wanted to paint only long landscape views and mood pieces, leaving the up close and personal visualizations of the characters for the readers own imaginations, figuring (quite rightly I expect) that long time readers already had their own "mind portrait" of Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, etc. and that what ever he painted would not be "right" for them. As can be seen by the finished product his publishers caught wind of his intentions and for their own commercial purposes insisted that there be many concrete visualizations of the various characters. These portraits are, I think, the weakest paintings in the book.
So I'm asking all you long time readers of fairy tales, who most probably grew up reading piles and piles of children's picture books, did the various artists interpretations of Deerskin, Snow White, King Arthur, Cinderella and Hans the Hedgehog, etc. limit the scope of your own imagination or did those illustrations provide a spring board into your own personal interpretations of those characters?
I'd love to hear from you about this! And Ruth it's time to stop lurking and post a note or two, on this subject at least.
(12/18/01 10:56:39 am)
| Opinion--or maybe not!|
As someone who has often had books and fairy tales illustrated by others (I can't draw) I have two thoughts on the process.
First, being a very visual thinker, I do have thoughts/ideas/wishes where my stories are concerned. As I write them, I often see them in my mind.
However, once an illustrator has taken my work to a newer, fresher, and often more ionventive level, I then "see" the work in those terms.
Several times I have had the same story illustrated by different illustrators, and that is very instructive. It gives me a chance to understand the story I wrote in new ways.
Let me give you one example: a story of mine called "The Lady and the Merman" was illustrated in the collection THE HUNDREDTH DOVE by David Palladini, in the collection NEPTUNE RISING by David Weisner, and in a small press art book, THE LADY & THE MERMAN by Barry Moser.
The Palladini stressed the romantic elements of the tale for the merman is movie star gorgeous. The Weisner added Christlike overtones to the story, as if the lady were worshipping both the sea, the merman--and possibly her father as well. And Moser's bizarre wood engravings led me to the understanding of the cultural marriage between lady and merman, how different they were and what problems lay ahead in the relationship.
So a fine artist (as these three are) lent something more to the story than decoration.
(12/18/01 11:45:03 am)
| Morale implications of illustrations|
I have a few thoughts here. You are asking is it somehow "wrong" or "immoral" to illustrate written works where your illustrations are either not the originals (you were not commissioned by the author to illustrate) or are for well-known tales. Your concern, as I understand it, is that your images will become the baseline image of the viewer, supplanting his or her own imagination.
First, few illustrations have the power to create a single image of a character or event. There are a few "illustrations" where simply saying a name or title brings a single image to the minds of everyone in a given culture. Try this experiment. Read these names and see if a visual image pops into your head: the last supper; genisis; santa claus; snow white. While these events or characters have been illustrated many times, chances are that most of the readers had virtually identical images come to mind. Charles, if you have created such a strong visual image that you supplant all previous images of a character or event, you are indeed a remarkable artist.
Second, will your illustration create "the image" for your viewer, even if it does not become the "cultural image" of the character? And if so, is that somehow "immoral." This is an interesting question and really does have two parts. There are indeed times when I do not let my children see movies until AFTER they have read the book for fear that the movie will "spoil" the story for them. I think part of your concern is similar. Will the image you create somehow spoil whatever image the reader is conjuring of the character or event in a story? Well, vision is an interesting thing. Everyone processes both written and visual inputs based upon his or her own experiences. By adding an information, i.e. your image, do you add to that person's experience or do you take away from it? My feeling is that information is cummulative, once made, it cannot be taken away. Thus, the reader forms his ultimate picture by a number of stimuli - your illustrations, the written work, and his individual experiences outside of either your illustrations or the written work. This is the reason that people can appreciate many different paintings of the same subject - how many painting of the Madonna are there - and still have their own image of her. Thus, it would be immoral perhaps not to paint your images if you truly believe they can add information or to the experiences of the viewers. This of course doesn't mean we, viewers, don't have the right to have an emotional response, even a negative one, to your illustrations.
Finally, the painting of only fuzzy or long-distance images does not resolve the conflict. Perhaps that is a particular artists way of dealing with character imaging, but it still creates an image of the backdrop, which in many stories is as important as the characters.
So, Charles, I say paint to your heart's content. You will add to the visual beauty and experiences of the world. If for some chance you manage to speak to a whole culture, we will be very pleased for you.
(12/18/01 12:10:28 pm)
I'm struck by the similarity between your question and a lot of translation theory- it's almost an academic given now that a translated work and its original are not the same text, that a translator can not help but modify a text through the choices (s)he does or doesn't make, that the translator practically creates a new novel or poem.
My initial impulse is to distinguish illustration from this- because you are not altering language. I think of the illustrations more as another text which is interwoven with the first- which suggests that it will influence interpretation, yes, but I don't think the influence is as over-riding as you fear. I think the reader always has a choice-or choices, rather- to read the literary and visual texts together or separately, to read one through the other, to switch off one completely. Which brings up the issue of Disney... To what extent does the Disney image of a particular character obstruct us from forming a contrary visualisation? And is the influence of Disney derived from the art of illustration itself or from mass marketing and media? I think there is a distinction here. Surely it is that kind of cultural wallpapering which robs the reader of their own imaginative rendering and not illustration itself. which I would see as a dialogue with the reader, or a stimlus....
(12/18/01 12:43:54 pm)
| Re: Translation|
Charles and all,
I think illustrations usually serve to enhance the story and I do not think the images overwhelm the reader's imagination. I remember as a child always thumbing through a book--from Little Bear to Nancy Drew to Little Women--to look at all of the illustrations before I ever began reading the book. The images served as previews for the coming story.
Then I promptly forgot the images and my imagination took over. I would look ahead a the coming pictures, but they never influenced me for ill. Even today, I find that sometimes the author's physical descriptions do not match my own when I go back and check. My brain takes over and recreates the appearance of characters to my own interpretation. I can't think of many illustrations that do match my view of the characters. That doesn't mean I don't like the illustrations. It just means they don't ruin the book for me.
I also appreciate illustrations for providing a setting when I have not seen a place. They have helped me understand the surroundings and geography when my imagination ran amuck.
My pet peeve about illustrations is when they are grossly inaccurate. My best example are the illustrations for Spyri's "Heidi" in which Heidi does not have short, dark curly hair. This means the illustrator has not bothered to read the text, does not care about the story, and is just churning out work. I have read and heard about illustrators, more so in the past, who just produced exactly what the editor requested without ever reading a lick of text. What is the point? I feel betrayed by those books. That is the only time illustration feels immoral to me.
However, I love stories from illustrators about the serendipity combined with hard work and research to produce illustrations. Paul Zelinsky has been a favorite whose stories have never left me. I heard him speak shortly after he returned from Italy while researching his "Rapunzel." He didn't talk much about that work in progress but he told of his experiences with his "Hansel and Gretel and Beverly Cleary's "Dear Mr. Henshaw." That story is a rare case in which he was in contact with the author. Cleary apparently provided maps of the neighborhood and house used in the book as a frame of reference that Zelinsky appreciated.
On the other hand, there is Eve Bunting's story of crying when she received the images for "Smokey Night" and thought her book was doomed to being remaindered on the day of release. Then it won the Caldecott. The book was nothing like she imagined as she wrote it, but she is quite happy with it now that the shock is past.
To sum up my meandering thoughts here, I do not think illustration is immoral. It is another way of telling the tale, very similar to all of the variants of our favorite fairy tales. I don't think anyone on this board feels that the modern interpretations written and edited by today's authors (some on this board!) have ruined or diminished our visions of beloved fairy tales and folklore. They only serve to broaden our vision of what the tale is about. So do the illustrations.
And without pictures, I don't know how I could get kids to listen to all of the books I read them at storytime. Well done picture books are some of the first steps to literacy for children. My favorite illustrations add subtext to the story and give the child the opportunity to tell me some of the story I missed while busily dealing with the text.
(12/18/01 1:18:33 pm)
| Re: Translation|
Hm... I tend to think of different illustrations/versions of fairy tales as different windows overlooking the same landscape. Writing will give you one angle, a certain framing, lighting etc, and illustration will give something different. But those who wish can still carve out their own little peep hole - so as long as you have the imagination, I think someone else's interpretation will more likely enhance your own instead of overriding it.
I have to admit though, despite the many different illustrations there have been for 'Alice in Wonderland', John Tenniel's seem to be the ones that stick... but I wouldn't say he's ruined my ability to picture Alice. Although the way I see her is based on his interpretation, I still draw her differently...
And yes, I agree w/Heidi: when the illustration contradicts the text it can be very distracting.
(12/18/01 5:27:14 pm)
| re: immoral illustration|
I was quite interested in reading this discussion and all your thoughts, particularly the anecdotes about Eve Bunting's and Jane's experiences.
I have to admit that one of my pet peeves is poorly illustrated book jackets - particularly if the main character is the central image. Now some face illustrations are absolutely fabulous - the boy on the cover of Katherine Paterson's Preacher's Boy for example. But often I feel so annoyed and disappointed when the cover illustration of the character is not intriguing at all, or it seems like the illustrator took no time to catch the mood or personality of the character. However, does this influence or change my interior vision of the character? I don't think it does.
In general, I like to see what kind of story illustrators create to complement text, compare and contrast illustrations of the same story, and ultimately, when finances allow, collect. I have my favorites, but that doesn't mean I don't like to look at different interpretations.
Even in relation to Disney - if Disney's version was all I saw and knew, perhaps that would be the vision most in my head. But it isn't, and so Cinderella, for example, is a many-faced creature. There is Disney's Cinderella, there is Marcia Brown's, there is Gail Carson Levine's Ella, and the list goes on. Each book has it's own world, half on the page, half in my head. I enjoy the diversity. Laura Mc
(12/18/01 8:22:19 pm)
| Re: Translation|
**I tend to think of different illustrations/versions of fairy tales as different windows overlooking the same landscape. Writing will give you one angle, a certain framing, lighting etc, and illustration will give something different. But those who wish can still carve out their own little peep hole **
I love this comment! I think it perfectly sums up what everyone is trying to say!
And I agree about the cover image. I once attended an author event at Borders where Annette Blair was comparing with another author (I can't remember her name!) about the differences between a small press and a mass-market paperback press in Romance. Annette's book, Thee, I Love, was an Amish Historical, and she absolutely hated the cover used for the book. The heroine was supposed to be an Amish schoolteacher. If you go to the site below, you will see that the cover does not represent that!
My father, on the other hand, is taking a very long time trying
to create art that blends well with my first book of poems, Twistig
the Glass. He's basically taking my original drawing and improving
upon it. A lot. I would use his sketches, but he's a bit of a perfectionist
and wants it to be, well, perfect.
So I think as long as the art relates to the story, and does not
clash with it, it is good art. I must admit, I do often judge books
(and music) by the cover. I have fallen in love with many stories
and songs that I might not have otherwise pulled out of a pile.
So I think good art contributes in many ways, and good art, truly
good art, does not overshadow what is important, but blends with
Forest frosts and sugarplum dreams,
(12/19/01 12:30:02 am)
| The morality of illustration...|
I was reading an essay by Orson Scott Card today called "Art as an Act of Charity" where he discusses relevance, truth and morality in art - in all its forms. The context is broader than just illustration, but I think some of what he said is pertinent:
"...we who learn to create artworks and share them with the audience, we INVENT the world. We put visions and music and stories into people's memories... Sharing the shaped reality of art is the closest we come in this world to truly knowing what is inside another person's heart and mind. For a moment, as an audience, as a community, we are one."
As I've thought about this, I think providing a platform for shared experience can be a powerful, bonding thing. I'm envisioning watching "The Lord of the Rings" with a theater full of other people, and being swept up - not just in my own private viewing and interpretation of the movie, but in the mutual experiencing of this art form. Where people gasp, and laugh and cry in the same places, over the same things - even though they are not *real*. And even if Peter Jackson's and Alan Lee's versions of Middle Earth do not mirror my own, I can still feel this sense of...community (for lack of a better word), connection and shared emotion with those there. (Have you ever noticed how much more powerful movies can be when seen in a group, than when seen by yourself in your living room?)
Good writing can have the same effect - one reason book clubs (and discussion boards) exist. Shared experience through art.
Illustration can provide a similar platform for shared experience, I think. And if it's well done, and *true* - from the artist's soul, it will also provide 'connection'... Illustrations that stick with me are ones that invoke this feeling of *truth* and resonance. I don't necessarily remember the details of the picture, but the emotional tones stay with me. And when you can SHARE that with like-minded and like-hearted people.... Wow! I am especially glad that there ARE lots of illustrated versions of well known stories out there - many of which have some of this 'truth' to them, and give a broader, deeper visual vocabulary to draw from when envisioning your own truth...
I say, Illustrate away! Invent worlds, and create community...
(12/19/01 7:15:52 am)
| Re: The morality of illustration...|
The illustrations in fairy tale books were definitely part of the aesthetic power of them for me as a child...and thus as an adult. Adrienne Segur's illustrations, which I poured over for hours as a child, are wound into the deepest parts of my soul, and, to a lesser but still strong extent, imagery by Dulac, Nielsen, Rackham. Whereas the pastel-colored, Disney imitation picture books have all been long forgotten. Book illustrations didn't prevent me from having my own imagery in my head, but they did color that imagery, I must admit...and continue to color the imagery I produce as an artist today. So while I disagree that illustration is immoral, I do think illustrators of works for children have to be very conscious of the fact that they have *power* -- and to use that power for the good, if that doesn't sound too hokey.
For instance, being a child in the Sixties, all the heroines in my fairy books were blue-eyed, blonde, very thin child-women. For a long time I carried that as an ideal of beauty, and had to unlearn it as an adult. (Judging by the number of women who consider themselves defective if they don't look like Aly McBeal, I'd say that our culture as a whole has yet to unlearn it.) So I think that the editors today who strive to publish tales from a variety of cultures with heroines who come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes are doing a good and necessary thing. I have two beloved young girls in my life, Garnet and Talia, who are Native American and who adore traditional fairy tales and all things faerie (well, of course they do, having me for an auntie...). They absolutely eat up faerie books, just like any other American little girls. I worry, however, when all the faeries in such books are whiter than white and blonde, and so try to balance these books with Native American, Spanish, African, Asian folktales. They like the other folktales okay, but they're at that faery-mad stage where winged Tinkerbell style faeries are what they want the most. Although they've never said anything about the fact that none of these deliciously magical creatures resembles them, on some level it's sinking in.
Watching them devour my "Sneezle" books they way I used to devour the Segur book, I realized recently that all the faeries within it are white-skinned (except for Sneezle, who's furry), even in the second book which is dedicated to them. As a story set in English woodlands, I suppose that I could hardly have popped in a Tohono O'Odham faery...but there's no reason why creatures born out of trees, earth, plants, etc. can't come in a variety of colors. Wendy and I have spoken about addressing this in the third "Sneezle" book. She's going to make some adobably plump faeries too, which I think it a good thing also. I don't mean to suggest that ilustrators should tie themselves up in PC knots...but at the same time, being aware of how personally and intently little girls and boys sometimes embrace fantasy material is important. Jane wrote, in Touch Magic: "Just as a child is born with a literal hole in his head, where the bones slowly close under the fragile shield of skin, so the child is born with a figurative hole in his heart. Slowly this, too, is filled up. What slips in before it anneals shapes the man or woman into which that child will grow. Stories is one of the most serious intruders into the heart." I'm sure Jane would agree with me that story illustrations can be another serious intruder.
One final comment regarding Garnet and Talia: The Tolkien illustrator/film designer Alan Lee has an equally talented daughter named Virginia (who is also working on the film) who visited me in Arizona two winters ago. While she was here, we painted a mural on Garnet's bedroom wall: she wanted a castle, a unicorn, and a dancing princess in a long pink dress. We gave her a classic fairy tale scene: a wooded hillside, grazing unicorn, castle in the distance, a princess in a flouncy dress straight out of a Disney film. But the princess has brown skin, long black hair, and looks just like her. She adores it.
(12/21/01 9:24:52 am)
| Thanks to you all...|
I really want to thank you all for your well thought out answers to my guestion.
I am told by my mother that I wouldn't let her read me fairytales when I was a child. She does not know why but I suspect that my imagination may have been too vivid and perhaps I just couldn't cope with the sometimes horrific subject matter. All of these tales would have been from the Childcraft collection which were (and still are) sitting on a bookshelf in the family den. I poured through these books as I grew older but the illustrations in them were extremely bland and left me wanting an undefinable "more". Mostly what I remember from the books in the local public library were the "Golden Book" series again with rather bland pictures offering more of the same dullness. So I was particularly receptive to the vivid, brightly colored animated films from Disney that I saw throughout my formative years. For most of my life, anytime I thought of Snow White, the dwarves, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty it was those Disney images that were there in my mind. It wasn't untill college that I discovered the work of Rackham, Dulac, Wyeth and Pyle and I fell in love with there work but those Disney images were still imprinted in my brain. Today even after all the research and discovery of the rich and varied history of fairy tale illustration it is those images that pop up first in my visual vocabulary and this drives me nuts.
A year or two ago I drew a 5 page comic book adaptation of Snow White for a very interesting 200 page collection of short versions of many of the Grimms fairy tales. And there I was, an artist of almost 50 years of age, still working at scraping those damned Disney dwarves out of my head. Thank god for the older illustrators who gave us such wonderfull pictures well before Disney and his animators came along. Those older pictures served as my starting point of inspiration and I finished with a very pleasing visual vocabulary for the story. But what work it is to get those animated images out of my head!!
I understand that not every illustration will have the particular impact that those Disney films had on me but it is still a concern of mine. An illustrator should be aware that they owe an enormouse amount of responsibility to the people that will view their work.
(12/22/01 6:27:43 am)
Charles, I had the opposite experience with Disney. I'd been given the lavishly illustrated Golden Book of Fairy Tales at a very young age, which completely imprinted Segur's intricate, jewelled, Renaissance-like drawings and painting on my little brain. So by the time I saw my first Disney cartoon, it seemed flat and silly by comparison, particularly with the cleaned up storylines compared to Marie Ponsot's dark, sophisticated translations in the Segur book. Fairy tales, for me, were dark, thrilling, inexpressibly sad, gloriously triumphant, and didn't involved whistling dwarves...so I never quite *got* the Disney fairy tales. I liked the Disney non-fairy tale cartoons very much, on the other hand. (Loved "Lady and the Tramp" and "Bambi" -- were they Disney? I was a skunk named Flower for Halloween three years running.)
(12/22/01 10:22:33 am)
I am with Terri here, Charles. I was awash in H. A. Ford fairy tale illos from the Lang color fairy books, and Dulac, and Rackham long before I met Disney, so Disney always looked like cheap shopworn goods compared to the magical silken treasures of the earlier illustrators.
(12/22/01 11:55:48 am)
| I completely agree...|
I really do wish that someone had shown me or that I had somehow stumbled upon the Andrew Lang books or any of the other absolutely stunning illustrated collections that surely must have been lurking about on those dusty old library shelves and also that I had been familar with the "true" story of Snow White before seeing the animated film. I am sure that then, it would not have had such an impact on my young mind.
It is knowing the extent of that impact on myself that made me ask my original guestion in the first place.
But as I said previously, I need to take the responsibilty of what I am drawing seriously and realize the impact it could have. I need to take the lessons that I've learned from all the reading that I've done and all the art that I've looked at and apply it in a constructive way.
If we ever stop learning what a boring world we would live in.
(12/22/01 5:27:42 pm)
My husband and I discussed your question and he did feel that his initial exposure to an image does become the baseline. We then went to your greenman sight, and he was so impressed with your artwork, I feel we are destined to own a set of your lithographs (I wish we could afford an original painting). My point - if something is to form the baseline, why not your beautiful artwork rather than someone else's?
(12/23/01 8:33:53 am)
Just a quick thought on this. I recall shying away books with illustrations as a child because I wanted to create images in my mind -- I had a wild imagination and could actually "see" things as they occured in the stories. I think this is also why I don't watch TV or even movies very often still today. For instance, the Tolkien bestiary upset me, but now that I've gotten older I enjoy seeing the way artists portray stories -- both real and imaginary. I still don't like book jackets, but I enjoy collections of artwork. Hmmm...maybe I haven't changed after all. It seems to me that each artwork has its own story to tell and I like getting lost in the piece, searching for light and dark and hidden gems embedded in rich settings. I wrote a piece on Salome and in my research I dug up different artworks done during each of the three major periods that she cropped up. They are all so wildly different and interesting to interpret all on their own -- that I took the basic story into each work and left everything else behind. That seems to me to be the only way to really look at art -- take the basic knowledge and look for story set with pigment and pen. On independent illustrations, I habitually create stories in my head as I trace the patterns and lines with my mind's eye. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I tend to see illustration and text as loosely connected, but able to stand by themselves -- at least that's the way I think it should be.
(12/24/01 9:54:17 am)
I agree with Terri's comment about illustration being a powerful thing, to be used for good or ill. When I got the contract for my book, they told me who they were going to ask to do cover illustrations (and maybe a few inside as well) - I won't say the name here, since I don't know if they've actually asked yet. I was happy with their choice, though, since I'm fairly certain this particular artist will agree with my only really hard-line requirement for illustration -- my heroine is absolutely *not* white. She isn't Black, either, or any other identifiable ethnicity/race.
I don't like the fact that books for children are always about the eternally "unmarked" category - whiteness. If a book is about a child of colour, it's usually *about* being a child of colour. I want my book to provide a mirror for all children to see themselves in. It will be my illustrator who accomplishes this for the child in the bookstore, browsing the shelves, who has not yet even opened the book.
It's the subtle subversion that I love.
(12/24/01 10:03:22 am)
Okay, I know people edit these posts, but I can't figure out how to do that.
Re-reading my post, I want to squash the "my" in "my illustrator." Not my illustrator - *the* illustrator, who is an independent entity and should not be referred to in the possessive. Meep.
The errors in grammar can stay.
(12/24/01 3:51:34 pm)
| Editing ...|
May I just say, I really like the "meep" as an exclamation. It has a very ... definite ... air to it. In order to edit after you post, go to the thread while signed in; under your name, next to the reply button, there ought to be an edit button. I can't wait to see the book.
(1/12/02 6:13:49 am)
| Re: Editing ...|
Has anyone here seen Charles van Sandwyk's illustrations? Charles de Lint and MaryAnn Harris just sent me an absolutely gorgeous small press book of his called Animal Wisdom -- self-published (Charles van Sandwyk Fine Art, PO Box 30033, N. Vancouver, B.C. Canada V7H 2Y3) in a handsome little edition that looks like some of those old Green Tiger Press books. (Remember those?) It's stunning.
(1/12/02 11:08:55 am)
| Re: memories|
I am afraid I am most likely the odd man out here. I have no memories at all of reading fairy tales as a child. It was not the most literate area to grow up in. What I did have though,was an Irish Traveller for a grandfather and a Seneca longhouse Uncle. So I heard stories rather that being able to read them. When I did find illustrations,at roughly the age of 20, I thought,oh,so that is how that person thinks it is.
Which is how I still look at them. When I read something which has been illustrated by Charles or Terri, or anyone else with a heart behind their work (and not all illustrations do have a heart alas)what I have are two stories. I tend to weave all new stories out of the illustrations.
I am not sure if that helps answer your question, apart from saying the world would indeed be a poorer place without your illustrations
(1/13/02 10:04:46 am)
| Illustrations immoral?
This is a fascinating discussion. I agree with Heidi that I have a problem
when there is a dissonance between the text and the illustrations but
overall illustrations do provide a very important framework to start off.
Illustrations also are so important to pre-reading and literacy that we
can't discount them at all. I also agree with Terri that they are very
powerful and we have to be careful with what is out there. The images
they project are important. I'm glad to hear that there will be plump
faeries and more color in the Sneezle books. I'd also like to see more
beautiful "evil" characters.
I also have to add that illustrations are very important for people who
are not very visual thinkers. I was reading a non-illustrated version
of "Jack and the Beanstalk" with a middle school boy because
I thought that the illustrations were too juvenile for him. However, he
could not visualize the story and in his mind everything in the giant's
household was giant-sized so how on earth could Jack carry that hen and
harp down the beanstalk!! It took me sometime to figure out where he "got
stuck" and if I had used the illustrations that never would have
happened. So, illustrations are in no way immoral. Thank you Charles for
giving us such wonderful ones.
(2/17/02 2:17:26 pm)
First, let me say I LOVED Stardust, and liked Rose quite a bit as
I agree with Nancy, not everyone can conjure up a tale of fantasy or horror,
we rely on those who have a strong imagination to pull tales from dreams
and nightmares into the "real" world for others to enjoy, painting
images with words.
In the same way, not everyone "sees" the story in their mind,
illustrations make those fantastic worlds more real for those without
that gift, letting them enter them more completely.
For those who do build a "film" in their head as they read,
illustrations build up a reference library of images which become the
actors and sets in new stories, a thousand dragons remembered auditioning
to play the lead role in the latest dragon tale I might read.
Adding illustration to a written story seems to me like adding music to
lyrics, part of a collaboration that lets the audience see the words in
a new way.
(2/18/02 6:46:58 am)
| Violating the material
Sorry I missed most of this discussion.
Your question reminds me a little of a comment Barry Moser made once regarding
his illustrations for the "Alice" books by Lewis Carrol. He
said he made a point of illustrating everything in Wonderland as if from
Alice's point of view, because that was how the story was told and he
felt the only correct way to portray it was to match the text.
While he wasn't addressing whether there's a moral questions regarding
the illustrations (it has, after all, been accompanied by illustrations
all along), by implication what he's saying seems to me to be that the
illustrator shouldn't violate the text.
I find this analogous to the musical scoring that accompanies most films.
I can think of numerous scores that intrude annoyingly upon the material
(John Williams comes to mind, over and over and over again), and rather
than serving it try to outdistance it in some way. Kind of a Baby Roo
"Look at me jumping!" effect.
This isn't something I find you doing in your art. The very fact that
you raise the question would seem to suggest that you're aware of the
possibility of violating the material, and thus aren't likely to do it.
As a writer, I have to deal with very much the same question, especially
when I'm "rewriting" the TAIN or in some other way borrowing
from a culture or work or premise that already exists. And I think I'll
stop now, as this begins to balloon into a larger question about the legitimacy
of reworking *any*thing that's already been created, and that might require
a fullblown thesis.
(2/21/02 6:56:38 am)
| book addicts
Dear Charles & all
I had the luck to be raised by a mother who found every used book store,
barn, rack in town. On trips to Brooklyn to visit my grandparents we would
always take the subway to 4th Avenue, the long row of used booksellers
that are all now gone except for the Strand... It was horribly boring
for me "can we go yet?" until I realized they also sold used
kid's books... I started using my allowance to buy worn, stained, spine
loose, old editions of fairy tales. I discovered Rackham and Dulac and
the Ford illustrations. I found odd books I've never seen anywhere else.
That dark and intricate world of trials and rewards, the landscapes so
utterly unlike the suburbs of 1960s America, the clothing and tools, all
came to me enriched through the illustrations. I love that good illustrators
imagine the world of the story with a world of objects, animate and inanimate,
that makes a larger universe for me to travel in.
I still liked Disney, the way I liked hanging out in the Mall with my
friends, it was bright and alluring and there to sell me on something.
But they never compared to my old used books, the 25 cent Lang's and St.
I appreciate what each new illustrator brings to the long conversation
with other illustrators. Just as a poet can't write a sonnet without nodding
to Shakespeare, an illustrator can't help but be part of a dialogue over
time with the other interpreters of the same text. We are products of
our time but we are also part of a history. The best illustrators do both,
bringing their current sensibility, their "voice" and their
influences to bring us something that is both fresh and part of a tradition.
Oh well, I'm going on too long. Thanks Charles for bringing this up. I
think your readers (viewers?) will take from your art just what they need
for their own imaginations.
(2/25/02 9:52:19 am)
| Immoral Illustration?
Illustrations add another dimension to the story. The story itself is
seen through the writer's eyes, and the reader's...
a good illustrator only enriches that, like an interesting person joining
A bad one, though, can pull the conversation flat.
As far as having my visualizations overridden by illustrations, you know
what? I live in my own head all day long, and it's fun to see through
someone else's mind's eye for a bit.
Oh, and hey, Charles.