My first go wasn’t too bad- but the night-time panel wasn’t dark enough. It seemed like early morning, and Josh would (should) be asleep by then 🙂 I wasn’t sure about the colours in the day-time panel either. But I liked the blur of colour from the left-hand panel across the gutter.
When I had tried colours for a few pages, I started to see that sometimes it looked good if just a few things were coloured in, and other parts were left white. So I tried that. And I darkened up the night-time panel.
Last week I wrote about how opening scenes work, and showed some early roughs of the opening scene for Last Viking.
I tried various options that didn’t quite work, which helped me become clearer about what I wanted the opening scene to achieve. It needed to do several things:
Introduce Josh and Wolverine, and show the closeness of their relationship (who)
Show that Josh is a creative, imaginative and resourceful kid (who)
Introduce Josh’s problem (fear) and have the reader empathise with his feelings (what)
probably show Josh in his room- night-time would be easiest to show fear, but daytime would be easiest to show Josh and Wolverine playing (where, when)
So with those things in mind, I kept sketching. I did a little set of thumbnails where the double page spread would have two panels. One would be big and dark, showing Josh’s room at night time. Josh and Wolverine are visible only as silhouettes, seen in a cubby made from a blanket. The bulk of the text would relate to this panel and go in a column at far left. The thinner panel on the right would show Josh and Wolverine poking their heads out from the cubby the next morning, with the line, “But other than those things, Josh is as brave as a lion” written close by.
Here’s a bigger version with some tone added. There is still a silhouette of a dinosaur on the far wall. Josh’s skateboard is on the floor next to Wolverine’s cushion.
The opening scene of a picture book is so important:
it introduces the main character/s (who)
it introduces the main problem or conflict (what)
it introduces a world (when, where)
it sets the emotional tone (via the writer’s voice and the illustrator’s pictures)
and if it works, it can hook readers in instantly.
But if an opening scene doesn’t work, people won’t want to read the book. As Norm has said to me on many a facetious occasion – ‘no pressure, Picasso’. It took me a while to get an opening scene I was happy with, so I’ve put together some posts outlining the process.
The opening text for The Last Viking doesn’t spell out an obvious scene, so I found it quite a challenge to illustrate. The text goes like this:
Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything – except maybe the dark and the sound of ghosts whistling in the trees at night.
Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires.
But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.
The text introduces the character (Josh) and the main conflict (Josh suffers from fear). So, we have our who and our what. But it doesn’t specifically say where or when the scene takes place. This would be up to me as the illustrator to decide.
Norm had seen some illustrations of mine, where I’d drawn a young boy dressed as a knight and various other characters. So his initial idea for the opening illustration of Last Viking was to have Josh dressed as each of the characters mentioned- a ghost, a pirate, a dinosaur, and so on. However, I couldn’t imagine Josh dressing up as characters that he was afraid of, and I didn’t think it would set the right emotional tone. That is, if Josh is afraid, the picture needs to be scary.
Here’s the very first sketch, and a stretched-out landscape version.