Illustration Lesson Week Three: Pacing and Page Turns

We are at week three! You have created characters, and you have explored your world or setting. This week we will look at visual pacing, and bringing together your ideas. 


There are many components that can be used to create visual cohesion and storytelling throughout your book. 

This week includes:

• An example of highly structured visual storytelling.

• An example of sophisticated yet visually simple storytelling. 

• A variety of examples of elements used in visual storytelling.

• Your assignment

• Week three book list

I usually intuitively divide my text over a 32 page dummy. I read through the dummy feeling the page turns to get a sense of how the story and action reads from page to page. I adjust for balance and storytelling. I add and subtract words as needed. I notice where ideas need to slow down, or speed up, or transition more smoothly. I notice what can be told by illustration and what needs to be articulated in text. I keep adjusting and changing. Simultaneously, I work on the illustrations—illustrating interesting ideas, actions, and themes. I keep everything posted on my picture book wall.(note: as seen in week 1)

Katy and the Big Snow is an exceptional example of visually setting up a picture book. Burton introduces the character, the town, and the map of the town. She then covers it in snow and calls on Katy to dig it out. Burton is a very concise storyteller—she creates elaborate background details and introduces emotions to her machinery all in perfect balance and rhythm.

Another example of exceptional visual storytelling: I Want My Hat back by Jon Klassen—dry humor and simplicity at it's best.

Many of these decisions could be based in intuition—but the more conscious we are of these decisions, the more control we have in our storytelling. These two examples are very different approaches to storytelling. Here are more examples of character, setting, and pacing. Note the various elements each artist uses to create cohesion. 

Visual or Contextual Elements used for Cohesion:

Consider these examples when designing your book's pacing and page to page choices. Are there overall themes in your book that can make it more cohesive visually?

LISTS OF THINGS: Like night shift workers in Night Shift?

COLOR: Like Journey where color has a magic power? Or like The Promise where color is used to symbolize life and connection?

TIME: Like Night Shift where the pages take place in one hour increments throughout the night? Does the span of time have a visual impact on your book—like a change in time of day?

GROWING ILLUSTRATION: Like Where the Wild Things Are: Do your illustrations grow or shrink on a page? Or do you have a concept or element that changes in size over the course of the story?

BORDER DETAILS OR SPOT ILLUSTRATIONS: As in Katy and the Big Snow, can you add details to fill in more information? Or as in Bon Appetite, where the genre is more like a graphic novel? The concepts are highly organized in a visually inventive layout for an appealing read.

SETTING COLLUDES WITH CHARACTER: In Rosie's Walk the setting seems to be intent on creating mishaps for the Fox. Important story development is illustrated rather than stated in the text. 

ILLUSTRATIONS TELL A DIFFERENT STORY OR ADD A LAYER OR LAYERS OF MEANING TO THE TEXT: Can you enhance your storytelling with illustrations that add a layer of meaning to your story or add a different point of view as in It's not My Hat?

REPETITION: Can you use repetition to bring cohesion to your story? Can repetition create a focus on the differences—as in The Very Quiet Cricket?

PAGE TURN SURPRISE: Can you surprise and delight the reader—as in Joonhee Yoon's Beastly Verse?

PACING: How does the pacing work in your story? Are there spots that call for a slower pace or a quicker pace? Can you add pages of illustration to slow down the pace?

What elements can you use with your theme to bring more cohesion to the storytelling? | Brooklyn, NY 

© 2018 by Kristen Balouch

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