David: Robobaby grew out of the work I did for my app, David Wiesner’s Spot (Only available on an iPad. Now only 99 cents! Search for it with that full title, otherwise you’ll get Eric Hill’s Spot apps).
e: Of course! What was your creative process/medium for Robobaby, can you walk us through it?
David: Each book I do grows out of an idea, most often a visual one. The sources of the ideas are all different and the visual connections and inspirations I bring to that idea are also all different for each book. But the basic process is similar.
Like most, I begin in a sketchbook. My stories grow out of my drawings. I don’t write an outline. I look at what is happening on the page and let the drawings lead me places. I try not self censor - if something seemingly random appears, I welcome it. My subconscious is part of the process.
I then begin to put these drawings into a thumbnail layout to see how they look in book form. I work from the beginning or from the end or from the middles out, rarely from page one to page thirty-two. Alas, this writing/drawing process can take from not-so-long to very-long. I never know how long it will take, but there is that Aha! moment for each book I’ve done when the story falls into place.
More recently I have taken to working at full-size before the story is all there. I like to having more room to draw. These drawings are rough. All the world building and character design happens after there is a story It is tempting to get caught up in that fun stuff, but the story is the hard stuff, and avoidance will get you nowhere!
When the story is basically there, I begin to make a more detailed dummy. The way the pages are designed and laid out are the language of telling stories in picture books. The rhythm from page to page, the mix of single page images, to multi-panel images, to double-page spreads is key. The use of borders and full bleed images play a part. All these elements define the experience of reading the pictures. The story affects how I design and the design affects the telling of the story.
Robobaby went through this process. Here are some of the sketchbook drawings - the first are quick thoughts about scenes:
That job led to textbook work from Cricket’s publisher, Open Court Publishing. I also got textbook work from places like Houghton Mifflin. I did some early readers (pre-sep art! Gag - read about it here: http://www.davidwiesner.com/work/be-afraid/ )
I got an agent and began to do lots of book jackets (with seriously mixed results). I did a couple picture books for other authors. But I had a portfolio with images that I really wanted to find stories for. No editor or art director I saw had any. Frankly, they didn’t know how to react to them. A couple examples:
That portfolio piece above eventually became June 29, 1999 (in 1992):
David: Some stories take time, and a lot of effort, to uncover. I can only keep working, drawing, until the story reveals itself. That can be challenging. Each day I have to sit at my desk and put pencil to paper (it’s not going to happen any other way!). At the end of the day I may be no further along than I was when I started. And yet I have to come back the next day and do it again. And then again. But I have done it before, so I believe that if I keep drawing, a story will eventually develop.
David: I just follow my ideas where they take me. I’m not looking for a “big idea”, I’m looking for a good story - not an easy thing. And I know when a story of mine is really good or just pretty good. I’m not going to spend two or more years making a book I’m not in love with.
David: I never talk about a project this early on! As for dream projects, I’ve already been doing them. The story dictates the form. I did the app and I did a graphic novel because that’s what those stories wanted to be. Each time I let the story lead me where it wants to go. That’s the dream isn’t it?
David: Wow. I will have to think about that more.
e: I'll ask again! David, thank you so much for sharing! I wish you much continued success!