The Joy and Torture of Art Notes/No Art Notes

I love art notes.

I hate art notes.

Okay, I really only hate them a little bit. Mostly, I do love them. And, at this stage on my PB path, I’m using them. A lot.

As I’ve mentioned before…I. Can’t. Draw. stick figure

But, you know, I can see! One of my favorite things about writing picture books is that I seem to get snapshot images in my brain as I write–as though I’m eavesdropping on my characters and, at just the right moment, I click my cellphone camera, and…There! That’s what it looks like. Except the images don’t really look like photographs, they look like illustrations. Illustrations I can’t draw.

So I throw in an art note. It seems to capture that image for me, not just on the page, but in my mind. It brings the characters and action to live–still life, yes, but “animated” in the way only a fantastic illustrator can do.

Yes, most of the art notes will come out. (Remember that little bit of hating them?) I know they have to. I know, when I get to the stage where an illustrator is actually working with my words, I won’t get to say, “Draw this.” And, although it’ll be painful at the time, I believe it’s the right way for this process to go. I remember Jim Averbeck talking about the illustrations Tricia Tusa did for his picture book, In a Blue Room (which if you haven’t read, you MUST, because It is the most amazing blend of perfect words and perfect art). Jim said, and I’m paraphrasing and interpreting here, that Tricia created art and, consequently pieces of story, that he had never imagined. And, at least to me, he seemed to describe that fact as a gift to him and to the book.

So, no, I don’t want to push my ideas on any illustrator. (Okay, only a TINY bit of me wants to do that!) I’ll take out the art notes. Most of them. One of the skills I think PB writers have to learn and, hopefully, master, is what very few notes need to stay and which very many notes are simply writing tools.

Tools that I’m using.


  1. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Having had some wonderful illustrations for my short stories, and very nice book covers for my novels, I am happy to give artists that room. As you said, it gives them space to take the work to places we couldn’t imagine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: