Spring has Sprung!

Summer has been fun here in the Albert Whitman offices, because our new Spring 2011 titles are in full-tilt production. 

Original art as been breezing through on the way to pre-press 

Original art from Princess Kim and Too Much Truth by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, sequel to Princess K.I.M. and the Lie That Grew

color proofs float through on the way to the printer 

Color proofs from The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Kristi Valiant

and dummies spread across table tops for all to see. 

Sales dummies for This Tree, 1, 2, 3 (The Board Book edition of This Tree Counts! by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow) and Done with Diapers! A Potty ABC (The Board Book edition of Danny Is Done With Diapers! A Potty ABC by Rebecca O'Connell, illustrated by Amanda Gulliver)

Finished books are still months away and pub dates aren’t until March, but as the Spring 2011 selling season enters full swing in September, it’s very exciting to watch these final stages of book production come together.

Spring has Sprung!

Illustration Station: Q&A with an Art Director

Soon the spring ’11 artwork will start pouring in to be digitalized, printed, and bound.  Before our art director Nick becomes buried in a mountain of watercolor paintings I thought I would sit down and ask him about the art of, well, art.

AWC: How do you generate a pool of illustrators with whom we could work?

Nick: Agents, referrals, past illustrators, unsolicited postcards and slush pile submissions.  I usually go online and check out their work on their website or blog and sometimes I link to the blogs they follow to find new people that way.  I’m always looking for consistency in the work.

AWC: How do you and the editors decide which illustrator to assign to a book?

Nick: It’s all subjective.  It’s about style, about what fits with the story.  You might look at some art and say, ‘that’s too graphic’ or others and say ‘that’s too editorial.’ But regardless, the manuscript leads the illustration.  We start with a mock-up book that is text-only and I decide how to block the art.  Then I’ll offer guidance to the illustrator.  For instance, with The Really Groovy Story of the Tortoise and the Hare (Spring 2011) I said, ‘Well, the rabbit is kind of cosmopolitan – maybe it should have a backpack of some sort.’

AWC: What are some of the trends we are seeing right now?

Nick: Well, the graphic novel is huge right now, and we are seeing it have some influence, but you have to be careful because sometimes it can look too cartoony for a picture book.  Then there’s digital.  Everything is going digital.  Last year it was something like 60/40 or 70/30 traditional versus digital, but this year it’s the exact opposite.  Take this one (pointing to The Three Bully Goats), the illustrator drew the outlines but painted everything digitally.

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AWC: I bet the digital artwork makes it easier for the printers to get the colors exactly right.

Nick: Not always.  With reproduction the CMYK colors are always muddier and darker than the Pantone versions.  See the brightness of that green in the grass?  We’ll never get it as fluorescent as that.  It’ll look more like this color here.  [See Below]

AWC: What did you do before you came to Albert Whitman?

Nick: I worked in advertising as an art director.

AWC: What about your own art work?  Do you still paint or draw?

Nick: (Laughs).  Not anymore, no.  Not after looking at art all day.

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Illustration Station: Q&A with an Art Director