A Perfect Pairing: Artist and Writer
Without illustrators, writers would never see their works come to life in poetry, short stories, graphic novels or children’s books. Illustrators who collaborate with writers effectively bring life to specific scenes and characters that live in a writer’s head. Through their genius, these agents of visual art are able to translate and transform letters, sentences and paragraphs into instant images that inform and enhance the story.
Writers describe exactly what they see in their mind’s eye until they are blue in the face. It is the gift of the artist to be able to ‘read’ into writers – ‘see’ what they are writing and morph it all into a vision that unites action to image. They are the star, yet many remain in the very background they area asked to paint…
I have been fortunate to collaborate with one such artist named, Colette Gagnon. She quietly immersed herself in the creative drama projects, which I developed to teach kids about prehistoric times using drama and art. Her keen talent proved to be uber-rewarding for the kids. The props and mural she created with the children stimulated their imaginations, transporting them to other worlds based in reality and fantasy. She gently guided them like a seeing-eye demi-god.
Another inspiration was Lynne Meloche, a fantastic artist whose hilarious drawings were perfectly suited to the amusing family that lived in my head, destined for a children’s book. I wrote about this family using verse poetry to convey how the five senses of these crazy characters led to antics that bordered on the absurd. Lynne and I were a happy duo, and the more we discovered how much fun these characters were, the more Lynne enlivened the entire story. Her drawings were spot on for this work (The Crazy and Amazing Five Senses Book). She saw exactly what I wanted. I even ‘blocked’ where each character was to be on each page and tried to give her specific ideas as to how I saw these characters in my head. My attempts to draw them were pathetic. Because of her, the book took on a life of its own. Her drawings were a huge success for kids. I had the pleasure to do a book reading at Chapters here in Ottawa, and the kids laughed far more at the pictures than they did the words.
Years ago, I made wooden shape verse books about nature and illustrated them in the most primitive way, using pen, magic marker and letraset for the text. I made about 50 by hand. I enjoyed the band saw cutting, drawing and colouring in, but when a publisher approached me to have them mass produced, it was time to find a real artist. A delightful cheery chap named Olivier Dumoulin refined my drawings and prepared them for publication. His patience was remarkable.
In the past, I have interviewed oodles of artists. Most remain humble about their beguiling talent. Their visions brilliantly explode onto the canvas or a page filled with words, creating immeasurable impact.