Yesterday, Laura and I got together to discuss tweaking some of the illustrations for Granny Rainbow.
Basically, the style of the pictures has changed as Laura's become more familiar with her graphics tablet; this means that earlier pictures are more 'sketchy' than later ones. It was something I hadn't realised myself until I put a certain little book together the other day, because seeing the pictures in situ made me look at them with fresh eyes. As we'd noticed the same thing independently, we talked about it and decided that the right thing to do was bring all the finished pieces to a more consistent style.
At the end of a couple of hours, we had agreed on which pictures we felt needed more work and found source materials to use as inspiration. Both of us are happy with what's been decided, even though Granny Rainbow's ultimate publication date may probably have to be set back slightly to allow time for the changes we're making.
It was huge fun. I got to play with the graphics tablet - although it was the weirdest thing, trying to draw something on a screen without looking at what my hand was doing! Made me realise how, when I draw anything, I'm constantly using what's already on the paper as a reference for where my hand goes next. I couldn't even write my name properly!
Anyway, just before I started writing this blog, I received the new, updated Granny Rainbow picture...
At first, I really wasn't sure about the change; I 'knew' what Granny looked like, and it wasn't this! But seeing a different version of the same character made me realise how much we imprint a picture onto our imaginations. Some might argue that I should let the reader imagine characters for themselves, instead of providing a picture of how Laura and I see them. That may well work for certain texts, but I think that pictures can add to the enjoyment of reading - even for adults.
Personally, I think that when you do choose to add illustrations to support your text, you have a responsibility to make them fit your story - which means having a trusting relationship with your illustrator. In the wider world of publishing, authors very rarely get the opportunity to work so closely with an artist; if you're lucky enough to be taken on by a major publisher, it's often the publisher who decides on the illustrator, not you. It can be written into a contract that the author has more say, I believe, but not always.
I thank my lucky stars that Laura is so open to my gut feelings about the characters I've written - and that as a result, I can trust her to bring them to life on the page. Now that I'm more used to her, (Granny - not Laura!) I reckon this newer version of the title character has built on what was in the original. Nothing has been lost. She's just been...polished. And come up sparkling!
I think we've found a perfect author-artist connection.