Thinking about Composition

andrea u'ren

I’m working on sketches for a book dummy and last week headed to the library for some inspiration.  The children’s  librarian was super nice and helpful– insisting on finding me every book on my list.  I ended up sitting at one of those tiny round tables for an hour paging through picture books piled around me.

One of the comments I received at the picture book workshop was that I should work on including more dynamic compositions.  Specifically different points of view, or angles, of a scene.  I definitely can get stuck in the medium-wide, straight-on shot and forget about playing with all the other perspectives.

Looking through picture books with a specific element in mind is a fun little exercise I find really helpful.  The author and illustrator, Andrea U’Ren, is great at varying the composition on every page of her lovely book Mary Smith.  So let’s have a look, shall we?

From above, looking down over the shoulder:

(Note the detailed peas in her pocket!)

Looking back and down, with a large character in the foreground and a teeny, tiny Mary in the background:

(See her?)

Coming straight at us:

From below, looking up:

Bisecting this wide shot, with the side of the house, gives the reader the feeling of looking down an alley:

I also really like how she illustrates the stories her characters are telling each other with black and white drawings in speech bubbles:

It feels like a fun nod to comics and graphic novels.

And lastly, a wide shot, with Mary in the slight foreground looking back:

While this composition is almost straight on, pushing and pulling the point of view, even minimally, makes a wide shot a bit more interesting.  I think its good to remember that the perspective doesn’t have to be super dramatic to be more dynamic.

Anyhow, I’ve been a fan of U’Ren ever since Pugdog was published.  I love her thick lines, planes of color, and how all her characters have this great, grounded weight to them.  If you haven’t already, definitely check her out.

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2 Responses to “Thinking about Composition”

  1. Jenn D. Says:

    Hi Gaia,

    I’m glad to have met you and it was a treat to see your beautiful work. You are very talented, especially at illustrating people! Your blog is also fascinating – the Oscar cookies are a riot!

    The crit group has been really helpful with information and solid feedback. I am usually pretty blown away by the talent in the room but everyone has been so down to earth and welcoming. I have been going for almost 2 years now.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

  2. gaia Says:

    Thanks for the kind words Jenn.
    I know! Everyone’s work was so amazing! And it seems like people are pretty prolific, or at least are working on projects. I’m really excited about it. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from you guys!

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