Talent, heart, sense of humor — Dana Arnim has it all! In addition to sharing her talents with Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch Books as the illustrator for Bartholomew Quill, A Crow’s Quest to Know Who’s Who, (Thor Hansen), she is co-Regional Advisor of the Western Washington Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators with Dana Sullivan. So around here, she’s known as Dana 1, or D1. It is with great delight that I host Dana 1 today for Friend Friday.
After the first rush of adrenalin had washed out of my system following the offer from Sasquatch Books to illustrate a picture book, I was eager (OK, ravenously eager) to get the manuscript for Bartholomew Quill from author Thor Hansen.
Bartholomew Quill weighs in at a respectable 433 words. In rhyming verse we learn the story of a crow who doesn’t know what kind of creature he is. “BQ,” as I think of him, or “Young Bart,” as the folks at Sasquatch call him, questions the other animals he meets to determine his own identity and searches until his quest is fulfilled. After several read-throughs, I began to envision which text to illustrate, glad that Thor, writing his first ever picture book, had not been overly descriptive, but had left me room to maneuver visually. (BTW, he pronounces it “Tor,” and he should know.)
As anyone who’s been paying attention regarding picture books knows, paring word count down to the essential number is critical. What that number is varies greatly. Kevan Atteberry’s Bunnies has, by my count, 49 words, 20 of them “bunnies,” one of them “buuu.” John Muth’s Zen Shorts, has over 1000 (I didn’t have the patience to finish the count). In each case, the job of creating the look and feel of the story’s world is left to the illustrator. Of course, both of these examples were created by one person, who both wrote and illustrated the book, and had just what they intended in mind.
Since I had no control over word choice or count, I combed the text for initial meaning and for absences I could fill and opportunities I could expand upon with my choice of image. The manuscript posed an obvious question to me: why didn’t BQ know what he was? The other animals understood their identities, so why didn’t he? My answer was that Bartholomew must have been separated from his family at a critical age. I conferred with my editor about subtly integrating a family reunion into the resolution of Bartholomew’s tale and was given the go-ahead. In many spreads, his parents are tiny dots, but as the story draws to a close, they become more prominent, finally celebrating Bartholomew’s self-knowledge together.
In conjunction with my choice of scenes, action, and characters, pagination was another tool I used to direct the reader’s attention. The following passage had excellent potential for humor and whimsy. While most pages hosted four or five lines each, I spread these four over six pages in order to take advantage of their pictorial potential.
The wolves and the moose were too hairy,
the seals and the salmon too wet.
The herons too tall, the sparrow too small,
The beetles and slugs smaller yet.
These were some of my favorite pages to illustrate. My editor was pleased with the roughs and I immersed myself completely in the work of creativity. Thor was delighted with the finals, having felt concern giving his beautiful baby to someone else to complete. And I’m positively, ravenously, eager for more!
Dana (D1) is an illustrator and writer. Her debut picture book, Bartholomew Quill, A Crow’s Quest to Know Who’s Who, written by Thor Hanson, came out in April 2016 from Little Bigfoot (imprint of Sasquatch Books) Her work can also be seen on the iPad app Farfaria, and on her website at www.danaarnim.com. She lives in Seattle with her handy and handsome husband, amazing daughter, and the requisite cats and dog. email@example.com