Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sonia Kretschmar Illustrator - Do Not Forget Australia

It's an exciting day on the blog! A blog tour and... one lucky reader will win a copy of today's book.

With ANZAC Day just a month away today's blog tour book 'Do Not Forget Australia' (Walker Books Australia) is the perfect choice for a home or school library. Author Sally Murphy and illustrator Sonia Kretschmar have been 'on tour' on blogs all over Australia, talking about the development, creation and inspiration behind this heart-warming picture book set during World War One in two towns a world apart; Villers-Bretonneux in France and Melbourne in Australia.

It is also the story of two little boys (Henri in Villers-Bretonneux and Billy in Melbourne), each missing their soldier father. While Billy is reluctant to attend school in Australia, Henri's school in France has been devastated by the encroaching war,

"It was as if a giant had squeezed the schoolhouse in its hand and scattered the splintered remains."

Today we are honoured to host award-winning illustrator, Sonia Kretschmar. I've asked Sonia if she would chat to us about how she progressed from initial sketches to final illustration for 'Do Not Forget Australia'.

Sonia has been kind enough to give us a preview peek at not only her final artwork for the page where little Henri and his mother stand in the schoolyard in front of the ruined school, but also the lead up rough sketches for this double page spread. How lucky are we!

Welcome Sonia to Under The Apple Tree.

Sonia: From the initial roughs I created, which were very much single scene pages, it was apparent from early on that the whole approach needed to be a lot more atmospheric and “filmic”. In the sample shown below, I firstly tried to compare the overwhelming nature of the devastation Henri and his mother faced with an emotional closeup, when it quickly became apparent that it worked much more effectively to simply have the characters surrounded by their environment. The body language of the pair needed to be tweaked to be read easily, but once the initial leap was made, the development of this spread was fairly straight forward.

For an experienced illustrator like you, Sonia, it might be straight forward, but, for those blog readers who are viewing the final illustration, the composition of the double spread is also worth noting. The careful placement of mother and son as focal point and the balance of light and dark are brilliant. Sonia deftly leads the viewer's eye from the white smoke pointing to the schoolhouse, around the curved form of the old woman and down her arm to her hand, where finally two sticks point back towards the mother and son. Perfect.

The story is told from two perspectives; Henri and Billy's. I was wondering, Sonia, what was your initial approach to the visual telling, and how did you decide on the medium used?

Sonia: The story is told concurrently, with scenes from both Australia and France during WW1, so I decided early on to use contrasting palettes – bright and warm for Australia, muted tones for France – to help differentiate between the two.

I chose the medium – Acrylic on paper and Photoshop - to give a sense of personality and warmth through texture, as well as to give me a greater sense of control within the finished art phase. All up, I think it took about six months from developing roughs to final art.

The 15 double page illustrations within 'Do Not Forget Australia' successfully evoke the mood and time of World War One. What was your process for gathering ideas and what influenced your artwork for this book?

Sonia: To get a sense of place and history I perused a lot of websites devoted to French historical postcards, I also took a couple of “tours” of  contemporary Villers Bretonneux (the village where the French portion of the story is set) courtesy of Google Street View. The Australian War Museum also has a great collection of images from the time, including the work of artists working on the battlefront. I was not that familiar with Army uniforms and paraphanalia, so it was very interesting to learn more about it all.

Research certainly is one of the most fascinating and rewarding areas of creating children's books. Thank you, Sonia, for sharing your time and creative processes with us today and good luck with tomorrow, the final day of the blog tour with Lorraine Marwood. It was lovely to have you visit Under The Apple Tree.

That was a fascinating insight to the planning and creative thought behind picture book illustration from Sonia Kretschmar.

I'm looking forward to your thoughts, so please leave a comment below and you will go in the draw to win a copy of 'Do Not Forget Australia'!

Good luck!

The 'Do Not Forget Australia' blog tour is below (You can still visit any of these tour days)

1st March 2012 Let's Have Words
2nd March 2012 Kids Book Capers
3rd March 2012 Running With Pens
4th march 2012 Read and Write with Dale
5th March 2012 Karen Tyrrell
6th March 2012 Writing for Children
7th March 2012 Spinning Pearls
8th March 2012 Katwhiskers
12th March 2012 Pass It On
12th March 2012 Kids Book Review
13th March 2012 Under the Apple Tree


Sally_Odgers said...

Google Streetview is wonderful for getting the feel of a place, isn't it? In fact, all those satellite world-view sites and programs can give added perspective. Thanks for an informative piece on how an illustrator approaches a text.

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Fascinating, Sonia! I really enjoyed reading this from the illustrator's point of view (being into art myself :)).

Thank you to both you and Angela for this very interesting post on how you interpreted the text.

Kat Apel said...

Oh - another process picture. Good to see, Sonia. And hear your reasoning along the way. (Angela's analysis was also helpful for a non-artist, such as myself!)

Great post, ladies.

(My first comment had a typo in the link. Silly me.)

Angela Sunde. said...

Absolutely, Sally. My WIP is relying heavily on both Google Street View and Google Maps, even though I've actually been to the setting before and took many pictures. I also find Picasa a source, looking at other people's photos of the same setting in winter (as I was only there in summer).

Thanks for your comments, Sally, Sheryl and Kat. The process of the illustrator is what always fascinates me. When I pick up a new pic book, I study the artwork first. And... I only buy a pic book if I love the illustrations or have something to learn from them.

DimbutNice said...

Captivated by this book, subject and almost haunting illustrations Angela. I do enjoy this decalage style of writing and depicting a tale. Kudos to Sally and Sonia both for re-creating and sharing such an endearing piece of history with us all.

Angela Sunde. said...

Thank you, Dimity. Yes, I am also taken with this beautiful book. Walker Books has given me a copy to give away, but it'll be hard to part with it!

Kaz Delaney said...

Lovely interview Angela - and insightful answers Sonia.

I love this book and have been touting it far and wide - but what a treat to have you, Angela, point out the nuances that I suppose I can say I 'got' - but now understand 'why' I 'got' them.

With you and Sonia de-constructing these beautiful illustrations I found even more to be intrigued by.

I am such a pleb when it comes to art, and I feel so (grateful! and) clever when someone points out the finer details and explains them.

Thank you - a really inspiring post!

Angela Sunde. said...

Thank you, Kaz. So lovely of you to comment. I'm really just a newbie when it comes to deconstructing images, but it is so much fun to finally understand why some compositions work and others don't. Thanks for stopping by.

Dale said...

Not being an artist myself I am always fascinated how the artistic mind works.Don't enter me in the draw though Angela as I already have a copy of this great book.

June Perkins said...

The use of different tones - muted versus bright - to contrast place shows how each act of illustration is very deliberate, thanks for sharing more about the art form of the illustrator.

Angela Sunde. said...

Thanks for visiting, Dale and June.

I've been leafing through the book today looking at each illustration with a fresh understanding. It's glorious!

Sally Murphy said...

Thanks Angela and Sonia - it's fascinating to hear about the illustrative process which the author is removed from. I've learnt a lot today!

Karen Tyrrell said...

Thanks Angela and Sonia for this in-depth interview and insight into the process of making illustrations.

Especially loved the layering effect of the process picture.

Angela Sunde. said...

It's a pleasure, Sally! I'm sure it's been an exhausting time visiting so many blogs. I'm so glad you found something new in this post.

Thank you, Karen. I'm pleased you enjoyed the illustrations Sonia shared with us. These rough preliminary sketches are usually never seen, but they tell so much about the thought process behind the creation of each page.

Peter Taylor said...

I love this post. Very many thanks to you both. It's always a highlight seeing pictures of a work as it progresses.

All best wishes


Angela Sunde. said...

Thanks, Peter. I agree.

Sorry for the late announcement. ..

The winner of the free copy of Do Not Forget Australia is...... .....

Kat Apel

Congratulations, Kat. My visitor from the UK pulled your name out of a hat - a Kiwi SwanDry hat at that.