Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Turkey Lurkey Times Two

Every year the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) hosts a contest for their illustrator members. The award is given by artist Tomie dePaola who, up until 2011, financed the award himself (now, SCBWI pays out the award).  Tomie was the artist responsible for getting the 'I' for Illustrators added to the society's name. Each year, he selects some text as a challenge for artists to illustrate.  The prize is a $1,000 gift certificate for art supplies and a trip to the NY winter conference.  This year he chose a passage from the well known children's fable, "Chicken Little." There have been many adaptations of this story, but the version that dePaola chose for this year's contest is by P.C. Asbjörnsen.

So they went along and went along until they met Turkey Lurkey
“Good morning, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Daddles, Cocky Locky, Henny Penny,
and Chicken Licken,” said Turkey Lurkey, “where are you going?”
“Oh, Turkey Lurkey, the sky is falling and we are going to tell the King!” 
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.
“Ducky Daddles told me,” said Goosey Loosey.
“Cocky Locky told me,” said Ducky Daddles.
“Henny Penny told me,” said Cocky Locky.
“Chicken Licken told me,” said Henny Penny 
“I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears,
and a piece of it fell on my tail!” said Chicken Licken. 
“Then I will go with you,” said Turkey Lurkey, “and we will tell the King!”

If you read the selection, you can see that, other than a lot of conversation, there is not really any action taking place. You have five characters, a goose, a duck, a rooster, a hen, and a chick taking turns answering Turkey Lurkey's question of "Where are you going?"

I ended up creating two illustrations for this challenge (I only submitted one).  The first illustration I created, was in my usual style, with somewhat realistic animals set against an animated film-style background.  It was perfectly fine, but I didn't think there was anything extraordinary about it. In the contest rules, dePaola says that he wants to be surprised by the illustration and jealous that he didn't think of doing it that way. Well, I didn't feel that my first attempt was at all surprising, and even though I was happy with the composition and I loved the colors, I felt it looked too Disney like and I doubted that someone of dePaola's experience would have been made jealous by it.

I decided to rethink the entire image and to try and work in a different style.  Changing your style is not an easy thing to do. It's like trying to draw with your left hand when you've grown up drawing with your right hand. I felt my brain was constantly trying to derail my efforts and to switch me back to older habits.

In an early version, I had chicken little on the ground.
I had a bit of a break through one night when my partner and I went to the movies.  We have a wonderful cinema here in town on the campus of Indiana University. One night they were showing Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 comedy "The Trouble with Harry." I hadn't seen the film in over 20 years so I was delightfully surprised when I saw the opening credits.  They were drawn by an uncredited Saul Steinberg in a style reminiscent of Paul Klee. They had the charm of a child's drawing but the sophistication of a mid-century New Yorker cartoon.

My final image that I ended up submitting to the contest.
When I got home, I tried to recall the images from the credits. In the credits, the camera pans from left to right across drawings consisting mostly of stylized plants and trees. There are a few birds in the drawing and they are all looking to the right. The camera continues to pan in that direction and it eventually comes to a stop, showing us what the birds have been looking at - a man's corpse. What I particularly loved about these credits was the stylized look of the plants, trees and flowers and those are what I tried to recreate in my re-imagined scene from "Chicken Little." You can can see what I came up with in the last image on the right.

The winner was supposed to be announced on January 2nd, but since today is January 3rd, it looks like I didn't win.  But that's okay, I learned a lot from this challenge and I've got two new pieces for my portfolio.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Vincent, happy new year, i really like the stylized version, feels nicely balanced.