Lisa J. Michaels
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HUDSON~ Although picture books are among the easiest to read, they're among the hardest to create.
Just ask Lisa Michaels.
A life-long artist, Michaels started seriously pursuing her dream of creating picture books about six years ago.
During that time, she's completed three books and she is hard at work on number four.
"I chalk the first two up to writing experience," said the optimistic brunette. "The books didn't fall within publisher's parameters, but I learned as much as possible from that experience and used it for the next book."
She thinks she took too long in creating her third book, "Purple Piggies", about a red-haired girl with purple painted toenails.
"The industry is constantly changing. The most important thing for an illustrator is making sure you know what's going in publishing," said Michaels.
In addition to her personal experience, Michaels was able to learn more about the business of illustration from a membership in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
"It's difficult to take on this kind of endeavor, and without any feedback from a supportive group you can really flounder," she said.
Michaels has gotten a lot of help from other society members at their monthly critique sessions.
One would say she's drawing on their experience.
She's also been bombarded by parents and grandparents who want her to illustrate the "wonderful stories" they've written.
She created an exhibit at Hudson Regional Library to show potential picture-book authors all the steps of the process of combining words and art. The exhibit will be on display through November 30 next to the children's picture book section.
"Part of the reason why I wanted to do this exhibit was to let people know everything that goes into creating one of these books. It's difficult to do when you know all the nuances of
the story, it's even harder when you have to envision someone else's idea," she said.
"This is an opportunity for me to show anybody who thought about making a picture book how difficult it can be. The standards are so high and the competition is so stiff.
Only a fraction of publishers produce picture books, and each of them usually prints only two or three a year," Michaels said.
Her exhibit goes through the process she follows in illustrating a book – from beginning a manuscript through rewriting and character development, to drawing the final illustrations. She usually-begins her drawings in pencil, coloring with Prismacolor colored pencils, and sometimes scans them into her computer for additional coloring and shading.
She makes what she calls "the wheel" to figure out how the actions will take place during the 32-48 pages publishers prefer for picture books. The action for each page is put in order around the central theme, making parts of the story look like the spokes of a wheel.
"You can't miss a beat because kids are going to notice and editors will too," she said. She also makes a "dummy book" on regular typing paper, with each page sketched out, before beginning the final drawings.
"I seriously start drawing when I'm sure it's going to work," she explained. "After I know the flow is there, the characters are right and where the dialogue is going to go.
Much of her process is also captured on the Web site she created, called "Whimsical Scribbles, at:
Initially envisioned as a means to let art directors peruse her portfolio, Michaels made the site very easy to navigate-allowing her younger and older art students to check it out as well.
Michaels teaches art to student's ages 4-12, and also leads a free weekly class for older adults at the CARES Hudson-Bayonet Point Senior Enrichment Center.
Her other interests, which also include participating in local art shows and crafts fairs, allow her to pursue her dream.
"Everything I've done, even in other jobs, everything prior to this will have to do with my success," she said. "I feel like it's right around the corner." Amy Roundtree can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 29th, 2006
Illustrating her world
Library Exhibit tells picture book story
BY AMY ROUNDTREE
Suncoast News Staff