Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pictures Mean Business!

Blue Pegasus Banner by Sarah McIntyre

Illustration is magic. When my mom gave me my first picture books, I was a complete analphabetic. I wasn’t even three years old at the time, and the whole situation would have been very frustrating and complicated if it wasn’t for pictures. 

Pictures made it possible for me to enjoy (and, consequently, fall in love with) books at an early age, inviting me to dive deeper into wonderful worlds that would have been completely off-limits otherwise. I’d come up with my own stories, based on the illustrations on the book. I’d spend hours playing with them, letting my imagination fly high, as I doodled my own contributions on the margins.

After growing up, things didn’t change that much. Although I’m no longer analphabetic -viva!-, I still prefer picture books over their pictureless opposites. Illustrations bring more flavor to stories, pretty much like chocolate sauce does.

In fact, once we enter the realm of picture books, illustrations acquire a whole new relevance. They allow the narrative to materialize, shaping the hearts and souls of its characters and the world they inhabit, by turning the words into images and enriching the whole story.

I can’t think of Winnie the Witch, for example, without evoking Korky Paul’s illustrations. The same applies to Spiderwick chronicles and Tony DiTerlizzi’s  artwork, or Anita Jeram and the beautiful world she created for “Guess How Much I Love You”. Every time a picture book is illustrated, a special bond is created, linking both writer and illustrator into one harmonious unity.

Illustrations are the first thing we see when we look at a picture book. It’s right there, welcoming on the cover, inviting us to open the book and take it home. Words come later, once pictures have already persuaded us that the book is worth reading.

I witnessed the power of pictures in (its purest form) less than three weeks ago, at a newsstand in Brazil. There were a few books hidden on the bottom shelves, and one captivated me instantly with its delightful cover. It framed the title with glorious pink flowers and lush greenery; a promise of the even greater aesthetic pleasures that remained treasured within its pages.
It was a poetry book. And although I would have loved to taste its poems a bit before making my decision, my desire was restrained by the plastic wrapping that sealed the book almost hermetically.
In normal conditions, not being able to sample the writing would have discouraged me from buying the book. But, this time, temptation was too strong. The power of pictures proved to be mightier than reason. And still, although the poems ultimately proved their worth, every time I open this precious jewel to read its words, my eyes drift away from them, choosing the enchantment of its illustrations instead.

Illustrating is hard work! It takes lots of imagination and time, creativity and talent -not to mention endless years of study and practice! Illustrations are precious, just as the artists that craft them. Illustrators (and cover artists) deserve to be credited for their artwork -especially on front covers-, to be included by publishers in Nielsen data and in the AIs (Advanced Information Sheets) they submit to the media, and to receive just compensation for their creations.

I'm adhering to the PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, which means, among many things, that I won't be buying any books that don't credit the illustrator on its front cover. 

Show your support to illustrators! Use the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag and spread the word about this important campaign!

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