SEMESTER 1, 1999


The Collaborative Efforts Between Author and Illustrator

Name: Melissa Ward
ID: 953 141

Tutor: Belle Alderman

Tutorial: Wednesday, 3.30pm

The collaborative process between author and illustrator in the production of children's picture books is not something that can be easily defined. This is because every artist has an individual way of approaching and producing work. The fact that a publishing house is often responsible for matching authors and illustrators is also a contributing factor to the production of a children's picture book. At a Canberra Children's Book Council seminar in 1990, Margaret Wild said: 'When you first start writing picture books...a publisher... will suggest who the illustrator is going to be.' (Creative Connections, p. 138) On collaborating with illustrators, Wild suggests that it is the contribution of both artists that makes a book work:

'Sometimes the illustrator's pictures are quite different to what you had in mind...an illustrator is going to see your story...and interpret it in his or her way...that's the way it should be. I really don't interfere very much at all with...illustrators...it's theirs as well as mine.' (Creative Connections, p. 138)

Some illustrators also turn their hands to writing their own stories. Examples of these are Alison Lester, a prominent author/illustrator who began her career with picture book illustrations (Creative Connections, p.l55), and Dee Huxley, primarily a graphic artist and illustrator, who has illustrated many books as well as writing three of her own. (Creative Connections, p.201) The majority of artists, however, tend to concentrate on either writing or illustrating. Then there is the need to collaborate with another artist, and it is this process that I will examine through the study of several authors and illustrators.

There are many authors and illustrators of whose work I admire. Firstly I would like to look at the collaborative work between the author Jenny Wagner and the illustrator Ron Brooks. According to Clare Scott-Mitchell (Give Them Wings, p.82), 'Jenny Wagner and illustrator Ron Brooks have collaborated to produce picture books of great significance.' The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek (1973) and John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat (1977) both won the Children's Book Council of Australia's Picture Book of the Year Award in their respective years, as well as being commended for and winning several other prestigious awards. (The Inside Story, p.l73) Wagner also collaborated with Brooks to produce Aranea: A Story about a Spider (1975). It was a drawing for this book that "'just didn't fit"' that inspired Wagner to write .John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat. "'I'll write you a story about an old lady and a dog,"' she said to Brooks, but had no idea what it would be about, except that it would encapsulate 'the very close loving relationship between the two that (she) had seen in his picture.' (The Inside Story, p.174) On collaborating with Brooks, Wagner says: 'we had several sessions together just talking and then I went away and left Ron to it.' The first drawings, she goes on to say, 'were terrifying. Ron had illustrated the dark side of the text.' The final pictures 'were beautiful and obviously perfect for the book.' They reflected the 'cosiness and the warmth' within the story that had been left for the illustrator to portray visually, as well as subtly illustrating the 'hint of something dark' that Wagner had so deftly instilled in her text. (The Inside Story, pp.l 75-176) The result was a harmonious story with many layers of meaning, and a book of timeless quality.

Ron Brooks also collaborated with Margaret Wild to produce two picture books: Old Pig (n.d.) and Rosie and Tortoise (1998). Margaret Wild has written many picture books for children and collaborated with a range of different illustrators. Wild says: 'When you write a story you often do have someone in mind, and if you're lucky enough you can get that illustrator.' (Creative Connections, p.l38) Within her work there is a noticeable pattern, in that she often collaborates with an illustrator more than once. In 1988 she collaborated with Dee Huxley to produce Mr Nick's Knitting, which was shortlisted for the Children's Book Council of Australia's Picture Book of the Year Award in 1989. In 1990 a second collaborative picture book between Wild and Huxley, Remember Me, was also listed by the Council as a Notable Book. (The Authors and 111ustrators 'Scrapbooks) Talking about Mr Nick's Knitting,Wild says: 'The way in which Dee Huxley has depicted Mrs Jolley alone in her hospital bed reflects the loneliness...' that was the underlying theme of the book. (Creative Connections, p. 139) Remember Me was another story that explored a sad mood of separateness, owing to deafness and old age. Huxley claims that she and Wild 'thought along totally different lines' in relation to the depiction of the main character: 'Margaret had envisaged a thin, frail little woman...my own grandmother...(was) very round and jovial...' (Creative Connections, p.205) The result, however, worked 'very well' according to Wild. 'Dee Huxley's illustrations...help to lighten the story and give it a lot of humour,' she said. (Creative Connections, p. 139)

Other examples of Wild's multiple collaborative works are: A Bit of Company (1991) and Going Home (1993), illustrated by Wayne Harris; and The Very Best of Friends (1989) and Let the Celebrations Begin! (1991), illustrated by Julie Vivas. The Very Best of Friends won the Children's Book Council of Australia's Picture Book of the Year Award in 1990. Wild said she 'really wanted Julie Vivas to (illustrate) it...and Margaret Hamilton worked very hard to persuade her to.' (Creative Connections, p138) She also claims: 'the writer has a duty to the illustrator to try and produce the best possible text...For a book to be completely satisfying it...has to be a true integration of text and pictures.' (Creative Connections, p.l36) Julie Vivas says she tries to portray how the characters feel through her illustrations. A superb example of this is 'the angular' and spiky shape of William, the cat from 'The Very Best of Friends, when he is left to fend for himself after his loving owner James dies. (The Picture People, p.88) As a result Vivas brings the characters to life and effectively complements the mood of Wild's story. (It is interesting that when I read this story to my young daughter she was disappointed that the 'dead person' had not been depicted in the illustrations!)

The role of the publisher is integral to picture book production. There are many processes involved in the production of a children's picture book, and it is the role of the publisher to coordinate the project. The publisher is essentially the initiator of a book's production, and therefore plays an important role in its development and outcome. Margaret Hamilton, of Margaret Hamilton Books Pty Ltd, spoke at a Children's Book Council seminar in 1983. She told of one particular 'magic moment' when she read a manuscript she instinctively knew would be 'a winner'. (The Inside Story, p.14) She approached the illustrator, Deborah Niland, with Hazel Edward's There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, and the incredibly successful book was later expanded to create a series of Hippo Books and related products. (http://www.newwebcity.com/hazel/edwards.htm) In 1988 Mem Fox stated: 'Publishing a book is...a creative act. Editors...(are) prepared to work hard with the writer, to create a better story through a joint effort.' (Creative Connections, p.48) Publishers may also initiate the creation of a book and invite illustrators to collaborate on a book project with them.

According to the illustrator Ann James (The Inside Story, p.l49), the editor's job of matching authors and illustrators is 'particularly important' and 'requires a special talent'. She says it is important that an illustrator can 'tap into the same sorts of feelings' as the writer to achieve a unified effect. Because it is the role of the illustrator to interpret a story visually, it is essential that both the author and illustrator have a common understanding of the story's moods and themes. In telling the story pictorially an illustrator expands upon the author's ideas and contributes to the reader's enjoyment and understanding of a story. It is also the illustrator's job to fill in the 'peripheral things' that are happening within a story, which are in some cases 'just as important as the main story'. (7he Inside Story, p.149) This could be said of the relationship depicted between John Brown and Rose in John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat, in which the illustrations contribute to the telling of the whole story. The collaboration between author, illustrator and publishing editor is therefore a determining factor in the completion of a successful picture book. Margaret Hamilton revealed: 'When an illustrator's imagination is captured by the text, then you get his or her best work.' (The Inside Story, p.l5) Perhaps then it is true to say that when an author, illustrator and publishing editor are enthusiastic and dedicated to their work,they are capable of capturing the imaginations of many children and adults alike. When words and pictures are effectively combined a story is given life, and our souls are uplifted.


Alderman, B. & Clayton, P. (eds) 1994, Creative Connections Writing, Illustrating and Publishing Children's Books in Australia Papers of the Canberra Children's Book Council Seminars 1987-1993, DW Thorpe, Victoria

Alderman, B. & Owen Reeder, S. 1987, The Inside Story Creating Children's Picture Books, Children's Book Council of Australia ACT Branch

Dunkle, M. (ed) 1987, The Story Makers A Collection of Interviews with Australian and New Zealand Authors and illustrators for Young People, Oxford University Press

Hamilton, M. (ed) 1993, The Picture People Illustrators of Contemporary Australian Picture Books, Margaret Hamilton Books Pty Ltd

HREF 1: Edwards, H. Hippo Books 1980-

Omnibus Books 1991, TheAuthors and Illustrators Scrapbook Featuring, 24 Creators of Australian Children's Books, Omnibus Books, SA

Omnibus Books 1992, The 2nd Authors and Illustrators Scrapbook Featuring 25 more
Creators of Australian Children's Books, Omnibus Books, SA

Saxby, M. & Winch, G. (eds) 1987 Give Them Wings The Experience of Children's
Literature, The MacMillan company of Australia Pty Ltd

Wagner, J. 1973, 7he Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek, Penguin Books Australia Pty Ltd

HREF 2: Wild, M. Margaret Wild

Wild, M. 1989, The Very Best of Friends, Margaret Hamilton Books Pty Ltd

Wild, M. 1991, A Bit of Company, Ashton Scholastic Pty Ltd

Wild, M. 1993, Going Home, Ashton Scholastic Pty Ltd

Wild, M. 1998, Rosie and Tortoise, Allen and Unwin Pty Ltd

The Collaborative Efforts Between Author and Illustrator