An illustrator with a very special story to tell offers his top tips on making your pictures sing during Write a Book in a Day
When Angus Olsen began making money from sales of his artworks – all drawn digitally on an iPad – he knew he couldn’t keep the funds. The drawings came from a special place, from experiences he and his family had suffered during his daughter Jane’s battle with cancer.
Six-year-old Jane has now spent three years in remission, but the artworks continue to flow from Angus’s heart. He exhibits them on his website, idrawchildhoodcancer.com, and any money he makes goes to The Kids’ Cancer Project.
“As the money was coming from around the world, I wanted it to go to a charity that has an effect at an international level,” Angus, who also manages a café kiosk on the platform of Katoomba Railway Station in the Blue Mountains, says. “It had to be a cancer charity and it had to make a difference globally. That’s why I picked The Kids’ Cancer Project.”
Not only does he contribute valuable funds to research around children’s cancers, Angus supports other charities and also kindly offered to share his top tips forWrite a Book in a Day. And as Angus draws all day, every day, we knew he’d have some brilliant advice.
Here are Angus’s top five tips to make your pictures sing.
1) Let the feeling flow
“When you’re illustrating, how it feels is much more important than how it looks. My most popular works are not the ones that look perfect, but are rather the ones that I put most feeling into. If you are after perfection, there is a danger that you will become too focused. But people engage better with how a picture feels, rather than how it looks.”
Write a Book in a Day hint: Have a discussion with your team to understand the emotions that will be conveyed through the writing.
2) Mistakes are good
“It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to get it wrong. I make many mistakes and get it wrong many times, every day! But that doesn’t stop me moving forward. Sometimes mistakes are happy accidents.”
3) Step away for a moment
“If it’s overwhelming and you’re struggling then walk away for a few minutes. Have a short break. This helps you collect your thoughts and often helps you to come up with a solution. Sometimes, I’ll feel very frustrated because I’m struggling to draw a hand and not have the fingers look like hot dogs. Then I will walk away and come back and get it done in one movement.”
Write a Book in a Day hint: When Angus needs a break, he makes a cup of tea. You might like to stop for a drink or water, or do some star jumps.
4) Create storyboards
“To create storyboards, just write a brief summary of your text at the top of each loose page. Then draw stick figures underneath to represent illustrations. The quicker, the better. Once all the pages are done, you can move them around and make sure it all connects and flows properly. This part of the process is for the entire team, not just the illustrator.”
Write a Book in a Dayhint: Use the Story Outline Template in the resource section to help you.
5) Make the pictures tell the story
“Like a scene on a stage, children’s books should be able to be understood without words. So, if the words say ‘the monkey gives the elephant a banana’, the picture should show a monkey giving an elephant a banana. That might seem obvious, but it’s a mistake that occurs again and again – the imagery tries to be too fancy or symbolic. A reader should be able to sit down with your book and know what’s going on in the story without reading a word, just by looking at the images.”
Write a Book in a Day hint: Big doesn’t mean better. Your illustrations simply need to bring your characters to life and support the story.