Thursday 17 October 2019

Finding the Perfect Illustrator for 'Pick a Pumpkin' with Patricia Toht

Patricia Toht, author of the brand new Pick a Pumpkin, wanted to tell our Picture Book Party readers a little about the process of choosing an illustrator for a story and how Jarvis was the perfect fit for her:

Friends and relatives who are unfamiliar with publishing are frequently surprised to discover that, as a picture book author, I don’t choose an illustrator – instead, the editor and art director choose someone whose style fits the story. When I add that I’ve never even met my illustrators, they usually ask the same question:

“Then how do you tell them what pictures to make?”

“I don’t,” I answer. “The illustrator reads my text and draws what those words inspire.”

More than a few are perplexed by this arrangement.

“What if they make a mistake? What if you don’t like what they draw?”

I’m happy to tell them that I’ve been amazed and delighted by the illustrations for my books. The words and pictures meld to create something beautiful.

Two of my books, Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin, are illustrated by Jarvis. His illustrations evoke the warmth and nostalgia of family traditions. They are so lovely!

The day an illustrated proof arrives is always a special one. I pour over the illustrations, soaking up every detail. But I had a unique experience the first time I turned the pages of Pick a Pumpkin. It was as if Jarvis had accessed our family photos! Sure, I drew upon our family’s experiences when writing the text, but those illustrations – they were my memories.

How could he know that the wagon being pulled through the farm not only contained pumpkins, but also a little boy with a pumpkin in his arms? 

Why did he choose a girl to clean the pumpkin, with buckets in the background… 

…and a little boy in blue, standing on newspaper, pulling out the guts?  

There is no way Jarvis could know that my youngest child always cut a hole in the bottom of his pumpkin so he could sport it on his head on Halloween. So how could it be that a pumpkin-headed child appears at the end of the pumpkin carving scenes? (And note that both pumpkins have triangle eyes, triangle noses, and a two-toothed grin!)

Authors and illustrators have a unique bond, one built on trust and confidence in each other’s talents. My task is to write the best text I can and then get out of the way as the illustrator takes over.

The combination leads to transformation – picture book magic!

Pick a Pumpkin is available to buy now!