Friday, December 28, 2012

Q&A: What About Art Notes?

Dear Jeebies – What about art notes? When and how do you use them?

When it comes to art notes, I try to use them only when I need to convey information that is not readily available in the text but still necessary to the understanding of the story. For instance, in my book Princess in Training, a dragon shows up near the book's end. I didn't just want to have the dragon come out of nowhere, so, earlier in the story, I foreshadowed it's existence in an art note.

[ Unbeknownst to the princesses, a hungry dragon is in the area.]

I've been using a lot more art notes since PBJeebies started, because I saw you guys using them. I think it makes for a better ms. If I'm too generous about it, Jennifer gently suggests a few removals, then off it goes.

I may not be the best example for how to do art notes! While I try not to include extraneous information and direction, I have some manuscripts where the text and image work together in a way that makes it necessary to include notes, and some that are almost wordless (one has seven words). In cases like these, I either do the notes in italics and brackets to the right of the text or in italics and brackets within the text (especially if the note is for a wordless spread). Either way, I try not to overuse them – I love to let the art director and illustrator take the text and run with it!

Since I'm generally planning to illustrate my own work, my art notes are often more notes to myself than anyone else. I'm always grateful when the Jeebies point out an area where the manuscript doesn't make sense without an art note because it reinforces (and often improves) my ideas for the illustration. I set my art notes in brackets and italicize the text which I also set in a light blue. I like the blue because it allows the reader to easily skip the art notes if they're just reading the text to see how it paces and flows. The italics make it very easy to strip the art notes out of the manuscript with the search and replace feature in Word.

We also have an honorary Jeebie today – Ame Dyckman!

I LOVE art notes. (Shows notebook cover: “Ame + art notes.”) Art notes let me communicate what my short text sometimes doesn’t.

But I also LOVE illustrators. (Reveals heart-shaped tattoo: “Illustrators.”) And I want my future illustrator to have fun with our story, too.

So in my manuscripts, I only use art notes when they’re necessary to show a plot point or character action that isn’t conveyed in my text. And I keep my art notes short too, like this: 
It wasn’t their cat. (Hungry crocodile.)

Not this:
It wasn’t their cat. (Enormous bright-green crocodile holding a knife and fork and grinning and wearing a bib that says, “Bring on the Grub!” And there’s a bit of drool on his chin to show he’s really, really hungry.)

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I need to go find my cat. 
And maybe make art notes a mix tape. (Winks.)

Ame is the author of Boy+BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino and the forthcoming Tea Party Rules, illustrated by K.G. Campbell and coming in 2013 from Viking. You can catch up with Ame on her website ( and keep up with her on Twitter (@AmeDyckman).


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