Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Art of Picture Book Characters with An Vrombaut

An Vrombaut is a writer, illustrator and animator. She has always loved picture books and loves drawing animals. She draws from her imagination and prefers this to life drawing. She likes to use coloured outlines for her illustrations.

For the 64 Zoo Lane CBeebies series, there is a regular cast of about 60 animals shown in lots of different situations. For this series the script writers could create their own characters, which is quite unusual as usually get a working bible, which outlines all the characters.


An has had to look in detail at what makes a character good. She is best at writing character driven stories. She thinks to herself, what will make the character 3D and stand out more than another and believes it is the flaws. When writing picture books some of these flaws can be visual in the illustration.

64 Zoo Lane has a very gentle pace. It is shown at Bedtime Hour. An wrote the first ten stories for the first series and had a co-writer for the second series. For the new series, due out on CBeebies soon, she has written ten episodes but, has edited the whole series herself. She loves Zoo Lane. She really knows the character and how they talk. She told us how once the voices have been cast and you’ve heard them, it is easier to do the dialogue.

The first series of Zoo Lane were hand drawn and coloured in on the PC. When animating it is essential that all the animators get the dimensions exactly right. In the new series it is done on Flash and the dimensions are on the computer. There are also lip models so the animators know how to draw the lips when they are speaking.

An’s favourite character from Zoo Lane is Georgina the Giraffe. The giraffe is semi- autobiographical. She also likes Henrietta the Hairy Hippo, which is also semi- autobiographical, because when she was younger she was teased about her ginger hair. The flaws in the character drive the story.

An explained that sometimes when she does a design for a picture book it can be easy and she can produce her ideas in one drawing but, sometimes it takes ages to get the design. She starts by doing a pencil drawing with a 3B pencil then she uses a light box to trace the drawing to get the dimensions for each character just right, and pastels and hard crayons to colour it in. Then she scratches through with a metal tool. Some of the outlines are scratched through as well. She uses her fingers to blend it together.

When making characters sometimes the pictures come first and sometimes the story comes first. For The Lost Acorns, she wrote the whole story in her head before she wrote anything, but that is unusual. The Lost Acorns was produced as an animation for CBeebies. But, An was unaware when it was shown so she has only seen it on YouTube.


Dear Dragon has also been shown for the Bedtime Hour on CBeebies, but she has never seen it. She started working on Dear Dragon in 1998 and the character took her years to create. The princess has changed completely from the original. The editor had said the nose was too long but, in more recent pictures she has made the nose slightly longer again. The dragon wears slippers. The slippers hint at his personality. In the second book he is still blowing bubbles because there is back story in the character.

The Dragon Festival is being developed for TV at the moment. She usually works actual size but, when illustrating Dragon Festival she worked smaller and it got blown up to the right size that was needed.

Smile Crocodile Smile has repetitive text and is lovely to read out loud.

An Vrombaut has also produced a short animated film at The Royal College of Art in 1992, called Little Wolf. This started with sketches of her dog.


5 comments:

Jon M said...

The zoo lane theme tune is dangerously addictive. My kids all chant it and they're old enough to know better!

JaneyV said...

Having Richard Armitage reading your words must be up there with the great fantasies of female writers!

I adore the richness of the colours in An's work. They are like little magnets for the attention of children.

Thanks for doing this Anita - really interesting!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

This is all just totally stunning!
I agree with Jane, the richness and colour in An's work is simply gorgeous!

John said...

Great blog Anita, and very good to see you promoting An's work, I'm sure she's thrilled.

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

I was just facinated with An's work and her brilliant characters. It was also interesting to see how her style has changed over time. It was a fun evening.