Storytelling Art — Transforming Photographs into Fantasy Images
Five years ago I began creating children’s book illustrations with Photoshop and discovered a new genre — Storytelling Art.
That’s because I had no formal training as an artist, but I was computer savvy from my medical science research work. Photoshop fascinated me — it seemed the perfect tool for illustrating, especially because I can’t draw. I took photographs of my grandchildren to use in simple digital collages. Because my photographs were generally bad, I relied heavily on Photoshop for edits. Each photo took hours to correct.
Then I had to create backgrounds and scenes for the characters. My early attempts at composites were somewhat pathetic, the mark of a true novice. But I persisted and continued learning. In 2011, I published my first children’s picture book, Sunbelievable. Each illustration took me hundreds of hours as I reached the boundaries of my Photoshop skills. In 2012, the book earned five national awards for storytelling and illustration! I wasn’t surprised about the story, penned by my son Daniel, a talented writer. But the illustration awards and reviews are still a shock — for example, strikingly beautiful (Foreword Reviews).
When anyone asks me to describe my illustration style, I explain how I manipulate original photographs with Photoshop. I haven’t seen other children’s books illustrated with digital collage techniques (which doesn’t mean none exists — I personally haven’t encountered other examples). So I’ve been searching for an appropriate label for the technique. Photoshop “magic” comes to mind. Or the painting genre known as “Magic Realism.”
Then in 2016, I published I Want Cake! Illustrating took even more time, plus an unanticipated, total redo before press. So far this year, the book won two top national awards — again for storytelling and illustration: the IndieFab Finalist Award for Best Children’s Book/Early Reader and Mom’s Choice. Since 2011 I’ve seen many wonderful digital artists surface, but — to my knowledge — no illustrators producing highly layered, composite imagery for kids’ books.
Yesterday I had a huge aha moment when “storytelling art” popped into my head and started making sense as a way to describe both the genre and the style — that is, the transformation of ordinary photographs into fantasy images. I made this short video to — well — illustrate the idea. Please take a look.
Next I’ll make videos showing actual techniques. Stay tuned for more!
If you’re intrigued by Storytelling Art and have questions or would like to learn more, just send me an email and I’ll get right back to you. Meantime, snap some photos and get started.