Celia Webb Talks About Illustrating Webb's Wondrous Tales Book 1
Pilinut Press: How did you get started in art?
Celia: I started with photography. My dad taught me to use a 35mm camera when I was about 11 or 12. In high school I took photographs for the school newspaper and yearbook. Also at that time, I taught myself calligraphy. I think my greatest strengths — composition and use of line — come from those two art forms. Later I learned to use charcoal, acrylic paints, papers, and fibers to create works of art.
Pilinut Press: How did you approach illustrating “Webb’s Wondrous Tales Book 1”?
Celia: First I talked with Mack about the concept of the book. It is a collection of short stories which have much mystery, magic, and a touch of humor. They read like fairy tales of old. So I wanted to capture some of the feel of the Old World, to harken back to medieval times, but retain the stories’ modern sensibility as well. We decided on a style that combines elements of wood cuts, silhouettes, and cartooning. We also thought using only black and white illustrations brings to mind the earliest illustrated books which used pen and ink drawings as their primary means of illustration. Additionally, we decided that the format of using an illustration at the beginning of each story reinforced that book concept.
Pilinut Press: How did you come up with the concept of the illustration you did for each story?
Celia: I read the story several times. Then I would ask Mack questions about the era in which the story was set, how he visualized the main characters, what kind of clothes did they wear, were they in their 20’s or 50’s and so on. Then I would concentrate on the first several paragraphs to see if there was a “picture” in one of those paragraphs. Often Mack has ideas about what is happening visually in the story and he’ll write short descriptions contained in parentheses in the draft. If he has included ideas in the story, then I use the first or second of these ideas to develop the opening illustration.
Pilinut Press: What do you do next?
Celia: My next step is research. I look for or take pictures objects which will be included. I have Mack pose in the posture that I want to include or I pose in a mirror. I am looking for how the body looks – does it convey the emotion or action I want in the picture.
Then I do a pencil sketch inside a frame I sketch onto my paper. The frame is based on the aspect ratio (height versus width of the illustration) that is needed to maintain for the size of the book. Once I am happy with the drawing, I ink it.
Finally I show it to Mack and get his feedback. Does the drawing show what he had in mind? Does it suit the story? Are there any details that don’t jibe with the story? I also ask him for advice on artistic technique . You may not know that Mack is an accomplished artist himself.
Pilinut Press: What is your next project?
Celia: I am working on the follow-on book called “Webb’s Wondrous Tales Book 2”. The design elements will be consistent with the first book but Mack has a whole new set of stories.