In the excellent Teachers’ Notes that we have just put up for Two Troll Tales from Norway (you can access and download them here, just scroll down the page), there are some fascinating insights from author Margrete Lamond and illustrator Ingrid Kallick about how they approached the creation of words and pictures. Here’s an extract:
I don’t know why I love retelling traditional tales, but something about it makes me feel hugely satisfied. Perhaps it is an ancient thing in my bones, hearkening back to those long-ago days when we told one another stories by the fireside, or while walking or working. Whatever it is, I relish the feeling of retelling, and most especially the challenge of retelling sometimes well-known tales in a fresh and emotionally engaging way. When I set out to retell a story, therefore, I always imagine I’m speaking directly to a group of listeners, and that I’m telling them a story they might know perfectly well, but that they haven’t heard told with this particular emotional flavour.
Norwegian folk tales are particularly satisfying as sources for retelling, because in their original forms (as collected and published by Asbjornsen and Moe) they retain some of the raw folk voice of the old storytellers from whom they were collected.
While some people really have trollish personalities, it’s good to remember that although “Trolls are Trolls and there’s nothing anyone can do about it,” the trolls have their own regard for each other. For that reason, the trolls I painted for “Two Troll Tales” are just a little aware of what they are, and maybe they have feelings too – not always the worst possible feelings. They just don’t get along with humans very well.
As for the nitty-gritty of my process, I spend a lot of time reading, thinking, and looking at photos and other art before I start sketching.
I use pencil to make small drawings called thumbnails, about the size of a postage stamp. I choose the ones I like, scan them into a computer and re-draw then larger, with more details. Then I print out the final drawing at the size I would like to paint. Sometime I will print on watercolor paper and paint directly over the print. For “Two Troll Tales”, I transferred the sketch to watercolor paper with pencil and colored it with soft body acrylic paint, which can be made transparent like watercolor or opaque like tempera or gouache.
When I’m finished, I scan the painting into the computer. Then I can adjust the size, color and position of things to make it fit better with the text and page size.
You can read more in the full Teachers’ Notes, including Ingrid’s very interesting reminiscences about her Norwegian heritage.