Reported by Dana Sullivan
Jesse Watson is fed spiritually and artistically in part by refereeing family ninja fights, school visits and surfing. After seeing his dad making no money in art he went into the lucrative business of art framing. But having to frame so much bad art forced him to go ahead and do art to feed his soul if not his wallet
First foray into children's books was the SCBWI New York conference, where he entered the portfolio show and won. Didn't get any work until a few years later, but it certainly boosted his confidence. He has since built up his body of work and clients and loves what he does.
How do you visually tell a story? Start with story boards that are very loose and cinematic. As a director, you get to call the shots. Do lots of simple thumbnails until you get what you like. Much easier to make changes at this stage than at final art. The decision-making happens (much easier) at the sketch stage.
Think about flow when you are making your thumbnail storyboards. Where does your eye go? You can see the entire story at a glance and see what's working and keep it flowing. As an illustrator, you are ILLUMINATING the text, not just regurgitating it. Similarly, the writer must trust the illustrator to illuminate and fill in the blanks. Don't overwrite.
Look at your flow like a movie director. When should you slow down for emphasis and when should you speed up? Move through your pages, aim your character toward the page turn, toward the flow.
Hope For Haiti. This is such a bleak story, how do you tell that story without seriously bumming everybody out? Answer: look at it from the eyes of a kid. This homeless camp is in a world-class soccer stadium. How cool is that? That helped Jesse tell his story and get it from concept to published in less than three months.
Thumbnail exercise: tell the story of The Three Little Pigs in 16 panels. How much text do you need? How much of the story can you tell with simple (badly drawn, sketchy) thumbnails? And have fun!