Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creativity -- and Teamwork

I’ve long been fascinated by authors’ and illustrators’ methods of collaborating on their books. I’ve heard of writers taking turns writing alternate chapters of a manuscript and wondered how it would be possible to keep it cohesive and smoothly moving forward.  I find it very intriguing though and would love to read such a novel or even try one myself!

Alice and Martin Provensen
Illustrators Alice and Martin Provensen worked together for many years creating picture books together.  In a lovely interview by Peter Larsen when Alice was 91, she spoke about working with her husband.  “Martin and I really were one artist.  Sometimes we’d work on the same page.  I’d do something or tell him how to fix something.”

For 50 years the Dillons—illustrators Leo and Diane—created their delightful illustrations, passing their work back and forth, each adding what they thought would improve the work until it was not possible to identify who did what in any given illustration. They have referred to the creator of their artwork as the “3rd artist”—the combination of both their talents and work.

William Morris and his family and friends are famed for their collaborative efforts. Early in his career the artist, writer and designer joined with other artists to form their own company of designers and decorators.  I find the range of their talents and accomplishments amazing.

I once saw an exciting exhibit on the Bloomsbury group of writers, artists and thinkers at the Huntington Library.  I was so captivated not only by their work but their creative relationships with each other that I returned again and again to the exhibit.  Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and others are known for their joint creations in a variety of projects.   Members Leonard and Virginia Woolf started the Hogarth Press in 1917 on the dining room table of their house.  Several artists in the group created book covers and book jackets as well as interior illustrations for the books the press published.

As with William Morris and his family and friends, working jointly on projects and meeting with other artists and writers seems to have provided valuable inspiration, challenge, encouragement and probably networking possibilities. I‘ve found that true with my own very creative family and with my wonderful SCBWI illustrators ‘schmooze’ group.  Writing and illustration are, by nature, solitary pursuits—not necessarily a bad thing—but there can certainly be an appeal to being able to share both the excitement and the problems present in an artistic endeavor.

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