Today, I'm sharing my review of And the Trees Talked Back as well as a guest post from author & illustrator Frederick J. Burns on My Illustration Process. This virtual tour is sponsored by iRead Book Tours. Check out my post and enter the giveaway below!
My Illustration Process
by Frederick J. Burns
My process of illustrating involves many steps and artistic and practical decisions. First, let me describe the difference between fine art and illustration. Fine art is created and exists for itself alone. It does not have to have a purpose other than as a creative outlet for the artist. Illustration, on the other hand, is created by the artist to help a viewer better understand an idea or to help tell a story.
In my book, And The Trees Talked Back, the illustrations served to advance the story and convey to the reader that each tree is an individual, with its own personality and problems. Each of the tree illustrations is based on an actual living tree. The illustrations help the reader see the trees as I did —that is, as distinctive as people.
My process of illustrating began with going on walks to look for trees with characteristics and traits that could support a storyline. The tree depicted at the beginning and end of the book was a beautifully shaped tree, but I did not see in it a character that could contribute to a story. On the other hand, the tree named Amika had a face and an expression of surprise that inspired the written interaction with the child Amanda.
Once I found a tree that I thought I could incorporate, I photographed it. Then I used the photos as references for rough sketches with a pen. Depending on the tree, I sketched it anywhere from one to 5 times. The sketches were on an 8 x 10-inch pad or even smaller.
The next step was to refine the rough sketch and enlarge it by lightly drawing it freehand in pencil on a larger (15 x 20-inch) thick textured sheet of Arches watercolor paper. I might erase and redraw parts until I was satisfied with the depiction of the tree. At that point, I would use a permanent black ink graphic pen to ink in the outline, the face, and the texture of the bark. The final step in the process was to apply multiple layers of transparent black ink or watercolor paint to add to the three-dimensional look of the tree. One tree could take anywhere from three days to three weeks to complete, depending on the complexity of the bark and whether I was satisfied with the image or decided to draw and paint it multiple times until I was satisfied.
And the Trees Talked Back by Frederick J. Burns is an enchanting children's book that caught my attention, thanks to its captivating illustrations. The portrayal of the little girl on the title page and the distinct personalities given to each tree showcases Burns' artistic prowess in bringing characters to life visually.
The story delivers a valuable lesson on love and kindness toward all living things, although, at times, I wished for a deeper exploration of the narrative. There's a whimsical touch reminiscent of "Alice in Wonderland," yet it lacks the internal conflict that gives the classic tale depth. I think the author could remove most of the narrative, keeping it under 400 words, and tell the story with his illustrations instead. Nevertheless, the overall warmth of the story and its positive message make it a meaningful read for young audiences.
All in all, And the Trees Talked Back may not reach the narrative expected of some picture books, but it excels in captivating young readers through its engaging illustrations and positive themes. It's a delightful bedtime option that combines fantasy with a gentle reminder about the importance of kindness and empathy.
Thank you Frederick J. Burns for my honest review, the book, and your guest post. I look forward to more beautifully illustrated books like this one!