|From 'Fish and Chips' - a book by Julia Donaldson for Oxford Reading Tree|
I have, in my career, done a reasonable amount of illustration work for educational publishers, and found it enjoyable, and a good way of keeping the wolf from the door in the 'inbetween books' times that I assume most writers and illustrators go through.
Although ostensibly it is doing the same job as illustrating a picture book for a non-educational publisher, if that's the generic term ;-) there is a completely different relationship between artist and editor.
For a non-educational project, you get given the text, with the pagination pretty much sorted out, and are, by and large, left to work it into rough visual form. You can have input into the position of the text, and can make a case for changing the layout from the original guidelines should the visual dynamics be shown to demand it. So you are a key part of the creative process and your skill and experience is made full use of.
An educational book project isn't like that. The layout is as good as set in stone, and you usually get very detailed instructions about what should be in each picture and where, down to what seem sometimes to be pedantic levels. As someone who has made a living out of being original and creative, this prescribed approach was a bit of a shock the first time I encountered it ;-)
This isn't really a moan about me, the poor artistic type yearning to be free but being strangled by the pedantic demands of educational publishers, it really isn't. I actually enjoy switching off my creative side for a while and just doing a bit of 'Doing'. I know I can do it well, and I guess I am happy to trade my artistic skill for the money (especially what they pay these days, say no more!), but not my ingenuity. That's extra ;-)
Which leads me to my main question, which is, "How did this artist/publisher relationship come about?" It does seem overtly and anxiously controlling, and to me, a bit odd. I detect a distinct lack of faith in what illustrators are capable of doing. I smell committees. . . and hear the wheels of corporate decision making grinding. Maybe they are right, maybe illustrators come up with total garbage when not reigned in. . . I dunno, but right or wrong, it has evolved into 'the way things are done' in the educational sector and I am curious as to why. And why the non-educational sector is so different in it's mindset when, as I mentioned before, it seems to me that they are producing, by and large, the same thing.
Do writers have these sort of issues? I imagine writing for a very particular age group must have strict 'do's and 'dont's'. . .