Monday, 12 November 2018

Illustrating the night in children's picture books • Paeony Lewis


In 1914, Kay Neilson illustrated East of the Sun, West of the Moon
As the nights grow longer and darkness arrives too soon, my thoughts have turned to the illustration of night in children’s picture books. Looking through the books on my shelves, I’ve adored seeing how different illustrators have portrayed the night and moonlight.

I've discovered that the night can fill the page with grandeur, or be swallowed up by city lights. The moon may glow at the top of the page, or flickering stars are glimpsed through a window. Illustrator style dictates whether the illustrations are simple or detailed, and these images then reflect the mood of the story, which could be fun, cosy, awesome or scary. There is a colour choice to be made: black, grey, purple or blue, but which blue? Will there be moon shadows? Do artificial lights shine through the gloom? So many decisions and I'd love to find out about other books and hear the thoughts of illustrators, but for now, the moon is rising, here comes the night...

This is the only illustration I've seen where the words are inside a white moon.
The sky is inky black and filled with white stars. The moon's light shines on the swan
and I feel the white house helps hold the composition together.
From The Night Box box by Louise Greig, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay (Egmont, 2017)




I assume this is a linocut, using only black ink?
There's no moon, although the shape of the hillside is reminiscent of the curve of the moon.
If the stars were taken away we'd still know it was night from the dense un-inked lines that shine like moonlight and the glowing windows of the houses.
From Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan (Templar, 2009)

Here we have no sky, moon or stars. Even the background is white. However, by using dark shadows on the sleepers and their meagre belongings we know it is dark, wherever they are sleeping.
From My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner (The Bucket List, 2017)


Snow and moonlight seem popular in children's picture books, and I can appreciate why - the whites and blues almost sing together.

My box of crayons no longer feels childish if this is what can be done with a couple of blue crayons and brilliant white paper (and a lot of skill!).
From Shackleton's Journey by William Gill (Flying Eye Books, 2014)
This time it's watercolour. The silent shadows of the forest contrast with the moonlight bouncing off  the snow.
From Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr (Philomet Books, 1987)



A different style of gentle watercolour. The cool colours of the snowy night contrast subtly with the warm colours of the bedroom. The blue of the night sky links with inside of the house through the poster on the wall.
From Crinkle, Crackle, Crack: It's Spring! by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by John Shelley (Holiday House, 2015)
Here, falling snow produces a haze of  night blue and snow white,
broken through by the complementary orange of the indoor light.
From The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore,
illustrated by Christian Birmingham (Harper Collins, 2007)

The illustrator must have had fun creating a 'broken' moon. Poor mole!
From Bringing Down the Moon by Jonathan Emmett,
illustrated by Vanessa Cabban (New edition 2017, Walker Books)
A very different style, this time using an intriguing diorama. The night sky is grey, like the mood of poor, patient Goliath.
From Waiting for Goliath by Antje Damm (Gecko Press, 2017 translated from German)



Interesting how the blue totally changes the illustration from day to night.
From This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins 2012)

The night sky doesn't have to be black or blue; purple works well too and fits the mysterious theme.
From Leon and the Place Between by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith  (Templar, 2009)
Here's another purple night sky, this time in a simplified graphic style, that's still effective.
From Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen (Jonathan Cape 2011)
Many illustrators have fun with artificial light at night, and where there is ambiguity as to whether it's night or day, the white, yellow or orange artificial light confirms the darkness.

There's very little colour here, but we know it's night from bright yellow windows. We notice the lion because he is surrounded by white. This lion is also yellow, but it's a different yellow so we know he's not a strange looking lamp!
From How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens (Alison Green Books, 2012)
The lamp light glows and is accentuated by the yellow of the child's clothes. There are pronounced shadows too, and the Northern Lights shimmer around Black Rock, and there's a multitude of stars.
From The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd Stanton (Flying Eye 2017)
The bike lamp accentuates the darkness and is the same blue as the daytime sky on the opposite page.
From The Journey by Franseca Sanna (Flying Eye Books, 2016)
The yellow of the inside light transforms the illustration into the night.
From The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon Press, 2009)

The night is emphasised by the transluscent artificial yellow light from a house, boats, train and lighthouse. And there's natural yellow light too, from a firefly!
From Firefly Home by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Brita Teckentrup (Nosy Crow 2018)



The bright artificial lights bring out the gaiety of the ship at night.
Two illustrations from The Real Boat by Marina Aromshtam and illustrated by Victoria Semykina (Templar 2017)

Two night illustrations from the same book. Both use window light, but when thee mood changes the blue of the dark night also changes. In the first the cat is having fun, but not in the second where the darkness has turned grey.
From Mr Pusskins by Sam Lloyd (Orchard Books, 2007)

Another two illustrations. At the top are layers of blue with the blobs of light of the town similar to stars (or are they like holes, representing the mining beneath?). In the second illustration from the book the men are in the mines and the movement of the paint adds to the feeling of the heavy ground pressing down on them.
From Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith (Walker Books 2017)

Another symphony of blue layers (watercolour?). The shade of blue is cool, like the night.
From There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith (Two Hoots, 2016)


This time the moonlight is grey because of the fog. I've included the words on the left because the author likened the foggy moonlight to everything appearing dusted with flour.
From Fog Island by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon Press reprint, 2013)





For a grey night, you don't get much greyer than this book. Even the sunset is muted, but so are the subdued lives of the creatures and it adds to the atmosphere of fun boredom.
From We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen (Walker Books, 2016)

From a muted desert to New York City at night in shades of blue. It's not a neon explosion because our eyes are meant to focus on the people watching the screen ahead that's framed by an unusually starry night . Even the cabs don't have light from their headlamps as that would detract from the focus.
From Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum (Walker Studio, 2017)

Here's another example of a deliberate downplay of light. The room and lamp are muted to allow the moon outside the window to shine brighter than everything else.
From Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd (1947)

This time the moon literally shines inside this school and the colour scheme has a quiet feel of night.
From Mouse's First Night at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Ali Pye (Nosy Crow 2014)

Here the room is dark and blue, with all the focus on the children lit by the lamp.
From a collection, Dreams of Freedom (Amnesty International), with this illustration by Birgitta Sif (Frances Lincoln, 2015)
Time for a bit of diorama drama. Lightning looks good at night, especially above a tower!
From The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child and Polly Borland (Puffin, 2006)
Here, Moon, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup (Little Tiger Kids, 2017), displays the cut-out shapes of the phases of the moon as you progress through the book.

To finish, here is the deceptively simple final illustration from A River by Marc Martin  (Templar, 2015)
There are many, many more picture books that include the night, but I suspect I've already included too many! Anyway, I hope the night illustrations haven't made you too sleepy. I adore looking at the differences in method and style and wonder if Prussian Blue is the best cool blue for the night? All thoughts appreciated, thank you!

Paeony Lewis, children's author
www.paeonylewis.com
List of my blog posts at the Picture Book Den.

12 comments:

  1. This is beautiful. A feast of night! Thank you, Peony!

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  2. Ths is a stunning collection, Paeony. As a child, my favourite illustrations in the Asterix books were often the ones depicting night-time scenes.

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  3. This is really useful Paeony. I seem to draw night scenes the whole time, and often they look rather dark and dreary. This selection is anything but dreary.

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  4. Wow! Your house must be like a wonderland-cum-library! This is a really beautiful selection. Thank you.

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  5. I will second that too Jonathan! I adored night time illustrations, lit up windows and moons!! Lovely collection here! Thank you Paeony!

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  6. What a brilliant post Paeony. I shall be studying this in depth. Thanks.

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  7. Thank you everyone, I'm so glad others appreciate the night. I adored looking through my book shelves (yes, Moira, I have too many!) and there are so many I didn't include, such as the reflective moon scenes in 'The Big Big Sea', the unusual rendering of darkness in 'Owl Babies', the haunting cliff-top scene in 'The Whales' Song', quirky illustrations from 'The Wolves in the Walls', and even some from my own books. There are others too and I might squeeze them in (I've already a few extra since uploading it!).

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  8. Gorgeous collection, thanks Paeony!

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  9. Fantastic. Thank you for sharing this. Such great art.

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  10. Thank you Paeony. You've selected such a rich collection of night scenes.
    Joe Todd Stanton has some great atmospheric night scenes in The Secret of Black Rock from Flying Eye Books.

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    1. You're right and I've just sneaked in an image. Thanks, Garry!

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  11. What an amazing set of illustrations! I love seeing different artists' interpretations of night side by side.

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