Friday, October 19, 2012

HELLO! HELLO! Get Your Mind in the Gutter

One of the most obvious physical obstacles one must deal with as a book illustrator, designer, book maker is the ever present, generally annoying gutter. To those not in the know, you might be asking, "what is this gutter you speak of?"

The gutter is what we call the crease or gap or fold or valley at the center of every spread of every open book that will ever exist (with exception of the "e-book," but an e-book, my friends, does not a picture book make).

It is a cardinal rule that you must not get art or text too close to the gutter or, God forbid, in the gutter because it looks weird. It looks like a mistake. Like amateur hour. To bookies like myself, getting all up in the gutter, it can be all fingernails on a chalkboard.

However... for hello! hello!, I have, in a way, taken this "mind the gutter" maxim and hung it out the window. Not tossed it out the window all together, but put it out there to dry only to serve a point. Allow me to explain? (Prepare to, possibly, get your fingernails on the chalkboard.)

When an open book is viewed it can either be viewed as single pages at a time or viewed as one large-reading spread--when an image runs across both pages, defying the inherent separating and tyrannical rule of the gutter.

It is a deep-cutting line and impossible to fully overcome.

In hello! hello! I decided to grab this gutter by the gut and use it as part of my story. It will be ever-so-subtle, but the intent is very much, well, intentional.

Backing up, just a tiny bit... the central theme of this book concerns technology and ever-present techno devices (cell phones, portable game devices, laptop computers, table computers, etc.) and how these devices have or can become a wedge between a need-to-be communicating parent and child.

What better wedge is there, in a book, than its own gutter?

In the beginning of the story, our hero, Lydia is looking to connect with a person instead of a thing. She reaches out to her parents and her brother one at at time. In return she receives little to no response. The gutter cuts these exchanges right in half:

Eventually, she goes outside and gives nature a chance. Still not quite letting go completely, things are connecting, but the gutter still serves to separate:

Eventually still, Lydia begins to let go more and more, giving in to play and imagination. And she encounters a horse drinking at a stream. The gutter still separates, but even less so, as both forces are now reaching toward each other:

And finally Lydia breaks free completely and gives into play, imagination, nature, life, and the spell of the gutter is shattered and galloped straight through:

With even more page turns, the words, "hello," (which have, by this point become integrated into the art) and the animals/friends of a building stampede completely disavow the binding spell of the book's gutter and run straight through the gutter or in and out, or bound into and even stick a head and neck right in to have a look:

Most times a gutter is an awkward thing to this illustrator. And it is never going to go away. So let's have a little fun, shall we?

Maybe what I've done is jarring. Maybe it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. But sometimes, when you want a call to arms, putting nails on the board is the best way to grab some eyes and ears.

My previous blog posts about hello! hello!:

How I hand-lettered the near entirety of hello! hello!
Origin story (the idea behind the idea of hello! hello!)
How I drew hello! hello! (I used a sharpened piece of bamboo)
The official hello! hello! book trailer with music by Philip C. Stead!

hello! hello! is available Tuesday October 30, wherever books are sold.

hello! hello!


Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

Lucky for us, your mind has been in (on) the gutter ;)
You-Know-Where estimates my copy will arrive on 10/30. SO looking forward!

Margie Culver said...

So glad you did what you did, Matthew. It looks spectacular. Thank you for the explanation. It makes perfect sense. I love when illustrators/authors take the time to give their readers insights into the process.

Matthew Cordell said...

Thank you, ladies, for taking time to both read and comment. Can't wait for you to see it "in the flesh!"

Michel said...

Those are amazing! ...specially the one with the horse on the left and the girl on the right. Just fantastic

Matthew Cordell said...

Thank you, Michel!

David McMullin said...

I love your creative use of an "obstacle." I can't wait to see this one!

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