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Gurney: Which came first?

January 29, 2010

James Gurney yesterday discussed an exhibition of author/illustrators like himself. From his blog post here:

People often ask each of us auteurs: “Which came first, the story or the pictures?” In my case, the two arrived together, like fraternal twins born squabbling and conspiring. Throughout the creative process of developing Dinotopia, a sketch begets a name, an outline begets a storyboard, and a painting begets a piece of dialog. It’s not as if story is finished first, as some suppose, and then I put on another hat and do the pictures. The two activities enrich each other all along the way.

That’s why I think all authors should be encouraged to draw, and all artists should be encouraged to write. Howard Pyle, in his famous summer classes in the Brandywine valley, insisted that his art students spend part of their time writing. I would almost rather look at Rudyard Kipling’s drawings from Just So Stories, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s portrayals of Middle Earth, than see the work of others who tried to climb inside their heads.

The two modes of expression are different only in their outward form, not in their source. They both derive from the same deep creative center. Hopefully they touch the reader at the same place. A picture book, whether it has words or not, is an attempt to conjure a half-remembered dream. Those dreams arise from a place in us too deep for either pictures or words.

The images in this exhibition, and the books from which they’re taken, escort us to the rocky shoreline of our imagination, where waves roll in from far storms and sunny kingdoms.

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