Storyboarding and the Origami Dinosaur Battle that Almost Was

Making a picture book on location — Part 1


I often imagine traditional illustrators at work. Desks littered with sketchpads and pigment markers and little jars of India ink, their latest work taped to the light box, crumpled paper in a halo around the wastebasket. Spreads begin as thumbnails, thumbnails become sketches, sketches are traced and redrawn. It’s iterative, solitary.

What we do is nothing like that.

The art in our books is photographed. The What the Dinosaurs Did series features real subjects, real props, and real locations. Movement and action rely (almost) entirely on practical, in-camera effects.

That was challenging enough when the stories we were telling took place in our home. For our latest entry, What the Dinosaurs Did at School, we took our act on the road.
Storyboarding For the Seat of Our Pants
Our process began the way most visual storytelling processes do, with storyboards. Storyboards serve two purposes:

  1. To communicate our vision to our editor.
  2. To help plan individual shots, including necessary props, location attributes, and production complexity. (Along with a more on a detailed shot list.)

Confession: Susan and I haven’t always given our storyboards the attention they deserve, as you’ll see in our example below. Plans change too quickly. Something always comes up that torpedoes some aspect of our original vision, or we find a new angle or gag we can’t resist. (Susan is basically a savant of last-minute creativity—you learn to roll with it.)

That seat-of-the-pants approach has, on occasion, come back to haunt us.

Read more at Permanent Marker.