Blog

Illustration by Kris Black of the WordPress logo on an orange background

Well, this is weird. My website used to be designed and hosted on Squarespace. It’s now built and designed on WordPress. Why? I’ll tell you about it one day, but today is not that day.

Cheers!

Illustration by Kris Black of a frog sitting on a lily pad.

I first learned of David Wiesner while watching a video about Caldecott winners Wiesner’s book, The Three Pigs, was reviewed. I was intrigued by Wiesner’s use of comic book style panels, and how the pigs “escaped” their story to the space between pages. Similar to breaking the proverbial fourth wall, but in this instance, only within the confines of other storybooks.

I wanted to read more of Wiesner’s work so I reserved all of his books available to me at my local library. Twelve books by Wiesner and two biographies about him. I spent the next few days reading his books multiple times. If you’ve read a Wiesner book, you know how great his art is, and how much fun his stories are to read.

One Sunday morning I dropped my daughter and a friend off to see a movie. During the two hours, while I waited, I spent my time reading and taking notes about Wiesner’s books. It’s the first time in two years I’ve taken notes with a pen and pencil. You can read more about that in Going Back to Paper blog post.

My primary goal in taking notes about Wiesner is to document layout patterns in two of his books: Tuesday, published in 1991, and June 29, 1999, published in 1992. In each book, he repeats a limited set of layouts creating a unique pattern of panels to tell each story.

Tuesday

The children’s book Tuesday won Wiesner a Caldecott in 1992. In this book, Wiesner used one of four layouts for a spread.

Layout 1

The only words that appear in this book are found in one of two similar layouts. The words are on the left page while the right page displays Weisner’s illustrations. The two layouts differ by the number of panels on the right page. This first layout displays three stacked horizontal panels on the right page.

Fig. 1 - Sketch from my notes of a stacked three-panel layout on the right page with words on the left page in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.
Fig. 1 – Sketch from my notes of a stacked three-panel layout on the right page with words on the left page in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.

Layout 2

The next layout you’re exposed to in the story is a full-spread layout.

Fig. 2 - Sketch from my notes of a single panel, full-spread layout of artwork in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.
Fig. 2 – Sketch from my notes of a single panel, full-spread layout of artwork in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.

Layout 3

The third layout implores a full-spread, full-bleed panel with three inset panels—two inset panels on the left page and one on the right. Further, in the story Weisner reuses this layout but flips the inset panels to one on the left page and two on the right.

Fig. 3 - Sketch from my notes of a full-bleed layout of artwork with three inset panels in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.
Fig. 3 – Sketch from my notes of a full-bleed layout of artwork with three inset panels in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.

Layout 4

The final layout is similar to the first displaying words on the left page. This differs by only using one large panel on the right page.

Fig. 4 - Sketch from my notes of a single page panel layout on the right page with words on the left page in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.
Fig. 4 – Sketch from my notes of a single page panel layout on the right page with words on the left page in David Wiesner’s children’s book, Tuesday.

June 29, 1999

I find this to be one of Weisner’s best-illustrated books. People’s faces are well defined. He is able to effectively show the large scale of the vegetables in relation to the surrounding environments and people.The composition of each spread is very cinematic. Interestingly enough, Weisner only uses three layouts in the entire book.

Layout 1

This layout is his most cinematic in the story. There’s one single panel that stretches across both pages covering about 5/6 of the spread. The words are on the far left of the spread in a single, slim column.

Fig. 5 - Sketch from my notes of a single panel layout with words on the far left in David Wiesner’s children’s book, June 29, 1999.
Fig. 5 – Sketch from my notes of a single panel layout with words on the far left in David Wiesner’s children’s book, June 29, 1999.

Layout 2

This is my favorite layout of all of Weisner’s books. Four equal-sized vertical panels with words underneath each are evenly spaced across the spread.

Fig. 6 - Sketch from my notes of a four panel layout with words under each panel in David Wiesner’s children’s book, June 29, 1999.
Fig. 6 – Sketch from my notes of a four panel layout with words under each panel in David Wiesner’s children’s book, June 29, 1999.

Layout 3

The very last page of June 29, 1999 provides the third and final layout—one large panel effectively concluding the story. There are no words on this page as the character’s surprised expressions are all that is needed.

Fig. 7 - Sketch from my notes of a single panel layout on the left at the end of the story in David Wiesner’s children’s book, June 29, 1999.
Fig. 7 – Sketch from my notes of a single panel layout on the left at the end of the story in David Wiesner’s children’s book, June 29, 1999.

More on Weisner

To date, these two books are Weisner’s very best work in regards to using comic book style layouts and panels to aid his storytelling. As a cartoonist, I think about stories in panels so his approach really resonated with me. It’s given me the confidence to pursue this type of layout and story telling in my books.

Illustration by Kris Black of a journal on a desk next to a cup of hot beverage, a pen, and Magic Mouse.

In October 2016, I switched to an all-digital note-taking, productivity, and illustration workflow. By “switched” I stopped using paper, pens, and art supplies to capture ideas and create art.

Giving up paper and only using my iPad Pro, I began illustrating and taking copious notes. I didn’t worry about running out of paper or carrying around bulky writing and art supply gear.

In fact, I gave my wife all my art supplies including the following items.

  • Bristol board sheets
  • Watercolor paper
  • Copic markers
  • GraphGear 1000 Pental mechanical pencils (these pencils are $25 each)
  • Ink supplies.
  • I was all in on creating art and taking notes digitally using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.

I utilized specific apps for taking notes. One app for handwritten notes, another for typed notes, and a third, and fourth, and … well, you get the idea. I keep a list of all the apps I active use on my Tools page. I’m more productive with note-taking on my iPad than I ever have been with paper.

By all accounts, note taking on the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil is wonderful. Yet, an all-digital lifestyle has drawbacks for me. I’m going to be incorporating more paper note taking in my life.

The all-digital lifestyle is the future. What happened?

In high school (1991-1995) I knew the future of computing would have a computer at the center of everything I do. I never imagined I’d be carrying a laptop, tablet, and smartphone with me every day. That’s three computers.

It’s all wonderful and a future I’m happy living in, but I don’t think we’re ready to completely give up paper. At least I’m not.

Here are my two main reasons for going back to paper.

1. Frictionless Capturing

One of the benefits of note taking on paper is the paper has one purpose—to capture your notes. You can leave a notebook open on a desk or in your lap while you read. When you need to jot down something you read, picking up your pen and writing is effortless.

Note taking on my iPad requires several steps. I need to wake my iPad from sleep and unlock it using my fingerprint or typing in a passcode. If my note-taking app isn’t open I have to do the following steps.

  • Find the app icon.
  • Tap the icon to open the app.
  • Select and open the correct digital notebook.
  • Wait for the notebook to load.

After all those steps then I can then start writing.Note taking in a paper journal or notebook also allows me to thumb through pages. I can also flip back and forth between two spreads. Those actions aren’t as easy or quick on the iPad.

2. Distractions are Everywhere

Distractions are a tap away on the iPad. Notifications slide down from the top of the screen with apps vying for my attention.

Yes, I can turn off notifications. I can remove distracting apps, and reduce my iPad to nothing more than an input device for taking notes. But that isn’t the best use of the iPad.

The biggest distraction for me is the internet. It’s easy to distract myself with YouTube or articles when I face a hard challenge with writing or drawing.

While I have these same distractions on my laptop, it’s so much easier to get back to the task at hand. I’m convinced it’s easier staying productive with my laptop. Particularly because of decades of experience being productive on desktops and laptops. I can say working on my laptop is a more positive habit I’ve developed over the years.

How I Plan to Use Paper

I’m still using my iPad for specific note taking. For example, at my day job, I capture tasks on my iPad in our Monday project meetings I need to focus on for the week.For my illustrating and writing, I use the app, OmniFocus, to capture tasks and goals. But I’ve found that each morning I like writing down any specific tasks I need to complete for the day. Writing my daily tasks on paper helps to commit them to memory. It also prevents overcommitting myself for the day.

Previously, I wrote about researching children’s book creators. While I research I’m taking notes in a paper notebook. I’m doing this mainly to reduce the friction for capturing my ideas, observations, and sketch studies.

I’m also drawing and sketching on paper more. I enjoy sitting at the library or coffee shop working on ideas for my stories. It’s a pleasure creating in a large sketchpad with some of those fancy art tools I gave to my wife.

I’ve come to realize I don’t need to reject paper altogether. I can use my notebook and sketchbook in addition to my iPad.

Self-Portrait of Kris Black

Subscribe to My Emails

Get a funny cartoon, and updates about my projects every week.

Featured Posts

Hello world!

Well, this is weird. My website used to be designed and hosted on Squarespace. It’s now built and designed on WordPress. Why? I’ll tell you about it one day, but today is not that day. Cheers!

Going Back to Paper

For two years, I completely converted to an all-digital workflow for note-taking and illustration. Now I’m going back to paper.