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Review 5.26: The Making of a Picture Book, with author/illustrator: Michel Van Zeveren

Held at the Critic Bookshop, Viva Mall+.
Author/Illustrator: Michel Van Zeveren
Theme: The Making of a Picture Book
Time: 17:00 – 18:00pm
Date: 26-05-2019
Michel arrived some minutes early before the commencement of the program however the venue was almost packed with parents, children and readers of Michel’s work who had come to watch, hear and experience the magic of Michel’s story-telling and captivating images that accompany his work.
Michel, a famous author and illustrator from Belgium, a country the audience reckoned for their famous production of chocolate and participation in International football, said he enjoyed writing and illustrating books for children. Under the theme “The Making of a Picture Book”, Michel was going to take the audience through the various steps a person could employ in creating a picture book. These steps he said were steps he had taken in his career that had proven successful. As a writer and illustrator of close to forty books, his audience were highly enthused about his session and wanted to go home with some pointers that could be beneficial for children book authorship.
Michel said, one of the many questions he got asked often was where his ideas came from. Michel said as a creator of children’s books, his ideas flow and develop once he has one magical instrument, which is a marker. He said immediately the marker touches the paper, he further develops the ideas and thoughts and then he is able to create a book for his readers. He took the children through a drawing activity. He first drew two small triangle-shaped figures and asked the children to guess what he was trying to draw. After some guesses, one of the kids suggested that Michel was drawing a cat. Michel continued to add other shapes and special features to the drawing until finally he drew a cat. He said with every creature and character, there is always something specific that sets that apart which makes identifying them very easy. He used a cat and its possession of whiskers as examples.
One of the lessons Michel shared with the audience was how to draw to create emotions and feelings of a character. In his book, But Why where a wolf who is clearly petrified by a young girl, Little Red Riding Hood’s continued questioning and interrogation finally suffers a bad fate, he had to portray the wolf as a creature that was not smart and ended up making wrong choices. Michel showed the audience how some very keen details such as the size of the ears, position of the character, color and choice of gestures could be crucial to making a character communicate succinctly the emotion you want to put across and do that successfully with the text and for the audience.
Michel also shared that most of his inspirations to write were from regular daily and childhood experiences. Reading his book, he wrote about three cats and their mother cat, he said the inspiration was drawn from his childhood and his relationship with his siblings. Michel’s book on the cats highlight the care and passion of a mother who goes out of her way to provide all the needs of her children. He portrays how mothers care about their children and show them love even above the children’s expectations. Beyond his ability to write and draw he also creates very incredible lessons for children to pick from while he shares his craft with the world.
Michel also shared with his audience a part of his journey with his publisher when it came to writing and developing the illustrations for his famous children’s book, But Why? His initial drawing was a frog. He wanted a frog to play the character of the creature questioning the wolf. However, after visiting his publisher, he suggested that the frog be changed to another character because the frog’s color was synonymous with the grass. Michel finally settled on the little red riding hood. He explained that drawing and writing was an intricate process of decision making that should be very representative of the image the author or artist wants in mind. He said, before he settled on the little red riding hood, he tried using a red and blue frog which all did not complete the idea.
Michel took the audience through illustration steps. Some of the processes he mentioned were starting with a plain pencil drawing, creating layers on the sticker paper you have drawn and adding more layers of color till you have the final product.
Michel finally read his book, Please draw me a Prince. The book narrates a story of a young character who discovers that he had potential he never knew about. He can convince his mother who also convinces him that he is an amazing artist. The book features a drawing from his own daughter. Michel said, every child, everyone possess their own distinct creativity and should be allowed to bring into the world things that represent them in the best way possible. He ended by encouraging the children to be confident.
This event was heavily attended, and participants were very satisfied with Michel’s delivery, tagging him as one of the most fascinating guests they had spent time with during the festival.