Draw! is Raúl Colón's most autobiographical work. He suffered from asthma as a child, and often spent hours alone in his bedroom drawing while the other children played outside. We had a chance to speak with him recently for School Library Journal about the making of Draw! Here is an excerpt.
You’ve mentioned that you begin your books with text and pictures. How did you arrive at a wordless story for Draw!?
I created a mock-up for the book that included text. But I couldn’t quite finish it, so I showed it to my editor, Paula Wiseman. She asked, “What do you think about telling the story just in pictures?” So that’s what I did. I added some illustrations, a few sketches, and reworked it.
In the book, your palette changes when the child drawing in bed imagines himself on safari.
Yes. I thought about The Wizard of Oz [the black-and-white and the color sequences] and chose a muted palette for this boy’s life at home and then moved to full color when his imagination transports him to a different world. Although muted, I wanted the pictures to be colorful enough so children didn’t think that those scenes were unreal. But I still needed to transition to Africa. Did the boy go by boat? By plane? I wanted to show that he transported himself to Africa so readers see the pictures come out of his head.
The idea, taken from comics, shows the passage of time. We’re fascinated with the illustrations and snapshots and paintings we see in museums, because the artists are freezing time. We can look at them over and over again. We see things moving all the time, but seeing something frozen--where we can study it--is fascinating. With the rhino, I wanted to show movement. How large, or how close he gets--the viewer has to figure that one out.
Let’s talk about the closing scene, when the boy gets out of bed and shares his artwork with his peers.
In my experience visiting schools, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m showing the work that I do to other people. The reason artists draw and musicians play, is that we want to communicate, to share what comes through us with other people.
Read the full interview.