Yuval Zommer graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Illustration. He worked for many years as a creative director at leading advertising agencies before becoming the author and illustrator of highly acclaimed non-fiction titles including the Big Book of… series which has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the UKLA Book Awards. Here he describes his approach to his latest book The Lights that Dance in the Night and the techniques used.
In this book, The Lights that Dance in the Night, which is all about the wonder of the Northern Lights, the text is often quite lyrical, sometimes even sparse, as I am trying to say a lot with only a few words. One of my favourite spreads has the seemingly simple line: ‘Through clouds and winds and storms we came.’ When it came to the artwork, in order to create the feeling of a journey as we read across the page, I decided to stagger this sentence into three sections as follows: ‘Through clouds… and wind and storms…we came.’
Although this is one continuous scene, I needed to emphasise the three sections visually as well as lyrically. I therefore introduced white borders to create the effect of three panels that all belong together, a bit like the ones you see in a graphic novel. I also always like to introduce a bit of playfulness into the layouts, so if you look closely you’ll notice the tail of a reindeer protruding onto the border in the left panel, a shepherd’s stick extending onto the border in the middle panel and a tree’s branches sticking out of the third panel. I believe these are the kind of details kids love to discover as they read/look at the book again and again.
The skies in the initial artwork were also worked on in photoshop to slightly differ in tone and contrast, so as to help differentiate the three sections.
Once the white borders were added, as a final touch I placed four pine ‘leaves’ as decorative elements in each corner of the page.
Another favourite spread from the book has the line ‘We lit the skies for forest birds, we sparkled over reindeer herds’. I wrote this line specifically as I had a particular festive image in mind which I had wanted to use for a while but could not find the right story for it until now. This image of a reindeer with a choir of birds on its horns was originally drawn as a Xmas card for friends!
For the spread I created a snowy white forest background and added some flying birds to the ‘dancing’ lights to highlight the motion.
The book is a joyous celebration of the magic of the Lights and I enjoyed creating the ‘winter wonderland’ scenarios of the Artic and its inhabitants.
Happy Reading and early season’s greetings from me!
The Lights that Dance in the Night is published by Oxford University Press, £12.99