How dark is too dark?
Painting images that thrill young readers is one thing. Giving them nightmares is another… The children’s fantasy illustrator walks a fine line between scaring and terrifying their audience. On the one hand, the words in the book may describe creepy or horrifying events, but the artist always has to consider their reader’s tender years. So how do they balance these concerns?
“Once a young woman told me she was traumatised by one of my illustrations as a child. I myself remember old illustrations from my childhood that shocked me. My aim is to intrigue and not to shock. I find it more interesting to leave things up to one’s imagination. To be explicit doesn’t necessarily mean that a picture is better,” says Lisbeth Zwerger. “Getting the balance right between delivering enjoyable thrills and inflicting PTSD on young minds can be a tightrope to walk,” adds Nick Harris. “Sex and violence are facts of life that do need to be introduced, but the raw form that adults can handle isn’t suitable for fledgling minds. If it’s handled well it affords a brilliant opportunity to help develop a balanced perspective.” And in this regard, illustrator Cory Godbey tends to think along the same lines: “The tension, as I see it, is the desire to preserve the innocence of a child until they’re old enough to be emotionally ready to deal with a subject, while at the same time telling stories that can develop a child’s imagination, character and intelligence.”
FROZEN One of Cory Godbey’s favourite images saw him painting icy mountain beasts for the book
series Jamie’s Journey.
LIKE A BALLET The nutcracker beneath the Christmas tree, painted by