How dark is too dark?

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation -

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

Lis­beth Zw­erger.

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