It seems ‘normal’ to me to begin an illustration with a piece of paper on which I transfer a sketch and then begin to draw and paint. When I’m done, I have my finished illustration. So, the thought of constructing all the tiny parts and pieces of a picture and assembling them in a wooden stage/frame to be meticulously lit and photographed is quite a fascinating undertaking to me. “Fall Leaves” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, written by Loretta Holland and illustrated by Elly MacKay took my breath away. Each page turn has large header type and is wordplay with homonyms, “Leaves leave… Temperature falls… Fall Leaves”.
There is a small paragraph narrating the changing of the seasons with some interesting nature trivia and observations. But what ties everything together for me are Elly MacKay’s magical illustrations. They make the book a feast for the senses. One wants to just crawl into the page, it’s such a believable world she creates.
There’s something otherworldly about Elly’s artwork. Her technique is to build ‘sets’ out of paper creating a three dimensional space, then light them in a way that gives an ethereal effect and photograph them. Elly uses Yupo paper (a synthetic watercolor paper) that she paints, cuts out, and assembles.
I contacted Elly to ask her how long it takes her to make a completed image and she said that she completes about 2 per week, working about 6 hours a day. Elly has a very successful etsy shop (where I first saw and admired her images several years ago) at theaterclouds.etsy.com.
Constructing and photographing theaters for one’s illustrations certainly requires a varied skill set. “Fall Leaves” is a captivating book and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Elly’s unique and intriguing illustration process, hope you did, too!