Lovely session this morning with Belgian picture book illustrator, Leo Timmers, another of the Writers Week speakers who are published by Gecko Press. His titles with them include Bang and Who's driving? I've seen both of these books, but will have to read them again in light of some of his comments.
Leo talked about his way of gathering ideas (not using a notebook, but only in the quiet of his studio), why he prefers painting to illustrating on the computer, why he uses animal characters and what makes a good picture book - something he thinks that reviewers often miss. "When reviewers review books, I can often tell they haven't looked." A picture book should be "visual story telling", not an illustrated story.
He further explained this by describing some of the spreads in Bang, which on the surface is a simple tale about a series of car accidents - but when you look closer, there is so much more going on, in the colours, and the stories behind the surface story (the hungry rabbits, the lovestruck cats, the chickens rescued from a terrible fate.)
One of the questions asked was about whether Leo sees some underlying theme to all his stories, and he thinks perhaps it's identity: wanting to fit in, to find out who you are.
If you haven't come across any of his books, you should hunt them out - find a child to read them to - and look below the surface story. The child may well spot what's going on before you do!