Writing a Wordless Book by Lizi Boyd

INSIDE OUTSIDE is my new book from Chronicle Books. It is wordless and now it’s all about the words. I didn’t ‘hear’ the book; I could only ‘see’ it and not all at once. It came about in silence, slowly, day by day painting itself. Footnotes follow with my thoughts and process:

There is an outside door near my studio with windows looking in. I like to prop up sketches I’m working on and go outside and look back at them. Seeing them sitting on their own encourages a critical eye. I  can see which  are strong, weak, over-worked and where I need to take them. It’s my odd habit of objectivity.

lizi boyd 1

(sketches of spring lambs)

Another habit I have is when taking a break I’ll work with something new, a different surface, an oil crayon, a fat haired brush. I do this to change up my hand and eye. I’d been given a large box of kraft paper. I did some quick sketches. Then I cut some rectangular pieces, folded them, cut windows and played. I tacked them up by my desk.

(sketches &  old drafting curls)

(sketches & old drafting curls)

Piles of snow and footprints melted. Snowdrops popped up from the dirt. Outside everything was brown with patches of white. The sketches caught my eye again.

INSIDE OUTSIDE was transcribed from a childlike place. I didn’t know where it was going; I just followed along.

lizi boyd 3

( snowdrops in the rabbit garden)

It was at night, in bed, that I thought about what was happening in my studio. It wasn’t so much about the book but about how we ‘see,’ the narratives around us and how they become stories. I thought about how we inform our children by the objects we chose; the cups they drink from, the flowers on the table, the clothes they wear, the texture and their colors. The walls of our houses are filled with papers, books, drawings, all narratives of our daily lives. We inform our children and in turn they show us by choosing a favorite shirt, a comforting blanket, their special book that they want read over and over again.

(noisy telephone wall)

(noisy telephone wall)

I also thought about pattern and out interpretations of all things: plants, birds, trees, sky, water, animals and how these patterns are constantly repeated, reinterpreted; from primitive to bold to vivid and new. And how this shared visual language connects all people.

(objects sitting above the cookbooks)

(objects sitting above the cookbooks)

And all these noisy musings came only at night. When I’d go back to the studio in the morning it was silent, just brown paper sketches making their way towards a book.

Children are brilliant in their imaginary worlds. I’m envious of their eye, strength of  images and prolific naivety. Their physical worlds are also filled with stories and some children become keen observers and in turn narrators. We, the adults, nurture our children and allow them the quiet to explore. Seeing and telling stories is a part of all our lives. It is through stories that we amuse, share, comfort, connect. Imagine being given a long scroll of paper, a bamboo pen, a bottle of ink and being asked to illustrate your days. It would be your own pictorial mapping; ancient , modern, timeless.

Lizi Boyd has written and illustrated more than thirty children’s books, and she also creates other works of delight. Her dogs, Olive and Zuli, assisted in the making of this book. She lives in Vermont.



Mr. Schu and Mr. Sharp are joining Nerdy Book Club today in celebrating Lizi Boyd’s Inside Outside. Check out their blogs to see what sort of shenanigans they are up to.