Image references and stories that dealing with the topic "loneliness"?

  • I am writing a picture book story about being alone and feeling lonely vs. being alone feeling content. I am in the stage of thumbnailing and writing the story.

    I wonder if you have some input on:
    1. Existing picture book stories that deal with similar topics.
    2. Image compositions that express the emotion of being lonely.

    Here is a thumbnail for a spread from the dummy WIP. The main character is feeling lonely after starting a new school due to the family moved to a new city. But she pretends to be cool. I find my current comp is a bit too calm for the story. (horizontal line comp tends to make readers feel calm and stable). I want to somehow make the environment more chaotic to reflect her uncertainty and doubts. Any suggestions?


  • @xin-li that’s interesting. I’ve always found horizontal lines restful too. I did some googling and found Frank Gehry architecture, which reminded me of a conversation a while back, you suggested using shape or perspective in a way that was emotive rather than literal.
    Frank Gehry’s buildings definitely reflect a feeling of uncertainty or unease, they’re quite a chaotic mixture of structure.
    I don’t know if this sparks any ideas for you.

  • SVS OG

  • @xin-li Great idea for a book! My first image that came to mind was inside the bus where the lonely girl is upfront with the empty seat next to her, while general mayhem and anarchy ensue in the back of the bus with the other kids. That sums up my childhood, especially if you give her a drawing pad - lol

    Yes, horizontal lines are calming in general. You could explore with camera angles, having it low to the ground so we see the girl walking up the stairs to a looming school building.

    The only book about loneliness that comes to mind is The Only Child by Guojing. It's beautiful.

    I second The Invisible Boy. So good.

  • SVS OG

    @xin-li Also the short animated film The Dam Keeper....not a book but i think it might be worth looking at too 🙂

  • Pro

    @xin-li This is lovely! I understand your point that you want something more chaotic and dramatic. However I would argue that loneliness itself can be pretty calm, actually! It's a sad calm, but defined more by the things that aren't happening, rather than the things that are happening. While you may decide this comp is not be ideal for the first spread of the book, maybe you should keep it in mind for another spread in the same book. I think the comp shows the loneliness really well, with how far apart she stands from the rest of the crowd. The use of white empty space is great! Anyway, just something to consider 🙂

  • I don't know what your plans are for the story, but whether you're a child or an adult, you have to make an effort if you do not want to be alone. I've moved several times in my life, the last time was 18 months ago. While waiting to meet people, explore your surroundings and discover what you like. Then when you encounter someone you like, make an effort. Do not allow yourself to be a victum.

  • @peteolczyk Thank you Pete, Frank Gehry's architecture do look chaotic. I think it has a lot to do with the tilted windows. I will try to take some of that idea into my images and see what happens.

  • @Kevin-Longueil thank you so much for the book recommendation. I "read" it on youtube just now (have limited access to English books at my local library). Really well-structured story and beautiful art.

    I heard about The Dam keeper, also love the art done by Daisuke Tsutsumi and Robert Kond. Will definitely check it out.

  • @xin-li What about a vertical alignment with either her being up close and the others all together but far off or switch and have the crowd up close and her a little lonely figure in the back farther up the page isolated in white space.

  • @Laurel-Aylesworth very interesting book. It is rare to find a black and white picturebook. But this one really works with the topic. I also like the portray of being alone is more beautiful and melancholic rather than negative.

    I was a lonely teenager, spent lots of time being alone. But now I am really good at spending time alone and enjoy being alone most of the time. The story in a way reflects my own experience to some degree. I want to leave the feeling to the reader that "yes. it is important to have friends. But there are also many wonderful things you can do being alone". It is a story about a girl to find the confidence to be alone and content.

  • @NessIllustration thank you for the feedback. I guess the reason I want to have a bit more chaos at the beginning of the story is that I want to end the story with the girl find harmony with being alone by herself. I will definitely keep in mind that I am not working on one image, but all 14+ spreads together at this stage.

  • @deborah-Haagenson I know what you mean :-). thanks for sharing your thoughts. It does take an effort if you do not want to be alone. I would add that it also requires an effort if one wants to be alone and content/happy. I think it might be good to do both: put an effort to make friends and put an effort into learning to be alone as well 🙂

  • @chrisaakins thank you for your suggestions. I will definitely try to play with the camera angles.

  • check out Isabella Arsenaults newbook Albert's quiet quest

    it is about being along and feeling content I believe. I haven't got the book though, ordered it yesterday and still on its way to my home now.

  • @xin-li Yes it does!

  • @idid yah. I have a copy of that book. I loved it. Thanks for making that connection for me.

  • The Heart and The Bottle by Jeffers isn't all about loneliness per se, but I find this spread to be beautifully evocative of what it feels like to miss one person in particular


  • @Braxton thank you so much. This is so good.
    I found the way Jeffers drawing the shadow in this spread is very interesting, the rough pencil lines add some chaotic feeling within a very quiet spread.

    The perspective of the room on the right side of the spread is just tilted a little, making me feel a bit uneasy.

    I am going to try these elements directly into my sketch.

  • @Braxton I wan to cry a bit after reading this book. Thank you for sharing.

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