I’m a sucker for good books, and good picture books. My bookshelves attest to that.
“The Reader” is an adorable story about a young boy and his dog as he goes out on a snowy day with a small brown suitcase to enjoy a special book. The words are lyrical, but I fell in love with the illsutrations. They remind me of “My Friend Rabbit,” which is a picture book I adore and adored the cartoon based off of it (sadly my kids did not adore the cartoon).
I’ve never had the opportunity to interview an illustrator before and I had to restrain myself from covering her in my millions of questions.
What artists inspire you?
Oh it’s a long list! Here are just a few of my favorites: John Burningham, Maurice Sendak, David Small, Ezra Jack Keats, Helen Oxenbury, Ben Shahn. . . .
Any tips for working in watercolors? I saw the book was illustrated using ink and watercolors, and I’m not very good with watercolors.
I suppose my biggest tip would be to keep at it. Play around with different brushes and paper to find what works best for you. Watercolor is a fast-moving medium so you have to be prepared to dive right in to a painting, and make decisions with intuition. I began using watercolors in high school, and still feel like I learn something new each time I pick up the paint brush!
If you’re interested in my entire step-by-step process of creating THE READER art you can check out this (heavily visual) interview I recently did with Pen & Oink.
I adored the style of illustration you used for this. I’m teaching myself to draw, and would love some tips on improving my skills. What helped your style the most?
Working in a sketchbook on location has really helped me build confidence in my drawing. When drawing on location, without even thinking, you’re taking in all that you see around you. And you end up creating honest, energetic sketches. I think that life observation, and quick gestural sketching are incredibly important practices, so my recommendation would be to do some form of that. Whether it’s figurative in a life drawing class, or just out on the street or in a park sketching the atmosphere and passersby. I know that the more I do this, the more I’m able to draw with courage, and I bet you’ll feel the same 🙂
Do you and the author compare notes on the illustrations or do you complete them without author input?
I did not speak directly with Amy the whole time I worked on THE READER art, but we did have conversations through our editor Melanie. Melanie sent Amy my work at various stages, and Amy gave input here and there, and even tweaked the text based on what she was seeing in my illustrations. So, even though we were kept somewhat separate during the creative process, I think there was great teamwork between author, editor and illustrator!
How did you think of the pictures you drew from the words? (All three of my kids really want to know this, they all asked variations on this question)
Great question! Well, I wanted to make sure I described what Amy was saying with her words in my art. But I also wanted to extend the story by adding little details into the landscape. I tried to visualize what I might see on a snowy day. More specifically, I thought about my own childhood snow day adventures and just how magical the world around me appeared. I looked at a lot of snowscape photography, and I also looked through old (snowy!) family photographs for inspiration.
One detail you’ll notice in several scenes throughout the book is the blue jay. Amy mentioned him in her writing just one time, but I decided to include him as an extra character in the visual narrative. The blue jay follows the boy and his dog on their journey to the top of the hill—he doesn’t want to miss out on the special story time that is going to take place!
How did you decide what dog to draw?
When I read Amy’s sweet story, and the way she portrayed the special, loving relationship between a child and his dog, I immediately thought of my childhood dog, Chauncy. Chauncy was around for 15 years of my life, and we were ‘two good friends’. Inseparable, just like the boy and his dog in THE READER (we even used to go sledding together!). Chauncy was a true mutt—poodle, terrier, shih tzu. An adorable and loyal little scrappy dog. And I wanted the dog in this book to have those same qualities. My dog Chauncy and The Reader’s dog may not look identical, but they both make for a pretty perfect best friend 🙂
Why did you decide to draw that kind of suitcase holding the book?
The first sentence in the story reads: “The reader has a small brown dog and a sturdy suitcase that is brown…”. I thought about what a sturdy suitcase would look like, and what came to mind was an old hard leather suitcase. Kind of like a briefcase. I thought it would make sense for the boy to carry his special book in a piece of luggage like that. So I made some sketches and came up with that old-fashioned looking brown suitcase. And of course the colorful stickers I added on helped to make it look a little less ordinary and a little more intriguing.
Now comes the fun part for you! You get a chance to win a copy. If you have young kids or teach, this could be the book for you. There are a lot of great writing and art projects you can do with book.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book for free, this did not influence my views on the book. The opinions are my own. There are affiliate links in this post. Jeff just told me if I were a member of the A-Team I would be Murdock. I don’t know if I’m please or affronted.