I have known Teresa for quite a while now through social media and would most definitely consider her a friend. Teresa is a cheerleader in the very best sense of the word and supports her close and wider illustrating and writing community with boundless energy. It is my pleasure to interview her today on Miss Marple’s Musings.
Also, don’t miss the rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post where the winner will be able to choose The winner can choose either a print at my Society6 site – http://society6.com/teresarobeson – or an e-copy of each of the four SF anthologies I’m in (the links to the Goodreads descriptions are at my website at teresarobeson.com .)
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[TR] Author/illustrator because I’ve been writing children’s lit for publication since the early 1990s but only started illustrating in the past couple of years. I begin with words, often being inspired by the nature around me on our property, science magazines I read, or educational videos that I watch with my family as part of our homeschooling.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
[TR] I was born in Hong Kong and lived there until the age of 8. I spent the next 17 years in Vancouver, British Columbia, before moving to the U.S. 26 years ago. I have used both the places I’ve lived in, as well as my life experiences in those places, in some of my writing, though not as much yet in illustration.
The first story I sold was autobiographical about my kindergarten graduation in Hong Kong.
A time-travel story I wrote for my sci-fi group’s anthology (the profits of which are donated to Doctors Without Borders) was set in Vancouver and based on my mother dying of cancer. I think imbuing those stories with my experiences and the places I know well gave them extra heart.
For art, it’s more my cultural background than the places I’ve lived in that has influenced my work. My dad taught me how to do Chinese paintings:
and I experimented with creating a Chinese girl character during last year’s Inktober Challenge.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[TR] I think most of your guests profess to drawing ever since they could hold a pencil, but I’m not one of them. I rarely drew or painted in my childhood
I took an art class in high school but I don’t think I stood out as having exceptional talent, though I was probably better at rendering than the most of the class. Once I realized I was good at rendering, I drew a lot of portraits, many of hockey players, as I was quite a hockey fan at the time.
It wasn’t until I signed up for a fine arts class for non-art majors in my late 20s at the University of Delaware (where I worked while hubby was finishing his Ph.D.) that I got actual feedback from a professional that I have talent. The instructor didn’t praise my work in class. “That’s not bad, but you might want to try this instead,” he’d say. But one day, I was waiting for hubby to pick me up after class, and all my classmates had left, a bunch of art majors came into the studio to hang out with my instructor. As I was about to leave, the instructor turned to the other students and said, “you guys are lucky she’s not an art major, or she’d blow you all away.”
Since then, other professional artists I’ve met have told me I have talent, so I guess I am a late bloomer.
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
[TR] I have tried most media except for oils, but I love the feel of chalk pastel and charcoal best. I recently dipped my toes in digital art, using the Art Studio app for iPad that my good friend and critique group partner, Sylvia Liu, told me about. I like it a lot because it’s portable and not messy. I tend to accidentally smear paints all over my face.
[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?
[TR] When I was doing fine art, I focused on portraiture. There is something intriguing about the human face, and I like the challenge of making a portrait resemble its subject. You can fudge a landscape or still life mostly, but you can’t fudge a portrait.
But with illustrations, I love doing animals. I started drawing lots and lots of squirrel cartoons to chronicle the funny/awful squirrel stories my friends were telling me.
Then, I did a “One Day in the Life of a Squirrel” theme for Sketchbook Project.
[JM] I know you also write MG and YA, have you done illustrations for these too?
[TR] Not yet, but I would love to! I grew up adoring the line art of Garth Williams, Mary Shepard, N.M. Bodecker, and Vera Neville and want to do illustrations like those in my novels. Also, I’ve always been interested in comic books/graphic novels and want to try my hand at creating them for both fiction and nonfiction. I’m inspired by my agent-mate, Erik Thurman, who does wonderful political cartoons and social commentaries in graphic-novel form.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?
[TR] To prepare a portfolio for the NYC SCBWI conference, I brainstormed some ideas for illustrations. I created a narrative piece of a penguin and a bear starting with a very rough doodle of the penguin [photo 11] to an equally rough sketch of a scene [photo 12] to the final piece that I did on the iPad. [photo 13]
Also for the portfolio, I have an illustration of a squirrel (what else, right?) riding a heron. The idea formed fully in my mind for this one so I don’t have a rough sketch. I started right away with a pencil sketch on watercolor paper because I planned on using colored pencils or watercolor pencils to fill it in.
However, I couldn’t get my colored pencils sharp enough to get the detailed coloring I wanted (we were vacationing in Arizona at the time and I only had one pencil sharpener with me that wasn’t working well), I ended up scanning the sketch and using the Art Studio App to color it. I was quite happy with the way it turned out.
As for a WIP, there is a story I’ve been working on for a while now about k?k?p?s, endangered New Zealand birds. I started with thumbnails on a storyboard. [photo 16] Then, from that, I made a dummy that’s about 1/3 size. [photo 17] Here are a couple of the spreads from the dummy. [photo 18] [photo 19] Some of the spreads changed a bit because I had revised the story several times since I made the storyboard.
And here’s a completed chalk pastel painting of one of the spreads.
I’m afraid I am going to have to redo a portion of this dummy, though. I’ve signed up for a workshop called Creating Your Best Dummy, and in the process have completely rewritten the manuscript…in poetry! Thank goodness for the invaluable help from my awesome critique group friend, the talented poetess, Renee LaTulippe.
[JM] Do you have a favorite picture book from when you were young?
[TR] I didn’t have any picture books growing up in Hong Kong, but my parents bought me this children’s magazine that I devoured.
It translates to “Children’s Happy Garden” and is the Hong Kong equivalent of Highlights Magazine. It has a mix of different stories from Western, Chinese and Japanese cultures, as well as news items, puzzles, occasional contests with prizes, and a showcase of artwork by readers. My favorite art was from the traditional Chinese stories.
After we moved to Vancouver, I was able to get a hold of real picture books, and one of my absolute favorites was, and still is, A SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats.
[JM] How has life on a hobby farm influenced your art or writing?
[TR] As I mentioned in the answer to the first question, the nature around us on the property has been an inspiration to some of my writing and ideas. Ladybug Magazine published a poem of mine about spring flowers, and I have a half-completed manuscript of nature poetry that I started two years ago. As well, I have a completed picture book story about growing one’s food that I need to revise and show to my agent.
For art, I want to start drawing all the great veggies and plants that hubby grows because there is tremendous beauty in vegetation and I’ve wanted for years to be a botanical artist. But a bigger influence has been the squirrels in our yard (naturally!). We have many species of oaks and hickories, which attract a lot of squirrels. I watch the squirrels scamper about to get a feel of their movements and anatomy to use when I do illustrations of them. I look forward to dedicating a book to the squirrels in my yard one day. Hah.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[TR] I have the messiest art/craft/sewing room. It’s like Entropy lives there (if there was a nameplate on the door, it’s say “S=k log W”…nerd joke). This room is where I work on non-digital art, soap-making, warping threads for weaving, sewing, jewelry-making, and more. A multipurpose room is going to be messy, I suppose.
If I’m writing or doing digital art (or knitting and crocheting), I am at my comfy chair or at the standing desk. Yes, that is my loom back there!
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
[TR] I have some of my own art on our walls.
But my favorite pieces are 1) this lovely ink drawing we got from my in-laws of a statue of Caesar Rodney that’s in downtown Wilmington, DE (hubby is a 4th generation Delawarean),
2) pieces of Native American prints we bought while we were in Alaska,
3) an Edward Hopper print I scored at a yard sale,
4) old Chinese art that my father gave us.
Five Fun Ones to Finish? [JM] What’s your favorite park in the world?
[TR] I know my property is not a park, but it is truly beautiful. If I had to choose actual parks, I’d pick 1) Bryce Canyon National Park – we love it so much we named our older son after it, and 2) Stanley Park because it is an icon in Vancouver where I grew up; a huge green space with old growth trees in the middle of a large metropolis is a rarity.
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[TR] I’ve had two dogs and two cats in my life, but I’m definitely a cat person. Hubby says I get this goofy, euphoric look whenever I’m around cats. This was our first cat, Euclid, and our pretty English Shepherd, Gali, who died too young from a tick-borne disease.
[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?
[TR] I ate way too much Jello with evaporated milk (it’s a thing among Hong Kong Chinese, at least back in my day) as a kid.
[JM] What word best sums you up?
[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
[TR] I’m a tea sipper – tea of all sorts: black, green, white, and herbal. I would also eat Jelly Babies (look up “Doctor Who Jelly Babies” and you’ll know what I mean) all the time if I could. Nibbling on those helps me think.
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[TR] Thank you so much, Joanna, for letting me blather on in your blog! I have loved your illustrator interview series for a long time and I am honored and thrilled to be an interviewee.
[JM] It was my pleasure. I know you recently signed with wonderful agent, Ella Kennen of Corvisiero Literary Agency, and I wish you great success in all that you are submitting to publishers right now.
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