Charlie is one of those illustrators I feel like I have known forever! We are in a bunch of kidlit groups together, including Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, and I have watched her diligence, humor and activity over the past few years . I was thrilled when an agent recently spotted her talent and was convinced I had already interviewed her, but on discovering that wasn’t the case, I soon remedied that!
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[CER] Aspiring author/illustrator, I begin with both but if I had to lean one way I would say words come first most often. I’m like most introverted creatives, I may not talk your ear off in a crowd but give me a blank piece of paper and I’ll fill it up with words, doodles and indistinguishable scribbles pretty quickly. When a key phase hits and can be flushed out into a first draft, it is very exciting…then comes many revisions and character sketches, etc.
Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived/visited influenced your work?
[CER] I’m sure it does to some degree, although I have not travelled much. I live in Eastern PA and previously lived in Florida for 7 years. I spent summer vacations on a lake in Canada with my family growing up. I feel mostly influenced by the people in my life, ie my kids, husband, friends and family. I’m a people watcher by nature, so that always helps for material. I can be moody at times but humor runs deep around here and I am quick to laugh and so are the people I surround myself with. Linking random, silly thoughts together helps drive a lot of my story lines.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and as an artist.
[CER] Growing up I was equal parts tomboy, book nerd and art geek. I never really fit. Though, I don’t think anyone really does which makes life interesting. What you think you see in someone from a distance or even when standing next to them, most times is completely wrong. I like that life and people are a bit of a mystery, it makes exploring it all much more fun.
I grew up in a broken home that was patched up and held together with a lot of humor, love, tears, arguments and tacky wall paper. We lost a lot a long the way, but no matter how hard life tried to knock us down, our love as a family stumbled on.
Doodling and writing poetry was an outlet for me and I took many art classes in school and have fond memories of my HS art teacher. I always loved reading books and writing in my journals. Art and words have woven their way into my life ever since.
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in, and does it depend on genre?
[CER] Mixed media digital. I love playing with a variety of pens, brushes, textures and patterns. I work mostly in Manga Studio 5, Painter 12 and Photoshop. If something is light and funny, I may use loose line work with a wash of color or if it is a more serious mood piece I may use my more painterly style. The words and art should compliment each other and since my writing ranges from dark and twisty to light and funny it helps to work in different illustrative styles.
[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?
[CER] Butterflies, flowers, birdies, foxes, moons and little curly-haired girls find their way into a lot of my work.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[CER] Part studio/part kitchen with a dash of finger paint and spaghetti sauce splattered on the walls. 😀
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?
[CER] I am currently waiting on some feedback on a MS, before moving on to the dummy stage, so I have been working on prints this week. These are two recent pieces I added to my Etsy shop. They are from my little nursery birdie series of prints. Nursery birdie is washing and hanging the baby’s laundry.
These were both drawn and painted in Manga Studio 5. I opened a new canvas and picked a paper texture to work with. I started sketching very loosely the character/setting and thinking about my color palette. Then I moved on to blocking in the main shapes and painted the tree and birdie. I added the grass/flower/bubble details last. I went with a limited color palette with strong, simple shapes. I liked mixing the rustic look of the washboard, tub and tree with the more delicate quality of the flowers, the sweet nursery birdie and baby clothes.
The last piece was created for my portfolio.Once I had a very loose sketch of the girl, I choose a paper texture to work with and added in a base color for the backdrop. I blocked in some basic shapes for the head and body. Then I added line work for the facial features, painted in her hair and started to build up the skin tone with varying shades of red, blue and brown. Lastly I put the finishing touches/details on the eyes, filled out her lips, added flowers and fine line details to her hair and worked on the soft lighting coming from the candle and landing on her cheek/hair.
[JM] What communities/societies/FB pages etc would you recommend illustrators to join?
[CER] SCBWI, 12×12, SVS (School of Visual Storytelling), Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Splashes-Make Your Marks, and Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy to name a few great resources for illustrators and writers.
[JM] I recently discovered your @cat@dog web comic chat between two furry friends, cat and dog. Can I be a bit demanding and ask you to do a special one here for Miss Marple’s Musings, as Miss Marple misses Fudge and Marmite, her two kitties she had to rehome in France before moving to New York.
[CER] Sure, anything for Miss Marple! I love these two characters and need to let them out to play more. 😀 I know you are missing your fur-babies in France so here is dog visiting Paris…
[JM] Merci! Merci! J’adore! Congratulations on very recently signing with an agent. Have you any tips for pitching as an author/illustrator as opposed to just one or the other?
[CER] Thank you! I recently signed with Jennifer Starkman from the Transatlantic Agency. She has been wonderful and I am very exciting to be working with her.
I pitched a MS and a link to my portfolio to Jennifer while she was the 12×12 December agent. She didn’t connect with the MS but loved my illustration work. I had a few other agents who were interested in seeing more of my work and the whole thing was very exciting and nerve-wracking. Jennifer and I communicated the most through the whole process and really connected well. After seeing a couple more MS’s she felt the writing was strong but too dark for the current market and signed me on as an illustrator. She was still very interested in seeing more of my writing, so I am excited to see where that all lands in the future.
My journey to getting an agent has been long, with the last four years spent seriously dedicated to learning about all things kid-lit. I write and draw all the time and have dozens upon dozens of MS that may never see the light of day. I have done many workshops, classes, and webinars over the years and I still feel like I am just barely scratching the surface.
I say if you’ve dedicated many serious hours to your craft and love both writing and illustrating equally than go for it. Build a solid, easy to navigate portfolio website and have a few MS ready (not just one) in case they want to see more. Use the many awesome kid-lit resources available to learn more about this amazing community of creatives and specifically what agents and editors are looking for, etc. Keep going, keep learning and growing, especially in the face of rejection. Rejections are a sign of courage, be proud of yours…it means you are reaching for something special!
Mm, Maybe if your writing is a little dark, there would be room in the European picture book world for your work? La France??
Five Fun Ones to Finish
[JM] What word best sums you up?
[CER] Protective! Most of my personality traits, good and bad, go back to me being very protective.
[JM] If you could live anywhere for a few months, where would you go?
[CER] Ireland or Sweden
[JM] What’s your go-to snack or drink to keep the creative juices flowing?
[CER] Hot tea is always flowing, hence the many bathroom breaks. Be right back :P!
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[CER] Kids! Very blessed with two of them, ages 5 and 2. They are just as messy and lovable!
[JM] Which literary bad guy do you like the most?
Lucy from Charlie Brown! She is the ultimate cranky pants bully who isn’t afraid to work for a living, struggles to do the right thing, can’t help but pull the football out from under poor trustworthy, Charlie Brown and she has had her share of heartbreak and rejection from Schroeder, too.
Oh, yes, thanks for reminding us of Lucy, *sigh* . Where can we find/follow you and your work, Charlie?
Thanks so much for the chat, Joanna!! 😀
[JM] Charlie, thanks so much for sharing with us and I hope your journey is an encouragement to other illustrators. Thank you so much for the special cartoon dedicated to Fudge and Marmite – much appreciated! To your success both in pictures and words!