I have been
stalking following Nancy on FB since she joined and for much of that time I admit it has been Mole that I have been following as I wanted to befriend him. Welcome Nancy Arno, and thank you for being my final guest of the season in my illustrator interview series.
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator?
[NA] Author + Illustrator, equal billing. For me, illustrations and words inspire each other. I start with an image and then go back and forth between words and sketches on a storyboard with post-its to mold a cohesive story. I once heard someone describe the process as like rubbing stones together – the more you work them, the more polished they become.
[JM] Where are you from and how has that influenced your work?
[NA] My stomping grounds are the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in a small town 40 minutes outside of Seattle, close to the Cascade Mountains for winter skiing and a lake nearby for sailing and swimming. Being surrounded by nature influenced my frame of reference, which includes a sweet spot for small woodland animals.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[NA] I was an arty kid growing up but didn’t know how I was going to make a living from it. In college I fell in love with graphic design. After college I worked for Hewlett Packard as a graphic designer, art director, and publication manager. After HP, I worked as an art director for an architectural firm. My last corporate job was with an industrial design firm doing package design.
It was reading picture books to my children that unleashed a desire to learn more about the publishing industry. I spent several years taking drawing and painting classes, attending SCBWI conferences and writing workshops before I felt ready to submit work. I’m still learning!
[JM] Big congratulations, and please tell my readers about your new deal!
[NA] Thank you! I’m thrilled and over the moon to be working with Peachtree Publishers. A Friend for Mole is a story about an accidental encounter between a mole and a wolf, one afraid of the light, the other afraid of the dark. Their adventures lead to an unusual friendship. It is my first author + illustrator book. Publication is Fall 2015.
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
[NA] Watercolor and Prismacolor pencils are my go to mediums but I also use crayons, gouache, acrylics and pastel chalk. I buy Fabino Hot Press #140 lb bright white watercolor paper in bulk and love Nihonga Sumi-e pan set watercolors.
[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?
[NA] I seem to gravitate towards animals that struggle with issues like friendship, fears, and the everyday stuff of life. Humor plays a big part in all my characters.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[NA] My studio is a little room on the second floor of our house. A huge old drafting table that I have lugged around forever dominates it. I love looking out the window into the garden and watching crows gather in the trees. Usually the studio is a bit of a mess since I’m from the school of stacking piles of paper as a filing system. When it gets to the point where I can’t find anything I go on a purging binge, but most of the time it has a comfortable rumpled look.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?
[NA] I am currently working on a book involving raccoons, a bear, and marshmallows. It is a tale of finding friendship through food.
These images were done in watercolor, with different shades of Prismacolor pencil layered on top of each other. By using the heat from a hairdryer or from my finger rubbing it, the wax in the Prismacolor melts and mixes with the other color layers making them appear more translucent and graduated in tone. The heat seals the color so I can build up several layers. I then use Photoshop to tweak and clean up. Sometimes I will use gradient fill layers to add depth and shadow.
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
[NA] My children’s artwork is all over the house. The bulk of the artwork is an eclectic collection of lithographs and paintings, both watercolor and oil that we have collected over the years. A large collection of wind-up toys and old desk globes found at garage sales dominates our family room.
Five Fun Ones to Finish [JM] What word best sums you up?
[JM] If you could live anywhere for a few months, where would you go?
[NA] Mongolia and Tibet.
[JM] I have looked into Tibet from China and contourned Mongolia by train. Both fascinating nations. What’s your go-to snack or drink to keep the creative juices flowing?
[NA] Coffee in the morning, water the rest of the day. Carrots when I’m thinking healthy, but for all those other times nothing beats a bag of jellybeans for a good sugar rush.
[JM] Cats or Dogs?
[NA] Last year after fourteen years together, our West Highland Terrier died. Miss Lucy had a big personality. My avatar image on twitter is a tip of the hat to our beloved Lucy.
[JM] Lucy looks such a sweetheart. Which is your favorite park in the world?
[NA] Luxemburg Gardens in Paris. In the springtime with a lovely pastry (or two), enjoying the sunshine and watching children sail their model boats. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
[JM] Great choice. Paris has some amazing parks. Where can we find you?
Thank you Joanna for the interview! It was fun and it forced me to clean up my studio for the photo. (A good thing!)
Nancy, thank you so much for sharing with us today though you didn’t have to clean up the studio just for us! I wish you so much success with Mole, your raccoon story and beyond!