I am an antarctic-sized sucker for penguins and I fell deeply in love with Salina’s Penguin and just had to interview the creator!
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[SY] I am an author/illustrator, and I usually begin with very rough thumbnail sketches. In fact, they are so rough that most people would probably think they’re just scribbles. And they are! But it helps me to write the story. I write with sketched scenes rather than words because it’s easier for me to visualize the story.
I need to see the entire book on one sheet of paper. It is easier for me to see how it paces, and if I’m building to a satisfying ending. Each spread of a book is a puzzle piece. Without seeing them all together, it would be hard to put the pieces together. As such, I often cut the thumbnails into pieces and see if I can rearrange them to make a better fit. Sometimes a piece is replaced with a revised thumbnail. The beginning stages of my picture books are often very cut-and-paste. I keep a set of scissors, tape, and notebook paper in my bag at all times—so I can take my work with me anywhere I want to work.
This shows my slightly more refined thumbnails, but they always remain small. I like to work small because it is easier to compose the picture.
Here is another example, from Penguin and Pinecone. I scanned the original thumbnails and typed out the text. You’ll see how closely some of the art stayed to the original sketches in the final artwork. Below, comparisons with the thumbnail sketch and final artwork from the book. The thumbnails are about 2” wide, but the actual art is about 18” wide.
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
[SY] I’ve been enjoying working digitally for the last few years, but this doesn’t mean the art style stays the same. Sometimes I will draw with pencil, scan it in, and color on Photoshop. (Art from Count My Blessings, One Through Ten, Penguin Putnam)
Other times, I will illustrate with Photoshop and Illustrator using a mouse: (Art from Pinwheel, Little, Brown)
Or, just Photoshop, using a digital pen tool: (Art from Penguin and Pumpkin, Bloomsbury)
Sometimes I keep it really simple: (Art from Tap to Play, HarperCollins)
Or go more detailed: (Art from Kaleidoscope, Little, Brown)
The medium and style I choose really depends on the project. I think like an art director, and consider what style would best be suited for the project I created.
[JM] Salina you are the author, illustrator and format designer of over one hundred and fifty novelty books for children, how do you keep up with this? Do you still do school visits, book tours, book launches?
[SY] Most of the books I’ve done are just 10 pages. 10 pages of art goes by pretty fast if you know what you’re after! My picture books take me longer, so I can keep up the pace with about 3-4 picture books a year. But when I was doing just the novelty books, I was able to create (and more importantly, SELL) between 10-12 books a year. I kept them small and simple. I still do school visits when I’m asked, though I haven’t advertised this fact in public. My publisher does send me to various events (conferences, book festivals, and tours) and I’ve done many local bookstore events and participate as SCBWI faculty when I can, but I often don’t do a formal book launch. I have to draw the line somewhere!
[JM] Many of your books have flaps, die-cuts wheels and more. Do you create a prototype each time, or is having it as a 2D design enough?
[SY] If it has an interactive element, I almost always build it in order to work out the mechanics, and for the publisher to be able to hold it in their hands. But most importantly, the dummy is used to price it out. Here are some samples of dummies I’ve built:
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[SY] This is the room where I build my dummies, lay out work, package work, and wrap birthday gifts. (large tables come in handy for all sorts of things!)
This is my office studio where I do my computer work, or drafting.
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
[SY] Not all artwork “hangs” in our house. Sometimes, you might find something in the corner, … and growing.
Or art can be painted on the ceiling. (by artist husband Chris Polentz)
Five Fun Ones to Finish [JM] What’s your favorite park in the world? [SY] Balboa Park in San Diego, for its beautiful historic architecture, and Yosemite Nat’l Park, for nature’s architecture.
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[SY] I’m a dog person, who doesn’t have a dog, but I have a wooden cat sitting on a chair that sits high on my wall.
[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?
[SY] I have “phone anxiety.” Please don’t call me. 🙂 No, seriously.
[JM] One word to describe yourself?
[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
[SY] Mocha with Mexican chocolate and whipped cream on top
Oh my gosh, I really hate speaking on the phone too! This was a fabulous visual into your work, Salina, many thanks! To your continued success!