As soon as I saw Vin Vogel’s wonderful banner for this year’s PiBoIdMo, run by Tara Lazar, and knew that Vin had written and illustrated a picture book about YETIS, I knew I had to interview him. Vin Vogel is based in New York City and was the winner of the NJ-SCBWI 2013 Conference Juried Art Show for Published Illustrator.
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[VV] Author/illustrator. I always begin with pictures: it’s my most natural way of thinking.
[JM] Where are you from and how has that influenced your work?
[VV] I’m from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I think in Brazil we’re exposed not only to local artists, but also many artists from Europe and South America. So along with my North American references, I grew up reading stuff like Asterix, Tintin, Smurfs, Gaston Lagaffe, Mafalda, Mortadelo y Filemón… It was fun to be exposed to artwork from so many countries!
I guess because I come from Brazil, my artwork tends to be colorful and there is a joie de vivre and an excitement in my characters.
[JM] Being European, Asterix and Tintin were some of my favorite comics growing up! Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[VV] I started drawing at a very young age, around 3 years old.
When I was in primary school, I won prizes for storytelling and illustrations—this encouragement definitely contributed to my dream of being an author and illustrator.
I graduated with a degree in journalism, and worked for three years as a reporter for an architecture magazine in São Paulo. I then went through a “professional crisis”, and decided to live my true passion to the fullest: I wanted to be an illustrator. For many years I thought that I’d never make it as an artist: it’s a very difficult career, because mostly you work as a freelancer, so there is little job security. But I can’t imagine doing anything else.
[JM] Bravo! You have already illustrated more than 45 books for children and young adults. But you have you debut picture book as an author/illustrator, THE THING ABOUT YETIS! Coming out in the fall of 2015. How long have you been working on breaking in as an author as well as illustrator?
[VV] When I moved to the USA, more specifically NYC, in 2011, I realized that I’d have to work really hard to break in as an illustrator. Although I had more than 45 books published in various countries, no one knew about me here in the US. And I didn’t know anybody here in NY. So I decided to start writing my own stories, along with trying to promote my illustration work. I became a member of the SCBWI and went to every conference and event that I could – and realized that I needed an agent. The rest is history.
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
[VV] For doodling in general and doing the first sketches for any project, just an automatic pencil and paper. For final art, I always use Photoshop – sometimes I mix things up, created in varied ways, like digital, pencil, crayon, pastel, ink…
[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?
[VV] One of my favorite themes is children having encounters with animals, which was something that I was intrigued with as a child myself.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating it/them?
[VV] Sure, here it goes. These are from Maddi’s Fridge written by Lois Brandt (published by Flashlight Press).
1) I read the manuscript and start doodling the main characters. Most of the time, I use an automatic pencil on paper at this stage. Coloring is then added digitally.
2) When the characters are approved, I start working on the sketches, on how I envision each spread. I might use pencil on paper or draw digitally with my tablet. Very often the font is chosen at this stage since the art director will want to make sure the text matches the style of the illustrations and that there is enough room for the type.
3) When the sketches are approved, I start on the final art. Occasionally, there are slight changes here and there, even at this final stage. I often start working on the cover when the interior illustrations have been approved.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[VV] A picture is worth more than a thousand words…
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
Five Fun Ones to Finish? [JM] What’s your favorite park in the world?
[VV] Well, for a national park, Floresta da Tijuca, in Rio. Urban parks: Stanley Park in Vancouver and Riverside Park in NYC.
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[JM] Have you seen a yeti?
[VV] Of course. How would I write about something that I’m not familiar with? (wink)
[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?
[VV] That I was terrified of pit bulls, and now I’m a big fan of the breed. Thanks to Teddy, our pit!
[JM] I love bullies! Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
[VV] I enjoy having a drink or a espresso while I watch people passing by – and drawing the ones I find interesting. It’s my version of the book Humans of New York.
You can find out more about Vin on his website, http://www.vinvogel.com
Vin, it’s not easy to arrive in a new country/city and put yourself and your art out there, but you have done that remarkably well these past 3 years in New York. Bravo and to your continued success! MADDI’S FRIDGE sounds like a book I need to review!