Illustrator Interview – Roxie Munro

ipad App maze

Roxie with one of her iPad App mazes

Roxie was one of the very first people to welcome me into the New York children’s book community in 2012. I have visited her in her home and lovely studio here in New York City. She is the author/illustrator of more than 35 books for children and several apps, some of which I have already reviewed here on Miss Marple’s Musings. Her books have been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese, and fourteen of her paintings have been published as covers of The New Yorker magazine. She is abreast of some of the most innovative digital publications in the children’s book industry and I encourage you to follow her for up-to-date industry news.

[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

Author/illustrator. I begin with pictures. There’s a great book, “Visual Thinking” by Rudolf Arnheim. In it he discusses how visual thinking is a form of cognition.

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?

Born in Texas, left as an infant and was raised in a small village on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. My parents encouraged their children to do art and make music, sew and create their own holiday cards and decorations (my dad often built toys for us, and my mom made many of our clothes).

[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist. 

As mentioned, my parents were very supportive (my older sister is also a professional artist). At age 6 I won the first prize in a county-wide art contest… the painting (a pastel of a bowl of fruit) was on the front page of the local paper. Great incentive. Always the class artist: art editor of the high school yearbook; voted “Most Talented”; did all the design and decorations for the Jr prom, etc. When I went to college, though, I started majoring in science. Took a drawing course in my sophomore year, and that was it. Went to four colleges/universities for seven years, studying art (University of Maryland, MICA, University of Hawaii [BFA], graduate school at Ohio University). Freelanced right out of school as a fine artist (showing in galleries) and an editorial artist in Washington DC. Did work for the Associated Press, Washington Post, others, and, most fun, I was a television courtroom artist for five years for the CBS affiliate in DC (first trial was the Watergate sentencing). That was great training for life drawing, working under pressure, and meeting deadlines. Started taking the train up to New York City for freelance work. When The New Yorker bought the first cover (of 14), I moved to NYC the next month. Started doing children’s books … my first, The Inside-Outside Book of New York City, got a New York Times Best Illustrated Award and was on Time Magazine’s Best of the Year List. Since then, I have published more than 35 books.

roxie-munro-the-new-yorker-cover-february-1-1982

[JM] What attracts you to creating predominantly to nonfiction ?

Real life can be stranger, and more exciting, than making stuff up. Plus, it’s cool to research and learn new things.

[JM] You have produced a number of apps. What do you think is the main misconception people have about book apps?

That they are similar to books, or just an enhancement. That you can put in a bunch of bells and whistles, and don’t have to craft the story or have compelling art (the art or graphics that many developers use is often boring and so obviously computer-generated). I have three apps out based on books (Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure, Roxie’s Doors, Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure) and ten more (Rainforest/Desert, Space Station, Castle, TV Studio, Coral Reef/Research Ship, others) created to work with the giant KIWi (Kids Interactive Walk-in) Storybooks. They’ve gotten great reviews, and some awards, and have all been built by the wonderful app and trailer developer, OCG Studios.

Roxie's puzzle app Roxie's puzzle app 2 Roxie's a-Maze-ing vacation Adventure Roxies-doors02

[JM] How do you keep up with the constant change in this industry?

Am in several professional associations (SCBWI, InkThinkTank, others), and am in FB and Linked In groups. Speak at conferences, where I schmooze with other professionals and attend programs. I subscribe to quite a few publishing newsletters and blogs. Read professional journals. Interact a lot with my peers. Listen to my editors ;-))

[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them? 

I have a new book coming out this spring from Holiday House, Market Maze, about where food comes from. It uses one of my favorite techniques for teaching children nonfiction in an engaging way: “gamification,” which in this case is a series of mazes that producers go through to deliver food to a town’s farmer’s market, and includes counting/finding games.

Market Maze lighttable work

Market maze painting1

Market Maze Nursery

Market maze painting 2

Market maze sketches

MM Apple

Market maze finsihed apple spread

MarketMaze cover copy 2

[JM] Could you tell us a little about K.I.W.I storybooks?

KIWi (Kids Interactive walk-in) Storybooks (www.kiwistorybooks.com/ ) are giant kid-sized picture books, researched and illustrated by me. Right now, they come in two sizes (5 ft high by 7 ft wide and 5 ft high by 14 ft wide). Themes include the Space Station, a Castle, Nature (Rainforest & Desert), City & Country (Farm & Maze), the Wild West, a TV Station, a Coral Reef with Research Ship, Dinosaurs, and a Fire Station with a Fire Safety Program. The art is beautifully printed on flexible panels that Velcro onto a special frame. Included in the package, which is primarily geared to schools and libraries, is a free iPad or Android app full of cool information on each theme, with games, personalization, and interactivity, and also a Readers Theater, with a play, skit and CCSS content.

KIWI Coral Reef

KIWI Coral Reef

KIWI Rainforest

KIWI Rainforest

[JM] What does your studio look like? 

My studio is in a 1930’s art deco building in Long Island City, just across the East River from my home in the Murray Hill neighborhood in New York City. It was originally Helena Rubenstein’s makeup factory, and now about three dozen artists have their studios in the building.

Roxie working in her studio

Roxie working in her studio

Roxie in the studio working on the bug app maze

Roxie in the studio working on the big app maze

Studio library

Studio library

Roxie's oil area

Roxie’s oil area

Maze App sketch

Maze App sketch

Roxie cleaned up the studio!

Roxie cleaned up the studio!

[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your apartment? 

I have one oil up, done in the late 1980s, several of my prints, and some photography by my Swedish husband (Bo Zaunders).

Roxie's Living Room

Roxie’s Living Room

Five Fun Ones to Finish?                                                                                               [JM] What’s your favorite park in the world?

Big Bend in Texas … it’s the least visited national park in the US. I spent time there 15 years ago when I was working on The Inside-Outside Book of Texas.

texas

[JM] Cats or dogs?  

Neither, though I love animals. We travel too much. ;-((

[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?

I minored in chemistry in college – started out in Premed (which didn’t last long ;-))

[JM] Oo, but your brief minor does maybe hint at an interest in nonfiction, no? One word to describe yourself.

Tenacious.

[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

Coffee.

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10 Responses to Illustrator Interview – Roxie Munro

  1. Wow! and triple Wow! Roxi is one creative lady. I had a quick look at her website and I just had to pull myself away (yeah, very hard to do) to remember to come back here to comment. Boy I am going to enjoy visiting her blog etc… later so I can spend more time drooling over those illustrations. I love pencil drawing so enjoyed looking at her maze process. I am sure I have stumbled across Kiwistorybook.com some time ago. It rings a bell for me. Boy I would love to spend time in her studio. Thank you so much for sharing Roxi with us, Joanna. Very inspiring. Thank you ladies.

  2. So much behind the finished pieces! Great work, Roxie, and great interview, Joanna.

  3. Diane is right! Just got lost over on Roxie’s site and blog and gallery and…! Luckily I put the book suggested above on hold first! I would love to chat with Roxie about how her brain works while creating. I bet even her dreams are intricate. Thank you so much for bringing Roxie into the spotlight here, Joanna!

  4. Lily Lau says:

    That was such a complete interview! Roxie’s a fantastic woman, worthy of our admiration 🙂

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the interview with Roxie Munro. I’ve loved her words and art, but had no idea how much or how beautifully she’d accomplished. I am in awe! Tenacious is a good description of someone who has created so much beautiful work.

  6. Thank you for this great interview, “Miss Marple”. It’s fascinating to see and hear about Roxie’s process and background. I love, love,love the interactive walk-in pieces and wish I were a kid again (and had a bigger apartment) so I’d have an excuse to buy one!!!

  7. Catherine Johnson says:

    Wow, great interview. What a prolific career, Roxy!

  8. rhythm says:

    Oh Wow!!! Mazes! We LOVE mazes here!!!! And to see one being created! Wow! And there in BIG life – Texas!! I’ll have to sniff that one out! I think that you have found some new Roxie fans here Ms Marple!! Thanks for sharing her!!

  9. Erik - TKRB says:

    Great interview! Ms. Munro creates some amazing works! 😀

  10. Great interview. I love Big Bend too. I’ll have to find your book on Texas.

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