I came to Amy’s art through a recommendation, which isn’t rare for me as friends know of my love for picture book illustration despite ‘only’ being a writer. My friend, Emma Dryden suggested I check out Amy’s work earlier in the year and I am so glad I did.
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[AH] I am an author/illustrator and I often start with words…usually a terrible, horrible first draft. I attempt to wrestle those words into something that resembles a story, with a beginning and an end and some interesting things that happen in between. Writing is a down and dirty wrestling match for me. I’m not always victorious but eventually I start to thumbnail some spreads and sketch characters, then work on both words and pictures together.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
[AH] I am from, and mostly have lived in, New England. My husband is from Florida and I did spend a year there. I’ve been in Vermont for more than 30 years now. My first published book, one I both wrote and illustrated, was inspired by an old farm property we had just moved into. That book was One Monday, Orchard/Scholastic, 2001, now out of print. It is about a windy week on Anabelle’s farm and what happens to all the animals there – kind of a tall tale. I spend a lot of time exploring outdoors, and also help do chores on a friend’s dairy farm. That certainly shows in my work.
We still live in that old farmhouse, though I ripped off the vinyl siding and I painted it (over 5 years), a shade my husband lovingly refers to as Margaritaville Green.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[AH] I wanted to be an artist early on. My grandmother was one of the first female greeting card designers in the Boston area and my dad dabbled in watercolors. There were always art supplies available growing up. I took every art course offered in high school and attended three different colleges before graduating with a degree in art. I ended up doing postgraduate work in elementary education. I never held a teaching position, but I don’t regret the choice. It’s a great background. When I had young kids of my own, I became fascinated with the idea of writing and illustrating picture books. I had been making paintings to sell through various galleries for quite a while and was ready for a change. The past few years I have started making traveling-plus-painting a priority. My last trip was to Scotland, where amazingly, it hardly rained at all. I spent much of the time painting and couldn’t have been happier!
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
[AH] I mostly work in watercolors, though from time to time I play with other media, like oils and woodcuts. Recently I have begun using more Photoshop to rework images. I love the ability to move things around within a composition, fix mistakes, and ramp up or change the color. A couple of years ago I set out to reinvent my illustration “style.” It’s been really exciting doing that. It’s like starting over as an illustrator… but with some already-established skills. I am having so much fun!
[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?
[AH] I’m not sure about themes. A friend of mine says that some of my stories are about making calm from chaos. Not sure if that’s a theme. I definitely have returning characters. They are the usual suspects, like cats, dogs, and people who love them. Add in some cows and foxes. Lately I have been doing more babies. There seem to be a lot of birds too. 6 illus pics here?
[JM] What groups do you belong to and which conferences/workshops to you attend to further your career?
[AH] I belong to SCBWI and the Author’s Guild. I have attended quite a few SCBWI conferences, both regional and national. I also have spent time at a number of writer retreats.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?
[AH] I have a story I have been working on over the past 5 years or so. Ten in a Tuk-tuk was inspired by a visit to the coast of Kenya. We were sitting in a restaurant in Mombasa. We had ridden there in a tuk-tuk. That’s basically a three-wheeled motorcycle with a cab plopped on top. We smushed 5 of us into it to travel from the train station into the city. As I looked out the window of the restaurant I watched as 8 or 9 people pile out of another such tuk-tuk – like clowns from a clown car. That image stuck with me and eventually I started my story about animals who one by one pile into a tuk-tuk on their way to save Mouse who has been flooded out of his home. This story has been through LOTS of transformations as I continue to seek a home for it. I have established skin as thick as an elephant’s from all the rejections…..I continue to be pleasantly persistent.
[JM] I have ridden in tuk-tuk and LOVE this! What book(s) do you especially remember from your childhood?
[AH] My grandmother gave each of her grandkids a special book every Christmas and birthday. They were often collections of tales. My favorite was a book of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson. It is beautifully illustrated by Arthur Szyk and is well worn.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[AH] I work in a room off my kitchen. It faces south and east so is really sunny. I can see to the back of a field across the road, where there are deer, fox, coyote, turkeys and hawks. It’s awesome. And there’s a little heater for when it turns October.
What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
[AH] Mostly my own art hangs. (The price was right.) I also have some of my grandmother’s etchings.
Fun Ones to Finish? [JM] What’s your favorite park (state, urban or national) in the world?
[AH] This past year in early April, I had the opportunity to tag along with my daughter to Yellowstone. She had a grant to spend a week observing wolves. We traveled each morning before daylight into the park. I had never been to Wyoming or Montana and the wealth of wildlife there was stunning. She had rented a spotting scope and we were set up alongside wolf and grizzly experts. So exciting! And as the day warmed I was also able to paint in my sketchbook.
Cats or dogs?
[AH] My kitty Layla and my two sheep (after pigging out in the dandelions.)
[JM] Look at those naughty faces! Fact that most people don’t know about you?
[AH] I often dream about flying. I had a cat who lived to be 23 years old. The sun makes me sneeze.
I wish you success in finding just the right publishing home for Ten in a Tuk-Tuk!