Lucy Volpin – Illustrator Interview

I asked Lucy for an interview because her publisher sent me her latest book Crocodali to review for this Friday’s Perfect Picture Book. I loved the story and art so much I sought her ought on FB. Plus, she’s a fellow Brit!

 

 

 

 

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

[LV] I am an author and illustrator. Each new idea is very different from the next and so some start with a character design or little sketch, and some start with a cheeky rhyme or even just a funny word.                                         

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

[LV] I originate from East Grinstead in Sussex but moved down to Devon when I was 6 years old. I don’t really feel that my location has influenced my work in a particular way but I do get a lot of my inspiration from the people around me, be it family, friends and random strangers. Devon has such a lovely, slow pace of life and such a luscious greenness to it. Perhaps this has influenced the bright colours I love to use?

[JM] I lived in Exeter from 96-99! Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[LV] Ive always loved to draw but my journey to becoming an illustrator started at primary school. 20 years ago dyslexia was a term that was reasonably unheard of. Instead of receiving some of the fantastic extra help that children receive today, I was considered as ‘slow’ and ‘unintelligent’ and was asked to sit in the corner and draw while the other children were taught to read and write. At the time I thought this was fantastic! I loved to draw! Little did I understand that learning to read and write would be quite important in life…

My wonderful mum transferred me from school to school just looking for one that acknowledged my difficulties and was willing to try different approaches to my learning. We finally found a fantastic school which resulted in me learning to read at the age of 12, but my love for the pencil continued and grew and from then on I knew I wanted to be an artist. …Or a palaeontologist.

After struggling through the rest of school, which actually I really enjoyed, I made my way to University College Falmouth where I gained a BA(Hons) in illustration specialising in children’s books in 2011. Since then I have spent most of my days in my studio, experimenting, building a portfolio, creating books and making mess!

[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[LV] I mostly use a mixture of watercolours, acrylic inks and coloured pencils. I can not explain how much I love a good coloured pencil! I feel that I can get some much control from them and the colours are endless. Ocha yellow seems to be my favourite at the moment.

[JM] Can you share a piece or two for us, maybe from a work in progress, or CROCODALI, and the process of creating them?

[LV] ‘Crocodali’ was published in August this year by Templar Publishing in the UK and Little Bee in the USA. After my first book, ‘We Love Dinosaurs’, I felt a bit stuck in a rut and was developing work and ideas very slowly, so I gave myself a 1 week project to produce a book. Only 1 week. It was for my development only and it was just to try and get my creativity and speed going again.

It was a really shock for me to discover that at the end of that 1 week I had produced something a bit different, funny, and possibly good enough to send to publishers. I sent it off as a rough text and layout and Templar snapped it up!

Maybe this shows that trying too hard doesn’t work, and perhaps relaxing allows ideas to form naturally?

As you can see, Crocodali as a character has developed quite a bit, but other things such as layout haven’t changed that much from initial idea sketch to final artwork, especially the front cover, which was one of the first images I created .

[JM] What was the first book you remember buying with your own money?

[LV] That’s a tricky questions. I hated books as a child. School had convinced me that books weren’t for me, so I think I was well into my 20’s when I brought my first book and it was most likely a children’s picture book! I was, however, read to a lot by my mum, which ignited my love for Dr Seuss. ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ was my favourite, which I could recite back to my mum off by heart. I liked that because it made me look like I could read, but in fact it was all from memory.

[JM] What does your workspace look like? 

[LV] I work from a shed in my garden. It is usually a bit of a mess but that’s how I like it. I am very lucky to have a space of my own that is away from the house. At the end of a long day of painting it allows me to be able to shut the door and distance myself from my work, which I find very helpful. I have a spider that lives in my window. He has lived along side me for over a year now.

[JM] Have you named your spider? What artwork do you have hanging in your new home? 

[LV] I am a real fan of vintage advertising and old maps so I have a mixture of things on my walls. The classic car illustrations are actually vintage postcards and were from my husband’s grandfather. I love them.

[JM] At what moment in your process do you start working on endpapers?

[LV] Right from the beginning! I feel endpapers are just as important as the rest of the book. They set the tone and can influence the readers first impressions. I also like to include the endpapers, where I can, in the story. For example, in ‘Crocodile’ I use the endpapers to show the character getting ready in his studio. You only get 32 pages…use them all wisely!

[JM] If I could offer you a tour from an expert around any art museum in the world, which would you choose?

[LV] Oh, tricky. I haven’t really visited many art museums. To be honest I’m not a huge art fan…shhh…don’t tell anyone! I do, of course, love Salvador Dali! A tour with an expert around his home in Figueres, Spain would be fab.

Now..had you just said ‘museum’ I would have a huge list! I have a big interest in war, medical and natural history, so a guided tour around all of the museums in London would be brilliant! 

Five Fun Ones to Finish?
[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world? 

[LV] I have recently returned to roller skating and so any park with a smooth, flat surface is lots of fun! I am still a bit wobbly though! Exeter has some wonderful parks and a beautiful quay to skate around.

[JM] Cats or dogs? 

[LV] Dogs. Cats make me sneeze.

During the week I spend my time with this cheeky chap, Remy the Beagle. Remy is my mum’s dog, but as I work from home, I look after Rem while Mum’s away during the day. This means I get lots of lovely fresh air on doggy walks at lunch time.  A lot of my ideas and problem solving is done while walking Rem.

He loves nothing better than a long walk and then snoozing in the sun.

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

[LV] I can recite the entire words to Les Miserables on demand. I have a memory for lyrics. Once I have listened to a song or poem only a couple of times, I will have learnt the lyrics of by heart and there they will stay in my brain forever. Sadly it doesn’t work for everything. I can only remember three phone numbers…

[JM] What as your first paid job after high school?

[LV] I worked as a Saturday girl in Debenhams for a year during college. I was allocated the soft furnishings and towel section. Incredibly boring but if you ever need advise on thread count or tog ratings of duvets..I’m your girl!

After that I started work as a nanny and have continued to do so part-time ever since. It is such a fantastic job and a great role to do along side children’s books. I feel so privileged to be part of a family and watch them grow and develop from baby to little adult. I have so far nannied 8 children.

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

[LV] Popcorn is always a winner. Tasty and easy to eat while drawing.

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Lucy.

 

 

 

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The Great Pasta Escape – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: The Great Pasta Escape

Author: Miranda Paul

Illustrator: Javier Joaquin

Publisher: Little Bee Books, 2016

Ages: 4-8

Themes: pasta, problem solving, teamwork

Genre: fiction

40 pages

Opening:

Since the beginning of their lives (which was earlier that morning) the pasta at the factory followed the rules.

They stuck to their own.

They stayed still in their packaging.

And they never spoke to humans.

Synopsis:

The pasta believes that if they behave and remain strictly separate and properly packaged, they will be rewarded by being sent to a super cool place. Until, they overhear the plant workers talking about their pasta lunch plans and the rotini point out the cooking instructions on all their boxes. They’ll need to cook up an epic escape if they aren’t all to be eaten!

Why I like this book:

 

This funny pasta escape story leads itself to lots of silly voices and a great read-aloud. Talking pasta will crack most kids up. The different pasta personas are well developed through dialogue and illustrations. Older picture book readers will appreciate the story within the story. Very funny and definitely a book to be read using a variety of voices. The puns and pasta names will appeal to the older readers especially, but all spaghetti kids will get a giggle out of this story.

Resources/Activities:

There’s a fun guide to pasta shapes/names at the back of the book (both Italian and anglicized) and why not try out these fun dried pasta crafts?

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/handsonaswegrow/play-pasta-play/?lp=true

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

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Illustrator Interview – Kelly Light

I have known Kelly pretty much since I moved to New York at the end of 2012. Passionate SCBWIers seem to find each other. Among a number of other publications, Kelly is the author/Illustrator of the Louise series. Louise Loves Art (Fall 2014) and Louise and Andie, The Art of Friendship (June 2016) are the first two books in the series. The first in the Louise I Can Read! series is Louise Loves Bake Sales! out in 2017, as well.

When I am feeling down about life or my slow progress to getting published, I think of Kelly, who is an example extraordinaire of courage and perseverance!

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

[KL] I am an author/illustrator. I have illustrated other author’s books as well as my own. I tend to self depreciate with the term “drawthor’ – because, I draw a lot before I ever even think about the words. I storyboard, that’s how I write.                 

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

[KL] I grew up “down the shore” in New Jersey. I spent a lot of time drawing and a lot of time watching cartoons. My parents owned a diner and there was a lot of time hanging out in a back booth with stacks of paper and a tiny black and white TV. There was also a comic book shop at the end of the strip mall where the diner was. I spent tons of time and all of my tips on comic books (and Centipede and pin ball in the arcade).                             

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

[KL] I actually started freelancing in high school! I would walk around town with fliers offering my art for fliers, window painting, holiday cards for businesses. I wound up getting illustrations in the NYC radio station, WNEW’s music magazine. Then I went off to Syracuse University and majored in illustration with a minor in animation, that I had to create on my own. There was only one animation class. It was in the film department. I got hired by the teacher to work at his animation studio and then moved to Los Angeles after graduation. I worked in animation briefly. At the time- I did not have the confidence to persevere through rejection. It was the early 90’s and there were severe lay offs which meant- constant rejection for a newbie. I wound up back in NYC and fell into cartoon licensing. I was a character artist for Disney and Warner bros and Nickelodeon and Peanuts and so many more cartoon companies. It was fun for a long time. I had an itch though, to do something more personal. I wound up starting a family and staying at home with my daughter. When she was 6, I joined SCBWI thinking it was an easy transition from cartoons to children’s books. It was not.

But by then, I had the confidence to persevere through rejection. Six years later, I got published.

[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[KL] If I had a lot of time- watercolor. I have worked digitally in all of my books – so far. I have pledged to go traditional in my next few.

[JM] Can you share a piece or two for us, maybe from a work in progress, and the process of creating them?

[KL] My next picture book is “The Smiley Family Album” it is a “found” photo album of family that- doesn’t smile…for various reasons. It’s got themes I think we are all familiar with, family – is weird. There is no normal. Also, photo albums were once treasured, as were photographs, as was family. Someone would lovingly be the curator of the lives that they shared. Families would pass down the albums. Today, where do we keep our photos? (Got something in your hand?)(Ever print out the photos?)  I have collected lost family photo albums for years. I call it “rescuing  people”.

Here is a peek at some of the images.

[JM] You recently made a trip to somewhere very dear to my heart. Can you tell us what too you to the Lake District and maybe one or two highlights of your time there?

[KL] I am still basking in the glow of the light that bounced off of those green hills, in the morning, in the afternoon and at sundown.

Lake District Gate

I spent 14 days, two doors down from Beatrix Potter’s home “Hill Top”.

MeatHillTop

She would be the spark that drew me there, but I knew, I needed beauty and peace and life affirming – all – natural eye candy to remind me a bit of who I am and why I make art.

It did so much more than I hoped. Beatrix was an amazingly strong, ahead of her time – woman artist. A conservationist of unequivocal value. There would be no Lake District with out her foresight. She spent her book royalties on – land. Preserving it, farming it, gifting it to England.

I fell in love with the place. I loved how the people who lived there, were in love with where they lived. I worshipped the breeze, the sounds, the sheep, the lakes, the light, the people, the walking, the quiet, the friendliness, the stone walls, the fells, the flowers, the scones, the tea, the simple appreciation of the simple and good things in life. Every scene my eyes took in, was beautiful.

Nature. Watercolors. A pub at the end of the day.

A pub and watercolors

Heaven on earth.

Lake District Morning

[JM] I have to ask if you put vinegar on your chips (fries) for your pub meal? What does your workspace look like? (Photo)

[KL] These days, I have a shared studio space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It is inside of the amazing old Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory. Built in the 1920’s it has giant pencils on the facade. Yellow ones.

I love walking up to it every day.

I moved last Fall from a big, old house with a lot more studio space. It was the whole , giant attic in the old house. Now, my space is small but I love having other artists all around me.  It is what I need right now to spur me on to make new work.

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

[KL] I downsized dramatically. I took from my house the things that I loved most.

My vintage Hawaii airlines poster.

My original “Pogo” strip by Walt Kelly – one of the BEST drawers of all time.

I have two drawings by Tony DiTerlizzi. I admired him a lot all of the years that I was trying to get published. This one is a Maurice Sendak tribute.

I bought at the BEA auction this summer, an original Tim Miller. I have (immodestly) very good taste. So I see this one as an early career investment piece. It’s actually really great to have pieces from friends.

I also got a Patrick McDonnell original at a previous BEA auction, it’s a Dr. Seuss tribute.

This print from talented illustrator from New Zealand, Jez Tuya.

I bought this from an artist I admired on Instagram. Little gouache masterpiece by Brian Moore.

There is Magic in Tea as well as in this original illustration by an unknown Mid Century illustrator. It’s gouache and it’s a treasure. Just look at those peddle pusher pants!

 

The coolest things ever, two original paintings from an Ex Lax ad in the 1920’s. They are oil. They are funny and beautiful at the same time. They hung in the original Ex Lax building here in Brooklyn until it was turned into condominiums. They were painted by Fredric Stanley, a student of  Norman Rockwell’s. When I first saw them from afar, on the wall of a weird store in Brooklyn..I freeaked! I thought they looked like early Rockwell. But noooooooooo…that would be too nuts! I still knew they were valuable and the guy didn’t really know what he had.

Oh! And! An original cel from “The Sword in the Stone” from my favorite scene from the movie if, not one of my favorite animated scenes of all time. Squirrel girl meets Wart (young King Arthur) who is turned into a squirrel by Merlin. You have to watch the clip!! https://youtu.be/SQOkhxdsnw0 Then you can be in awe of animator Frank Thomas.

I have a tiny room in my apartment that I work in as well, I have my Iron Giant Movie poster in there. That is my favorite animated movie of all time.

 

[JM] At what moment in your process do you start working on endpapers?

[KL] I usually think about them from the start.  I love beautiful end papers. Mine tend to be simple. But creative or gorgeous end papers rock my world as soon as you crack open the book – and if they start the story?? Whooo-boy. All the better.

[JM] What advice would you give to an artist who has been creating for many years and yet still feels they are their work are invisible?

[KL] First – define what it is you want. Then ask yourself – Why do I want it?

Allow your self to dream but be realistic in your expectations. The only way there is hard work.

Ask yourself what it is you love most. Draw on what makes you , “you”.

What defines “invisible” for you? What defines “visible”?

Everyone has the secret wish to be a big deal but chasing that goal is like in Monopoly when you draw the go directly to jail card. You get STUCK in it.

Are you unpublished?

Do you not have an agent?

If you have an agent, you are not invisible. Someone has seen something in you that they are willing to sell. They see you as a viable, publishable creator from whom.. they can make money. You are marketable. You just need to create new work, regularly.

If you are unpublished, get an agent. Submit. There are no easy answers. There is only showing your work.

In our industry there is a lot of  “chatter” online about a very small percentage of people who work in the industry. There are so many more working children’s book authors and illustrators then the ones that get the spotlight shown on them. So first, accept that.

Then, marvel at that. it’s pretty great when you look around instead of “up” at the people at the podiums.

Then know, the real definition of a successful artist is doing what you love and making a living off of it or at least, supplementing your living with it. It’s the love.

SO – The obvious things of a website, twitter, instagram, yes, yes, yes… all of that. Submit, submit again and again. Find the right eyes for your work.

An agent is important as the doors open easier for them. They have the relationships.

But you cannot rely on representation by an agent, alone.

You are not invisible if you show your work at every single opportunity. Local, NY, LA SCBWI conferences. Show your work in person. Be your own salesperson. Sell your heart and your spirit and you ability to collaborate and work with an editor, an art director and marketing people.

Still, show work online, postcards and online prompts and hashtags.

Make new work all of the time and show it all of the time.

This is not an easy ambition to have. You have to want it more than you are afraid of rejection.

Chuck Jones said : “The rules are simple. Take your work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.

Five Fun Ones to Finish?

[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world? (photo?)

[KL] The Lake District in England!

[JM] Haha, full disclosure, my grandparents grew up in the Lakes so I know and love the region!                                        Cats or dogs? 

[KL] Hmmm. I like both. But I have a cat.

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

[KL] I want to move to England.

[JM] 😀 What was your first paid job?

[KL] I worked in the Burger King in my hometown. I was the cashier. I also painted on all of the windows. Burger King had a character Rodney the Reindeer. I took him out of the holidays and painted him surfing in the summer.

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

[KL] Tea or water.  Snack is usually a greek yogurt with granola right about now, 2-3 PM.

Kelly, thank you so much for sharing so much inspiration and heart today. Wishing you success in art, in life in connections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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