Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I was interviewed for a blog from Poland. Included in the interview is this picture I did in grade 4 (I think). Thanks to Monika Obuchow for the blog post.
Here is the link to the post:
Here is an earlier draft in English. The Polish version is slightly different, it changed a little as I translated it.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Warsaw. I went to high school at the School of Fine Arts. It was so wonderful to be around other kids who loved making art.
Has Illustration been a part of your life from childhood?
Yes, when I first started going to elementary school I did well because many of the projects involved drawing - although once they started introducing mathematics and spelling and such I did less well! I remember drawing and painting all the time, my mom encouraged me, it was a good way to keep me out of trouble I guess.
How is your childhood an important part of your work?
I remember my childhood and I use those memories as inspiration for my drawings. Often the bunnies, bears and other creatures in my drawings are doing what I did as a kid. It brings my characters alive and I have a lot of fun, the drawings often make me smile. My next book RED WAGON to be published by Philomel in February 2011, was directly influenced by my childhood. The story is about a little girl Lucy who has all kinds of adventures while going to pick up vegetables at the market. It was inspired by memories of my mom sending me to the neighborhood shop to get sauerkraut, it was a chore but it was fun meeting with friends along the way (and eating the sauerkraut on the way back).
Where does your love of bears come from?
Coralgol! (Jeremy in Canada) After not seeing it since childhood, my mom sent me some dvd's of the old shows. I was surprised to see how much it still influenced my work.
My love of panda bears came from a trip to Poland. While visiting a friend in Germany I had a turned on the TV in the small hotel we were staying in. The news kept showing footage of a panda bear up in a tree with some people trying to get it down. I found this very curious and later, when I got home to Canada, I started researching pandas on the internet and found out you could watch them live on the web. I love watching panda's on the pandacam! They are so lovely and inspired me to write my first children's book , LITTLE PANDA.
Did I plan to become a children's book illustrator?
Not really, it came about gradually over time. I went to an art college in Calgary, Canada called The Alberta College of Art and Design. It was an important turning point for me, I learned I could do something with the art I was creating. I started out doing editorial and corporate illustration but in my sketchbook I was drawing a lot of kid's book stuff and after a while the kid's stuff just took over.
How did the Quiet Book come about?
A few years ago I had sent some samples of my artwork to my future editor, Kate O'Sullivan. She liked my work but didn't have any stories that fit my work, but she asked if I had written any stories of my own that I would like to illustrate. I didn't have any written, but I sat down and immediately started writing some stories which included THE LITTLE PANDA. After that Kate finally found a book for me to illustrate,THE QUIET BOOK, and it was perfect. When I read the manuscript, right away I imagined pictures for it and started drawing even before I could agree to do the book.
How is the success of the Quiet Book translated to my future work?
When I illustrated my first children's book NIKOLAI THE ONLY BEAR written by Barbara Joosse I thought this is it, it's such a lovely book now I will busy doing many more books. But I did not get another offer for several more years. After LITTLE PANDA was published I again thought this was it, it's such a lovely book now everyone will buy it. It did pretty good but not like I had imagined, it did get good reviews and won illustration awards which was encouraging. So with the Quiet Book, I just decided to have fun and enjoy doing the book and not worry about how it does. So I was very pleasantly surprised when it did so well! Perhaps best of all it has already lead to 2 sequels, THE LOUD BOOK and a 3rd sequel yet to announced. The greatest reward is that I get the opportunity to draw more books.
What is the response to more ambitious kids books in North America and the conflict between good art and bad?
I have been lucky in the amazing people I have worked with in the children's book industry. They love good books and have really supported me in doing my best work. Credit has to be given to my editor Kate O'Sullivan who saw the potential of the book. A wonderful part of children's books is how the writing and the illustration can contribute equally to the storytelling. I think the greatest battle in illustrating is making sure that the illustrations add to the story and doesn't repeat what the text says.