Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
You might not be surprised to find out that my favorite illustrators are Robert McCloskey, E.H.Shepherd, Maurice Sendak, Gabrielle Vincent, Holly Hobbie (Toot and puddle) and Trina Schart Hyman among many, many others. As soon as I felt comfortable with my drawing skills I focused on studying those artists to see what it was that I liked so much. Studying them informed my own work as I set out to seeing what my own work looked like.
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I don't know exactly what it is about the feel of pencil on paper and the act of laying down watercolor but it's what I love best. After doing quite a bit of work with pen and ink line with watercolor washes I got to a point where I preferred a colored pencil line to pen and ink.
More recently I have discovered what I can do with digital applications to layer my colored pencil, watercolor and paper textures. Years ago when I first started creating a portfolio my favorite images were colored pencil on Canson paper. I knew what I wanted it to look like but couldn't get the colored pencil to look the way I wanted on the paper. Now I am able to combine various papers with my traditional work to create a look that I love.
Do you offer more than one style, if so – talk us through the different approaches and the audience you are targeting for each.
I do have a variety of styles and I have things I love about each one. My dream would be to be able to create illustrations in whichever style the client would like. I would dearly love to be as multi-talented as Paul O. Zelinsky!
My first type of what I consider successful illustration was kind of a sweet, light, old-fashioned kind of imagery. It was what naturally appeared when I began to create a portfolio. In that case I sketch in very light pencil and then go over the line with various colors of colored pencil. After that I apply the watercolor. These pieces seem to be appropriate for a classic picture book aimed at the 2-4 or 4-8 age range.
The most different style from that would be my humorous animal characters. These are looser and funnier and people tell me they make them smile. These are typically sketched in pencil, scanned and colored digitally. I find that that technique allows me to use the sketches that I often love best as my final line art. I can imagine this style would be appropriate for just about ay age range.
My newest style is a rich, multi-layered style that I find has great depth and emotional resonance. These are the pieces that combine all of the above techniques. Traditional sketching, colored pencil linework, watercolor washes and scanned in paper. I envision this working well for a wordless or classic picture book for the 2-4 age group.
Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.
I am exceptionally lucky to have a studio in an old school building that is located one mile from my house. I can walk to and from work and my town has a wonderful downtown which is a quarter mile from the studio. The library and post office and several great restaurants are right next door. I've been in the space for 17 years. I have a huge room that I share with two other artists.
My studio has an antique standing drawing table in front of one of the huge floor to ceiling windows and a computer, printer, scanner area on the other side. I was lucky enough to find a large antique flat file that was used for architecural drawings around the turn of the last century. There is also the obligatory bookcase filled with children's books that I love.
I have dozens of small animal sculptures, stuffed animals like Toot and Puddle and any other little item that I enjoy looking at.
What would you say is a distinguishing feature of your artwork?
Hopefully my illustrations show a unique, classic style and a strong emotional connection with the viewer. I feel that my years of working to improve my drawing skills shows in my work. With luck, others see it as unusually rich and appealing.
Have you visited any schools to speak or hold workshops?
I love school visits! I was originally terrified of the prospect but after doing a few, I found they were great fun. The kids are so excited and impressed. After spending all my time in the studio, scrutinizing and criticizing my work I go to schools and they're not critical at all. It's a rare treat. I do different programs depending on the school's wishes.
I've also taught workshops at the SCBWI conference in New England. I loved doing it. I gave two completely different workshops, one on an app on the iPad Pro and one on bringing emotion and motion into your work. I really hope to do more in the future. The attendees seemed to love the class and I felt that I had something valuable to teach them.
Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?
My family has had all sorts of pets over the years. First a guinea pig named Rizzo, then a holland lop rabbit named Basil. After that there was a corgi named Dilly and a sheltie named Frodo!