Suzanne Beaky

Suzanne Beaky

Suzanne Beaky Interview

Suzanne Beaky

Children's Illustrator

Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?

Yes, I majored in illustration at Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio.

Was creativity part of your childhood?

Absolutely! My parents and grandparents really encouraged me to draw and color. There were always piles of paper and crayons, pencils, markers, etc. They would buy me art sets, the Crayola caddy (my first taboret!) and I was given my drawing table, which I still use, for Christmas when I was twelve.

Which books from your own childhood really stand out?

I loved the books by Richard Scarry and Dr. Seuss, as well as books from the "I Can Read" series my favorite being Go Dog. Go! But my absolute favorite book was Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. I honestly don't know what the story is about because I never really read it. I would just pore over the illustrations for hours taking in their amazing style which was so different from anything else I'd seen.

In fact, I'm still influenced by the Dillons and was inspired by their book The People Could Fly for an illustration I created for Spider magazine.

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What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

I create all of my color illustrations in acrylic on illustration board. I find it's easy to work with and allows me to get really saturated color while also drying very quickly. For my black and white work I print out my drawing at very low opacity onto card stock then I do the line work and shading using a black colored pencil.

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Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.

My studio is furry, purple and a bit messy. It's furry because I have four cats who like to visit, nap on the futon or sit in my lap while I'm working. In fact, one of my cats is on my scanner while I'm answering these questions! It's purple because it's my favorite color and it makes me happy. It's a bit messy because I don't have much time to clean it when I'm in the middle of a job.

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Share your favourite piece of artwork from your portfolio and walk us through its creation.

In 2013 I had the opportunity to illustrate a book, Give Us a Chance, for psychologist and education specialist Dr. Spencer Kagan. It's a book about the friendship between a boy and his teddy bear. Dr. Kagan gave me a lot of creative freedom. One of my favorites from this book is the dancing spread. I thought it would humorous for the boy and his bear to be in a ballroom dancing competition. I also wanted to give a nod to Bugs Bunny who when dressed as a girl was always exposed by his tail sticking out from his dress. Here you'll see the rough sketch, the final drawing and the finished illustration.

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Do you have a favourite soundtrack you listen to when you’re working?

I find music to be extremely distracting but I can't work without background noise. I stream movies and TV series - the more seasons the better. I love Star Wars in timeline order, Star Trek, Alfred Hitchcock and all things English, especially mystery or period drama.

Are you an author/illustrator?

Not yet but I'm working on it! I have been collaborating on narrative STEM picture books with my husband who is a professor of physics and astronomy. Our first effort is about multiplying rabbits that introduces the concept of exponential growth. We have submitted it to publishers and are working on our next project.


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What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

Never miss a deadline.

How do you overcome a creative block?

I leave the studio and close the door behind me. I do anything else. I find that if I stay and struggle I just make it worse whether it's a full on creative block or I can't get a drawing or painting to look right. I know I'll be fresh the next day.

Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?

I have always had cats. They have all made appearances in my illustrations throughout the years. Years ago I was even inspired by a visit at my brother's house where our cats, Coo Coo and Yum Yum, were harassed by his young dog, Daisy.

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