This month, THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS will hit the shelves (Feb. 19!). It is as much my book baby as it is Alice Brereton’s. Alice is the super talented illustrator who brought THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS to life. Her quirky style combined perfectly with my quirky writing. I had a chance to ask her a few questions, so without further ado … :
How did you find your way to illustrating children's books?
The first things I drew were pretty Cat Ladies with big ears and poofy tails. From middle school to high school I drew Anime and when I went to community college I started trying to find my own style. But the first time I knew children's illustration was the way I wanted to steer my portfolio was at the Academy of Art University in Children's Illustration 1. My teacher Julie Downing was lecturing about what a children's book was and wasn't and as she showed slides of beautiful, insightful, and cheerful illustrations my brain latched on. It had everything I wanted to draw! After that first class I started adjusting my portfolio to follow that idea.
What/who inspires you?
Stuff... Things? If I am feeling uninspired, cracking open an art book might help, but I've noticed I usually get my best ideas from nature documentaries and everyday life events like hanging out with friends, grocery shopping, or driving. My best ideas come from everywhere I am not looking for them. My favorite artists (for this moment) are Eyvind Earle, Hayao Miyazaki, and Bob Ross.
What were your first thoughts when you read the manuscript for THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS?
My first thoughts were all about me! I was so excited that I had been chosen for this story! My second thoughts were that I loved the idea of the story and the way it was clearly written. My last thoughts were "Soooo. What am I drawing exactly?"
Tell us a bit about your process with this book, the routine you go through to start creating.
The first part of my routine is to, of course, read the story over and over again until I really have a feeling for how it works, what it wants, and where it needs to go. Then I forget about it for a week and work on something else completely different. After a week I go back to the story with a familiarity but also a more realistic view on it--less cheerleader, more critic--and I start doodling little ideas, very sketchy and loose. These are the sketches no one sees! Not even the cats. Sometimes I take out my pencil and sketch in my sketchbook; other times I doodle with my mouse in Photoshop because I'm lazy. On very rare occasions I actually take out my WACOM to sketch!? The 2nd pass of sketches I do use my WACOM and those are the sketches I send to the editors to review. I usually try to complete the final sketches in two days so I don't get distracted or lose focus of the book world I'm trying to explore.
Then after a few or several revisions my sketches get approved and I can start finals! Finals go much easier because I have the sketches as a blueprint to follow and I try my best to address all the problems in the sketch phases so I don't have to worry about it later in the finals.
Yes. The biggest problem being "how do I draw the main character" and then realizing the entirety of the book is the main character. The kid holding the book is holding the character? And we're looking into the book's mind as it's imagining its own story? Wooaaaooooh.
Do you have a favorite illustration in the book and why is it your favorite?
My favorite spread is the Ghost spread! The Librarian and the Ghost are totally going to fall in love!
What do you wish authors knew about working with you or any illustrator?
Hmmm. That's tough. I can't think of anything big I want to rant about. If the Author does their job "write" I can do my job right! So I suppose all I want the author to know is that I will obsess over their story as much as they did.
I've got to know what you love so much about pickles or anything pickled!
I wish I had a more interesting story. I had to pick a website name for a website design class and I figured I'd just buy the name, get the grade and pick a new name later. But I never got around to doing that... Now I'm stuck! I really do love pickles though. Highly recommend "Wickle's" if you can find them.
You have a free Saturday to do whatever. What do you end up doing?
If the weather is warm and dry, I like to go Lakewood Cemetery and play boardgames with my boyfriend! And if the weather is cold and wet, I like to stay inside and play video games with my boyfriend and the cats!
Thanks for joining us, Alice!
Alice Brereton grew up in Minneapolis, MN, and is absurdly proud of that fact. Her artwork is colorful, textured, shape oriented and always strives to be quirky or “smile inducing”. Alice has won a slough of awards from her school, the Academy of Art University, and Adobe, and keeps them in a nice humble pile next to her collection of dinosaur and donkey figurines. When Alice was nine, her imaginary friend was a gigantic Tyrannosaurus that she liked to imagine eating her best friends. Her favorite food is “pickled anything” and if she were not an illustrator, Alice would be at the bottom of a sea in a submarine discovering new kinds of sea life and naming them ridiculous names … one day the “Tooty-McFlippery-Banana Butt” will be found!
Lindsay Leslie is the author of THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS, her debut picture book (Page Street Kids, Feb. 19, 2019).