I discovered Lindsay’s book, WHEN BLUE MET EGG, and have been a fan of her work ever since. Lindsay has sweet books—PLEASE BRING BALLOONS and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING THREE. But she is also great with humor—ROSCO VS. THE BABY, BROBARIANS, and DON’T FORGET DEXTER. All of her books are beautiful works of art.
I am not sure what to call your style? What do you call it? How do you get that amazing look?
Safari Chic. Just kidding. I’ve never really thought about this. I don’t really define my style by any particular term. In the beginning of my career I used a lot of cut paper for my books, so much so that I stopped considering other mediums to create my illustrations. Now I try to consider which medium will allow me to tell the story in the best way possible. I still love working in cut paper, but I enjoy stepping out with other mediums on occasion to stir things up a bit. In any illustrator’s work, I find that it’s their line work that ultimately ties everything together. I try to keep my line work light and fresh, so the work never feels stale. To achieve this I usually spend many, many, hours redrawing the same thing over and over again until it become second nature to draw. That way, when I sit down to work on the finishes for any of my books, I don’t hesitate in my line work and the characters come to life.
How long does a book with this method take to make?
Typically, it takes me 1-3 days to do a finished piece in cut paper depending on how intricate the cutting and details are in the illustration. My most time-consuming pieces to date are still the Brooklyn Bridge scene from WHEN BLUE MET EGG and the polar bear rumpus scene in PLEASE BRING BALLOONS. Working in any other medium, it’s usually less than 2 days per piece for me.
(This blog post by Lindsay making BROBARIANS was a fascinating behind the scenes look. http://lindsaymward.com/category/making-a-picture-book/)
How do you determine the color palette?
Determining the color palette always takes me a while to decide no matter what medium I’m working in. With cut paper I find it’s a little easier because I can pick and choose paper that already exists. I just have to find the color combination I like the best. Usually, with cut paper, I make a swatch book where I cut out bits of each paper I like so I can keep track of it all while I’m deciding. To date, the palette for the DEXTER T. REXTER Series was the hardest to come up with. I knew I wanted to do a limited color palette but I wasn’t sure how to go about it especially knowing that I would need to stick with said palette for future books. I didn’t want to limit myself for future Dexter books, so I had to come up with something that would endure throughout a series. Thankfully, after I decided Dexter was going to be orange, the rest fell into place. The obvious choice became a blue palette (as blue is the complimentary color to orange), with hints of yellow here and there.
I love your book, WHEN BLUE MET EGG. I swear that is someone’s math homework cut up to make a skyscraper in there. Am I right?
Thank you! Yes, I found old notebooks filled with math equations at a garage sale once. I loved the handwriting of the woman who wrote them. She was a math teacher. I love to collect interesting bits of paper like that to use in my work.
Also, how did the idea for a snowball being mistaken for an egg come to you?
After many, many, many, many, many rounds of revisions. I probably wrote 10-15 drafts of that story. At one point I think I may have even considered egg being a cloud … those early drafts were not pretty, to say the least. I remember I had just gotten off the phone with a friend of mine that I’ve known since we were kids. I was in the middle of writing WHEN BLUE MET EGG and my recent draft was still awful. I was thinking about how we’d been through so much together and, although we didn’t live in the same state anymore and rarely got to seen each other, we were still connected by our shared experiences. I was interested in telling a story about friendship that focused on a connection strengthened by shared experiences. Blue never questions her friendship with Egg, which is one of things I love most about her. And in the end, even after Egg has changed, Blue accepts Egg no matter what. I had lived in New York and wanted to show the magic of the city that I felt when I had been there. Exploring the city and snow was a huge part of that for me, which is something I tried to show through Blue and Egg’s adventures. Eventually, the two ideas merged together through this idea of a snowball. I could reveal what Egg had really been without the story having an unhappy ending. Blue is a glass-half-full character, so naturally she would pack Egg in her bucket, even after discovering that Egg wasn’t an egg at all, and they would be off to their next adventure.
Going out on a limb here, am I correct in assuming ROSCO VS. THE BABY was an idea generated from your real home life?
Yes. But oddly enough, not in the way you would think. Most readers think I wrote this book when I was pregnant with my first son as we would be bringing him home to our dog Sally. But in fact, I wasn’t pregnant when I wrote this story. We used to live next door to a dog that barked constantly. His name was Rosco. At the time I was trying to come up with a new book idea and I couldn’t think straight with Rosco’s constant barking in the background. So, I did what any writer would do and used what was right in front of me: Rosco. The funny thing was that not only did I end up experiencing my own book just over a year later, but the family who owned Rosco later had twins after I wrote the ending. True story. Sometimes life follows fiction.
Your new book that was just released, DON’T FORGET DEXTER, is about a poor stuffed animal getting left at the doctor’s office. Was this based on true events?
Yes. When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband was required to get a T-Dap booster shot prior to our son’s birth. While sitting in the waiting room to get the shot, my husband texted me a photo of a toy dinosaur that had been abandoned under a chair. Beneath the photo he texted “well, they left me here.” I laughed and immediately sat down to write Dexter’s story.
How did you connect with your agent, Emily Van Beek?
I was lucky enough to connect with Emily through another editor. I was in the middle of working on HENRY FINDS HIS WORD when I found out my first agent was leaving the business altogether. It was a bit overwhelming to think of querying while I was in the middle of a book. I spoke with my editor at the time and she asked me who I would be interested in querying. I gave her a short list of agents and she said she’d be happy to reach out to them on my behalf. If you’ve ever queried agents, you know how tremendous of an offer this was! Emily was at the top of my list: I admired the work of many of her clients, I knew she had a great eye, plus we both loved the art of Polly Dunbar (my favorite contemporary children’s book illustrator). I had a feeling we’d be a good fit. Thankfully, Emily called me the next day offering representation and now, almost five years later, we are still working together.
On your blog, you posted some pictures that children made for you based on your art. One iteration of your book MUST BRING BALLOONS, had me flipping out. What was your reaction when you saw this? I hope that the Force is with this student, wherever he or she is …
Seeing the artwork kids make in response to my books is one of my favorite things about being a children’s book author and illustrator. I love to see all the interesting directions they take my stories, like the piece you mentioned. I think it’s safe to say the Force was definitely with them.
You have stated that Mary Blair is someone you admire artistically. Did you read the picture book biography, Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Gugliemo and illustrated by Jaqueline Tourville?
I haven’t! It’s been on my list to read, and life and babies have unfortunately kept me from doing so. I definitely need to read it! I adore Mary Blair! She was such a pioneer and had an exquisite sense of color.
When did you know you wanted to illustrate children’s books?
When I was 15 I got my first job working at children’s book store, Hicklebee’s. There I met a lot of visiting authors and illustrators and realized that I wanted to be an illustrator too.
Was anyone in particular influential or helpful to you as you were learning the craft?
I studied illustration in college, but there wasn’t much offered on children’s book illustration at the time. Most of what I learned I had to figure out on my own through trial and error. However, there was one class I took that had a rotating professor who came in every 6 weeks to teach us a new medium. One of the 6-week sessions was all about cut paper. At the time, cut paper didn’t really click for me, but a few years out of college, suddenly it did. I don’t think I would have considered cut paper as a medium without that class.
What is the one thing aspiring illustrators should be doing to move forward?
Be observant. There is a whole world out there filled with ideas just waiting for you to capture them.
Thank you, Lindsay! Please remember to support the mentors by buying their books, leaving on-line reviews and telling your librarians.