Today’s blog features Wendy Leach, the gifted illustrator of I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks. Along with advice for aspiring illustrators, Wendy shares with us why yellow #2 pencils and little white mice appear in so many of the picture books she illustrates.
What is the most useful piece of advice you could give to a budding artist/aspiring illustrator?
Can you name three artists who inspire you? Three! That’s hard to narrow down. If I had to choose: Caravaggi, Rene Magritte, and Richard Scarry.
As parents, much of what we do is also inspired by our children. Was becoming a mom what drew you to illustrating for kids or have you always wanted to be an illustrator?
I have wanted to illustrate children’s books since second grade when I created my ﬁrst story about a sleepover in a museum. However initially, I didn’t pursue illustration as an adult, but having a child changed that. As a parent, there is a lot I want to teach my daughter about life starting with knowing that she can be anything she wants. But I realized I wasn’t really doing what I wanted, which was to write and illustrate children’s books. I knew that had to change. I had to ﬁgure out how to lead by example so she would truly believe my message to her.
What is your favorite item to draw and why?
As far as an item I would have to say yellow number 2 pencils. They just seem to show up in my work a lot!
What is your favorite part of the illustration process?
The end! I enjoy seeing all the images come together polished and in color and turning them in to the publisher always feels like the last day of school before summer vacation.
Since I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM is nonfiction, you had to draw several real-life characters. Did you find this more or less difficult than drawing characters in fiction books?
Both have pros and cons, but I do feel a bit more pressure when illustrating real life characters. It’s nice to have a general idea of what the characters look like, but there is more of a chance of disappointing someone when you’re drawing a true-life character.
Did you need to do any research in order to illustrate I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM?
I had never been to a township board meeting, so I watched several of my city’s board meetings online. All of which were extremely thrilling! I looked at meeting notes, at images for community buildings, and other township boardrooms for interior ideas. I also ate lots and lots of ice cream—you know, for research! 😊
Were there any challenges to overcome when illustrating I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM?
I would say the biggest challenge was creating the meeting scenes with so many people in the audience. It was difficult keeping everything consistent and showing the audience from diﬀerent viewpoints.
After I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM debuted, you asked me if I had found the little white mouse you hid in one of the illustrations. Can you tell me how your tradition of hiding a white mouse in each of the books you illustrate came about?
I found these adorable little white mice at IKEA. My daughter and I built them a house and made them costumes, furniture, etc. We also played a game where they hide around the house and have to be found. Then one day, they just showed up in my illustrations! I decided to continue the tradition in each of my books as a gift to my daughter.
When you’re not illustrating for authors, what do you like to do in your free time? In my free time I draw a lot. Most of the time it’s characters and stories I’m imagining. I also like to garden (actually I like to visit the garden store), bake, and eat!
Before we sign off, can you share three fun facts about yourself with our readers!
I bet your daughter loves to draw on the living room walls with you! Thank you for joining me today. I wish you all the best in all your endeavors.
To find out more about Wendy, visit her website http://www.artofwendyleach.com/ and follow her on Instagram @wendy_leach_illustration.