By Kat Harrison
During the few years I spent creating and polishing my debut picture book, I often daydreamed of who would sign on to illustrate the project. What would their artistic style be like? Would they be able to add dimension and their own voice to an otherwise sterile environment? (It’s OK, you can say it – a book about surgery isn’t exactly Disney World.)
Luckily for me, the perfect person said “yes” to the job -- Shane Crampton. She’s the visionary behind Sunday’s world and a freelance illustrator based out of Cornwall, England where she lives with her husband and four equally amazing sons.
Her work is a mash-up of scribbling, painting (usually with gouache) and digital techniques, and she often listens to music from groups like Iron Maiden and Rob Zombie while she creates.
To start us off, can you describe your illustration style in a few words?
Happy and playful!
What made you excited to sign on as the illustrator for SURGERY ON SUNDAY?
It’s a really interesting subject and I think it will be helpful to a lot of children so that was very appealing.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the book takes place in a hospital. What kind of research have you done (or need to do) in order to bring it to life?
I have spent a considerable amount of time in hospitals when I was younger and I have looked up lots and lots of different visual images online.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw?
Veins doing yoga and weightlifting from your book. Hahaha...sorry!
I’m actually honored by that – better to be strange than boring. Have you or any of your kids had surgery before?
Yes, I have had surgery a couple of times and one of my kids has, as well. My younger brother was in and out of hospital a lot when he was little and had two major operations by the time he was two. He went on to have more as he got older, so I spent quite a lot of time in hospital with him and my parents. The car we used to travel in to get to hospital ended up just being called "the hospital car.”
Name three fun facts about yourself (outside of your art!).
I have a black belt in Taekwondo. I love dogs and used to be a kennel maid, and I am totally obsessed with playing my guitar.
What inspires you to create?
I don't think there's one particular thing that inspires me to create, I just "feel" like I have to do it -- it makes me happy. This is why I try to do personal little projects as often as I can, I need to be able to create something and not be confined to a brief now and again.
How do your children influence your work?
My kids, particularly when they were younger, would often say totally random and hilarious things. Now and again, I would translate into a little piece of work or it would spark a little idea for narrative in an illustration.
What is your all-time favorite children’s book that you didn’t illustrate and why?
The Princess and the Pea. I loved it as a kid and it was mainly because it was the only book I'd read where the princess wasn't blonde. It was more relatable to me than other princess books, but this is weird in a way too as I am not even a little bit Princess-y!
If you want to see more of Shane’s work (trust me, you do) – learn more about her here (https://www.shanecrampton.co.uk) or follow her on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/shanecramptonillustrator/).
When #OntheScenein19 suggested our debut authors interview their illustrators, I found myself in a bit of pickle. But then, I talk to myself all day. So…
Laurie Smollett Kutscera, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to chat with you. You’re always on your cell phone!
Yes, I know. I actually just turned it off so I could give you my undivided attention today.
Let me begin by saying, your illustrations for MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON fit the story quite well. When you read the manuscript for the first time—did you have a vision in mind?
Absolutely. It was such a vividly written novel, the characters almost created themselves. Actually, I was pretty fortunate. I usually receive a finished manuscript before I begin the illustration process, but in this instance, I got to watch you pull your hair out and throw little temper tantrums while you wrote your first five or six drafts. While you were having your meltdowns, I was busy sketching your cast of characters.
Thank you for sharing that. I’m sure our readers are very interested in my occasional meltdowns. Ahem. Well, I must say, you really captured the essence of each character. Did you use models?
I had quite a number of models pose for me. Friends. Neighbors. Children of friends and neighbors. I even had a few of our darling boat crew pose for the bad guys! They were very convincing! Makes a girl think…
How is illustrating for a middle grade audience different from illustrating a picture book?
With middle grade, you’re illustrating for a more mature audience. So, the characters are probably going to be in the range of 11-14 years old. Also, in general, you’re creating fewer illustrations—usually one for an entire chapter, but that may vary– some middle grade books have more, some have none. With picture books, you’re basically telling the entire story through the illustrations.
So…how did you approach illustrating MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON?
I’ve always envisioned MISADVENTURES as a movie. So, that’s how I approached the illustrations. I was also inspired by the moody, shadowy illustrations Brian Selznick’s created for Hugo Cabret, and the evocative work of Bagram Ibatoulline, illustrator of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. These talented artists approached illustrating for middle grade readers in a more dramatic, reflective manner. That really spoke to me.
Did you always plan to work in in black and white?
Not exactly. The original illustrations were in full color. But as I began to read more middle grade books, I noticed most illustrations were black and white. So, I went back and played with them in Photoshop. I was surprised at how much richer and more mysterious the illustrations became once I removed the color. Sometimes I feel like color can be distracting, especially when the writing is so descriptive.
What did you enjoy most about illustrating MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON?
The story takes us on an adventure with 12-year old Alex. It’s an emotional, heart felt journey, as he is still grieving at the loss of his father, but it’s also filled with lots of humor. Especially the scenes with Joker. I know YOU had a good time developing his character, because I heard you cracking yourself up at three in the morning. But let me tell you--he was just as much fun to illustrate. He was a handful…literally!
Joker is quite unique, isn’t he? Speaking of fun, you looked like you had a great time creating that magic deck!
Totally! How cool to be able to create characters that can jump out of their card! What a concept! I had a blast playing with the possibilities. Once I had the characters down, I took it a step further by making real cards– front and back. Just for kicks, I would mix them into a regular deck. I’ve always been intrigued by playing cards. They’re so intricate and graphic. Isn’t that what inspired you to write the book?
Yes, I was watching a James Bond film and during the opening credits these huge playing cards filled the screen. I was mesmerized. But enough about me. Did you always want to be an artist?
Pretty much. I began drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon. I drew all the time. When I started school, paying attention wasn’t my strong point. I used to get in trouble for doodling in my composition books. My mother was an artist. She loved experimenting and working in a variety of mediums including oils, pen and ink, and photography. She had her own darkroom and developed these extraordinary photos. I’m sure being around her creative energy rubbed off a little.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of illustrating for Misadventures?
Seeing it all come together. I don’t think there are any words to describe what it feels like to see your story come to life in words and pictures. While Blue Whale Press still in the process of finishing the book – it looks like the release date is moving to early Spring of 2020—It’s very exciting to be at this stage after so many years of hard work.
It was a pleasure collaborating with you. We have so much in common, I’m excited to start on the next project.
Me too! That new wordless picture book you’re playing around with should be a lot of fun. More work for me than you, but I’m okay with that—in this business you have to be flexible.
Tina: Hi Maddie. Thank you for stopping by today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Maddie: Oh sure. I go to Walker Elementary School and I am the oldest in my family. The best part about school is I am in the same class as my best friend Stella. I see her every day, all day long.
Tina: What do you like to do when you are not at school?
Maddie: That’s simple. I love to draw with my crayons and markers and play with my friends.
Tina: I heard you were part of a school walkout recently? Can you tell us a little about it?
Maddie: Yea, I was. Our school was having one but it was only for the big kids and I really wanted to walk out with them.
Tina: How did you become a part of it then?
Maddie: Well, it was School Safety Week and I just thought everyone should be included, not just the big kids.
Tina: That makes perfect sense. Did you walk out with the big kids by yourself?
Maddie: Oh no… I asked my friends for some help and everyone got together during lunch to make signs about safe schools. Even our teacher helped us. Only Stella didn’t.
Tina: I am sure she was just busy.
Maddie: Actually, she was scared. Our principal told us it was for the big kids only. He even said so during announcements. She just didn’t want to get into trouble.
Tina: I understand how she felt. Didn’t you?
Maddie: Yes, I did. But I also didn’t want her to feel left out. I really wanted all my friends to help the big kids stand up for safe schools so I kept asking her to see if she would change her mind.
Tina: And did she?
Maddie: That was a really busy week at school, plus I had homework every night too. If you want to find out if Stella changed her mind and even how you can help schools stay safe, you have to read WALKOUT.
Tina: That is a good idea Maddie, and thank you for telling us about your experience.
Maddie: Bye, see you later!
Andy, tell us a little bit about the work that Bear With Us Productions does. What services do you offer?
Bear With Us Productions is a one stop shop providing authors who are looking to self publish with everything they need to take their story and turn it into a fully developed children’s book.
We specialise in illustrations, cover designs, editing, formatting and marketing. We even help new authors upload their book onto Amazon.
What’s your process for matching an author and illustrator?
We really get to know our illustrator’s styles and comfort zones. When we discuss the project with the author, we get a feel for what they are looking for and then we offer a choice of illustrators by providing samples of their work. There are a few elements we need to consider such as age group of the reader, the genre of the story, timescale and budget. We’re pleased to say that so far we’ve been on the nail and have matched the right illustrator with the project. Sometimes the author will request a certain illustrator from our social media posts and that makes our job just a little bit easier.
How does the author, illustrator and Bear With Us Productions work together to bring a book to life?
Well regular communication is key. I project manage everything myself and work very closely with both illustrator and author to ensure that expectations are met. Recently, we developed a new online project management set up where we invite authors into the system and they can discuss things with the BWUP team and approve illustrations in real time all under one roof.
Bear With Us Productions offers typesetting, formatting and book design. How do you go about the process of choosing the right fonts and layout for a book?
Richie is a designer and teacher. His knowledge of fonts and creative styles is incredible. We both discuss how we want the book to look and we seem to have a sixth sense in that so far everything we’ve put together up until now has been received so well. Author approval at the first final draft is something that we aim for and our batting average on that is quite high.
Andy, what’s your favourite type of book to work on? Do you have a preference personally?
I love monsters and scary stories. Halloween is my favourite holiday and I enjoy both writing and developing stories and books in this genre.
Eduardo, where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you have any particular influences?
Since I was a boy, I have been a huge fan of Disney animation. The complexity of the movements, backgrounds, and the beauty of the characters have been a huge inspiration for my work.
How and when did you decide that being an illustrator was what you wanted to do as a career?
Since I can remember I have been into drawing and painting. My mother used to paint as well so I am sure seeing her work had an influence on me. My parents were working as writers for a mayor editorial company and when I turned 14 I had a chance to work for this company, as well. I saw that I could do something that I really loved and make a living doing that. I guess this is how it all began.
What kinds of mediums do you use for your illustrations generally and what did you use specifically for My Llama Drama?
I use a variety of software and I always work with Wacom Cintiq. However, one of the things I enjoy the most is to draw by hand, using white paper and a pencil. For My Llama Drama I started sketching by hand to get the feeling of the characters and to develop the personality of each one. I also did a lot of research on llamas and I spent some time creating textures and hairdos for each character. I think that was important because I can see that each one of them has its own fun and interesting personality.
What’s your favourite part of the illustration process?
Definitely it is the character development. I feel it is the moment when you bring to life the most important aspect of a story. Seeing your character’s first smile, movement of the eyes, or style is really inspiring for an illustrator.
What’s the funniest, strangest or most memorable thing you’ve been asked to draw?
I think all the projects have these three aspects. They are funny and challenging in their own particular way, and every one of them is a different experience and they become fun to work on.
For My Llama Drama I had a blast creating the characters. I will definitely remember all the llamas.
Can each of you tell me what your all-time favourite children’s book is and why?
Andy - Enid Blyton ‘The Far-away Tree’
Just incredibly lovely memories of being read to by my Grandmother and the story has just stayed with me. I also love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Richie - A Flight of Dragons - Peter Dickinson
Loved the illustrations and the book introduced me to the world of Tolkien (hobbit) to games workshop warhammer 40k that feed my creative juices.
Ed - I like all the classic stories with the morals.
Somehow they help you shape your personality and become a better person. Now, I read them to my kids and I can enjoy the stories again. If I had to choose one, my favourite would be The Little Prince because it has a lot of quotes that I have been cherishing for my whole life.
Andy, how can people find you, Eduardo and the rest of your illustration team at Bear With Us Productions if they are keen to turn their picture book manuscript into a beautiful, physical book?
Just reach out to us via our Facebook page or via our website.
We will have a brand new website going live in early Oct at www.justbearwithus.com
where we will be promoting new packages and also all our author’s books will be listed for sale.