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.