What better book to start off the Bound Valentine's Countdown than "The Wonder Book"?
Just out from author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Paul Schmid this book would be a lovely gift for any age. I foresee it as a great graduation present this summer, too. You can even get a signed copy this month. Scroll down for a list of book events.
Paul was kind enough to let me barge into his studio a few days ago for a chat:
So what's your new book all about, Paul?
The author describes it as a mix between Shel Silverstein and Willy Wonka.
It's wackier and it's not just poems, it's games and things. Here's our book trailer:
Did you draw yourself into the book anywhere?
No?!? Are you sure?
No, ha ha, not that I'm aware of. There's very few adults in the book, there's a Dracula and a dad, but otherwise it is all kids. It was a fun assignment because I just got the words. Very little visual direction. A few photos to clarify what the authorr was talking about, so there was a lot of room for me to play. It was just so much fun because of that. A lot of these could have gone just about anywhere.
Was it your idea to have the art be black and white?
No, it was always going to be black and white. Originally it was going to be 90 pages. It's now 80. But I love black and white. Sometimes color is just 'coloring in.'
How'd you get started in illustration?
I'm a third generation artist. My dad was a commercial artist. My grandfather was both a commercial and fine artist and my great grandfather was a Swiss watch engraver. I think I just didn't know what else I could do. I went to art school in Chicago and loved every minute of it. It was a great education, three hours of drawing in the morning and three hours of painting in the afternoon.
I bounced around to various art jobs after school. Twenty years ago I became a staff artist for The Seattle Times. I left there three years ago.
Can you name some favorite books or artists past and present?
Past: N.C. Wyeth's "Treasure Island." I can date my desire to illustrate children's books from discovering that Treasure Island in the library as a kid. It was just so powerful.
Another old favorite would be William Heath Robinson, an English cartoonist. He did what we would call Rube Goldbergs, but in England they called them Heath Robinsons. He also did lovely pen and inks for children's books.
For new favorites I've been looking at a lot of European children's books:
"Big Rabbit's Bad Mood" (I have that one in the original French!)
"Rita and Whatsit" Just lovely, the simple color palette works really well here.
Peter McCarty, I love him. I think he's my favorite right now. His sense of space is so powerful. And the way he plays with color.
"Ounce Dice Trice," a reissue of Ben Shahn's. In the Thirties, Shahn was a Depression-era artist/socialist/radical/poster artist.
How has technology impacted your career?
My art school was very very traditional, hand-done stuff. I still have my color chart (top left.) But when I was working at The Seattle Times, computers started coming in and I was very fortunate and got to learn on the job. I used to get frustrated because there's a detachment between you and your art... It doesn't feel very fun, I used to say "It's like doing art with a rubber on." There's a serendipity with real materials. Here (top right) Paul shares how he uses his hand drawn sketches, but photoshops in alternate arms and hands if he's unsatisfied with how the master sketch looks.
Really really important question --what's your favorite snack to eat while working on a book?
Tea and Dark chocolate. Any brand, whatever's on sale at the drugstore.
If you'd like to see what Paul's studio looks like, check out this great blog post for a tour.
Do you have any events coming up?
Yes! Secret Garden Books in Seattle is going to have a launch party for me February 24 at 7pm.
Amy is also doing book events:
Barnes & Noble Brentwood
1701 Mallory Lane
Brentwood, TN 37027
7300 Dallas Parkway
Plano, TX 75024
Quail Ridge Books
3522 Wade Ave
Raleigh, NC 27607
Thanks, Paul! If you dig "The Wonder Book" illustrations you don't have to wait too long for more from Paul -- he's got three books coming out in the next couple of years, "A Pet for Petunia" comes out next January (here's a sneak peek!)