Your illustrations have been featured in many different media and settings ranging from advertising to art galleries. Your collaboration with Kate Messner in Over and Under the Snow took your work into the world of picture books. How did this collaboration began?
I was extremely lucky in this case. I had been working as an illustrator for about 7 years—mostly making illustrations for magazines, posters for bands, and art and lettering for book jackets—when I got a call from Chronicle Books about Kate Messner’s manuscript. They saw Kate’s story as an uncommon and poetic version of science for young readers and were looking for a nontraditional take on the art. Based on my book covers and posters, the art director (Amelia Mack) and editor (Melissa Manlove) were familiar with my work and thought I would be a good fit. We did a test piece and then moved forward with the project. I hadn’t thought about a career in picture books before working with Kate and Chronicle Books; the industry was less open minded back in 2009 about the type of pictures that fit into the picture book market and I didn’t see my work fitting into this space. I feel blessed to have received this opportunity and it goes to show that if you put work out into the world that is personal and honest, unexpected opportunities can follow.
Kate’s writing is beautiful and unique within the space of science-based picture books, and Chronicle is really conscious about making sure the design details such as the paper choice and printing lives up to that. Parents, librarians, and teachers want books that teach kids about the natural world in a way that is entertaining, emotive, and sparks curiosity. The Over and Under concept is just so much fun and there’s so many possibilities. Our books certainly leave the door open for more learning. Kate and I have signed on for two new books in this series.
In 2016 your author-illustrator debut, Everyone, was published. How does the illustration experience differ when illustrating for a self-authored book?
What advice would you give to an illustrator looking to branch into an author-illustrator role?
Can you say a little bit about your newest books Animal Shapes and Animal Colors?
Yes. Speaking of concept books, Animal Shapes and Animal Colors are board books that combine shapes with animals, and colors with animals to teach kids about shapes and colors. The best way to explain it is to give an example: “When a leaping Frog meets an Octagon they make a… HOP-TAGON!” And you’ll have to imagine what a “Hoptagon” looks like. Both are available for pre-order and release at the end of March on Little Bee Books— you can find them here: Animal Shapes & Animal Colors.
If someone could only read one of your picture books, which book would you most want them to experience?
Is there anything else you would like to share?