Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's Wrong with Mud Tour is here today!

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome illustrator Nikki Shoemaker to my blog. I "met" Nikki because she is currently working with my publisher, 4RV Publishing. Today, we will be discussing What's Wrong with Mud?, a picture book written by Gillian Colley and illustrated by Nikki.

Can you tell my readers a little about the premise behind What's Wrong with Mud?

A: The characters in What's Wrong with Mud? are pigs and ducks. The ducks like to play in their pond and stay clean while the pigs like to play in their sty and stay dirty. One day they decide to change places to see how the other spends their day. The pigs get to play in the pond and the ducks get to play in the mud. They learn that both lifestyles can be fun!

I know very little about the life of illustrators. How did you get involved in this particular project?

A: This particular project actually just popped up in my inbox one afternoon. The editor who runs the ABC Picture Book Competition had seen my work and contacted about participating in the competition. I felt it would be a neat adventure and decided to say yes and an adventure it has been! Though this may be a rare occurrence to some illustrators, I seem to gain a lot of projects just from all the networking I do over the internet. Marketing yourself in this industry is key.

What is your educational background and how did it prepare you for picture book illustrating?

A: I starting illustrating when I figured out what crayons could do. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by family and teachers who recognized my talents at an early age and made sure I stayed active in the arts. That then led me to Columbus College of Art and Design were after a year of fundamentals, was advised that my skills were best suited for the illustration industry. I have been working towards the children's industry ever since.

What mediums do you typically work in? Would you say that What's Wrong with Mud? was a challenge to complete?

A: I have worked in many mediums and have felt comfortable with just about anything I pick up, but have always loved playing with paper. So What's Wrong with Mud? was completed in cut paper. Today, I still do a little bit in cut paper, but work mostly in digital format, because it is quick and allows you to do some different things and provides a multitude of effects.

How long does it take you to finish a picture book?

A: It all depends on the picture book. It took me about 8 months to finish the artwork alone, on What's Wrong with Mud?. And then another two months to go through the layout and proofing. I am currently working on a book that has already taken me 8 months and I have another 2 months worth of work, but take into account that I also have a day job right now. So, I work on art in the evenings and on weekends.

Do you go through multiple drafts of your illustrations during the process?

A: YES!!! They start out as little-bitty thumbnails in a rough shape with the final in mind. I do lots of those for each illustration and then I choose what I feel is the best composition. Then I blow it up to half size of the final and do another sketch on top. From there the illustration gets sent to the editor for approval. It sometimes comes back with lots of edits, some edits or NO edits if you are really lucky! A piece can have anywhere from 5 to 10 (sometimes more, on rare occasions for me) changes before it is finalized. Some of those changes little some major compositional changes...

When working on What's Wrong with Mud? what was your average illustration day like?

A: Well, at that time, I was only working on that specific book, so let's say on a Saturday that I dedicated to the book. I would wake up, have some coffee and a snack, go to my art room and get to work. I usually like to divid an illustration up into segments, it helps in making an agenda for the day. So I would say, get all the tracing done by 10:00 a.m., then I would take a short break and play with the dogs, come back and expect to get all my pieces traced onto the right colors. Then lunch. Then I might decide to work on a particular character or the background. I space it out so I don't get overwhelmed or bored with anyone thing.I am working in digital now with the Critter Group book and I divide it up in layers and time.My days are using very different than what a normal illustrator does, only because of the day job. Crossing my fingers that I won't be doing that much longer!

Do you do multiple projects at one time?

A: During What's Wrong with Mud? I did not have multiple projects. But now I do. But I do realize the time constraints I am under and make sure not to take on more than I can handle. That is very important, because I pride myself on meeting deadlines ahead of time if possible, but NEVER late.

What is the best part if illustrating children's books?

A: I love reading a manuscript for the first time and as you read the images just flow, like a movie. Then I re-read it over and over again and take notes about those images I see in my head. The process changes the images here and there until you get to a finalized sketch that goes on to be the finished piece. The evolution of the entire creative process is what makes illustrating picture books so much fun!

Thanks for answering a curious author's questions, Nikki!

You can learn more about Nikki at http://www.nikkisartroom.com/ or http://www.pinkpencil.blogspot.com/

Read below about how you can enter to win a special prize from the illustrator, Nikki Shoemaker.

Thanks for stopping by the What’s Wrong with Mud Virtual Book Tour.

Nikki is giving away 3 themed tote bags and there are 3 ways to enter to win!

  • Copy/paste the book tour schedule onto your blog and leave a comment on Nikki’s blog to let her know that you posted on or before Saturday, July 11.

  • Create your own blog post promoting What’s Wrong with Mud?
    (You can contact Nikki for the Cover image and an interview to post if you want to)

  • Stop by each blog on the Book Tour and leave a comment on each including Nikki’s blog (on or before Saturday, July 11), to let her know to enter you into the drawing.

If you enjoyed the book tour and would like a autographed copy of What’s Wrong with Mud? please email Nikki Shoemaker, nikki.shoemaker@yahoo.com for more details.


Beth Bence Reinke said...

Interesting to get a look at the illustrator's point of view. I had no idea the artwork for a book project can take such a long time. Just like writing! LOL

Great interview Crystalee and Nikki!

Rena said...

Nikki's "cut paper" technique was totally new to me. It looks fascinating and the outcome is amazing. Great interview and fun to hear more about the illustration process.

Vivian Zabel said...

Nikki does marvelous work, no matter what medium she uses.

What's Wrong with Mud sounds like a fun book.

Kim Kasch said...

This book looks super cute. I'll look for it next time I'm at Borders or B&N or Powells.

Nikki S said...

Thanks everyone for you wonderful comments!! And Thanks Crystalee for participating today!

Barnes & Noble will be the distributor, but will not have them in stores or on their website until September. If you would like a pre-release (autographed) copy you can contact me directly via email.

Thanks again! I hope you all are enjoying the tour and don't forget to enter to win a prize!

Anonymous said...

Best wishes on your success. Sounds like a lot of work to coordinate the story and the artwork.

Stephen Tremp
Breakthrough Blogs

Liana said...

Very enlightening interview, thanks Nikki!

Laurie said...

Thanks for this wonderful look at how the artwork for a picture book is accomplished!

Great Interview!


Angela said...

I love the cut paper illustrations. They're the best! The expressions on the pig's face are priceless!