Interview with Author/Illustrator Peter Brown

Peter Brown has always loved telling stories. As a boy, he told stories with pictures, by drawing whimsical characters and scenes from his imagination. As a teenager, Peter fell in love with writing, and began using words to tell wild tales. As a student at Art Center College of Design, Peter’s love of both words and pictures led him to take several courses on children’s books. And before long he knew he’d found his calling.
After graduating from Art Center, Peter moved to New York City to be closer to the publishing industry. He was working on animated TV shows when he was hired to write and illustrate his first picture book, Flight of the Dodo. Peter quickly signed up his second and third books, and he’s published one book per year ever since.
Peter’s books have earned him numerous honors, including two E.B. White Awards, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book award, a Children’s Choice Award for Illustrator of the Year, an Irma Black Honor, and he has had three NY Times Bestsellers. Peter’s books are being adapted into children’s plays and short films, and they have been translated into more than a dozen languages around the world.
Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?
“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”
-Groucho Marx
I like this quote because it basically speaks for me. And it’s funny.
Your books are full of humor and so are you! How do you keep your creative spark burning?
I sometimes get tired of my own work. But there is SO MUCH amazing work in the world, that I never get tired of exploring other people’s creativity. 

Whenever I get bored with my work, I know that I need to change things up a bit. And so I’ll “add a new color to my palette.” Sometimes that may actually mean changing my color palette, or it might mean flattening out my illustrations so they’re more bold and graphic, or it might mean working on a SERIOUS story (for a change). It’s always different, but change is good, and so when I’m stuck I make changes.

What did you want to be growing up? Now that you’re an author/illustrator did this come as a surprise?
When I was a kid I thought I either wanted to work at Disney Animation, or I wanted to be some kind of biologist working in Africa. I LOVED nature specials and zoos, and I still do, which is why so many of my stories are about animals.
When you were in school, was there a teacher that had a big influence on you? If so, how old were you and what did they do?
Absolutely yes! My high school art teacher, Dr. O’Boyle was one of those teachers every parent hopes will cross paths with their child. He’s a life changer. My family life was pretty turbulent growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself, and I didn’t always believe that I had any talent, but Doc never wavered, ever, in his belief in my abilities. He is an inspired artist and teacher, and he insisted that I apply to art schools that I had no business getting into. But I was accepted to Art Center College of Design, and the rest is history. I thought he was crazy, but I guess I proved him right. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m Picasso or Hemingway, but I’ve amounted to much more than I’d ever expected.
When you are having moments when nothing seems to fit, how do you find what you are looking for and make a story come to life?
As I develop a story, I spend about 75% of my time being absolutely panicked that my story won’t turn out. But I keep grinding away at it. Basically, when I get a little nugget of a story, I realize that a million things could happen in that story. And so I end up using flowcharts or story webs to map out every possible scenario. It’s grueling. Slowly but surely I begin to see which ideas work and which don’t. And the ideas that work are the ones that are innovative, quirky, wondrous, heartwarming, or funny.
In your career as an author/illustrator, who’s had the biggest influence on you? What did they do to inspire you?
This feels like a cop-out, but I’d have to say Maurice Sendak…like I’m sure everyone else says. The fact is Sendak was an unbelievable craftsman, both with his words and his pictures (not to mention that he had some pretty brilliant ideas). Every book that man ever published is a gorgeous work of art. Every little drawing in “A Hole is to Dig” is perfect. Every full spread of “In the Night Kitchen” is just right. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a Sendak illustration (or sentence) and said to myself “Well, I would have done that differently…” I’m inspired by his high standards, and I aspire to his level of perfection.
If you could be any super hero real or make believe, who would it be?
The Time Boss. Time goes by so quickly, and there’s so much I want to do. I’d love it if I could just control the passage of time.
If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?

Love it, Peter! Thank you for giving us some wonderful insight into your creative magical world and sharing some amazing words of wisdom! 

If you would like to find out more about Peter, please visit his website. Also, Peter’s newest book, CREEPY CARROTS! (Written by Aaron Reynolds) hits bookshelves this month! August 2012! Check out the ever awesome video here


Interview with Illustrator Alice Young

Alice Young studied illustration at The Art Center College of Design. She graduated in 2001 with a B.F.A. in honors and then put a hold on illustration to pursue her other passion which ended in a M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics from Biola University in 2009. Now she’s back doing what she does best, which is creating the world through illustrations. She’s currently living in beautiful Southern California creating fantastic works of art for children.
Since this blog’s about offering inspiration to writers and artists, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?
“Had they but courage equal to desire?”- W.B. Yeats
This quote reminds me to not be a coward and to meet my desires with the courage to the see them through.
If you could go back in time when you first started creating and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be hindered by a fear of looking like the fool. When I was younger, I did not ask as many questions or go for as many things as I could have because I was afraid to look like the fool. I don’t want to allow that fear to stop me now.
Who’s had the biggest influence on you? What did they do to inspire your art?
I have to say my biggest influence is my mom. She is not an artist, but an appreciator of the arts. She nurtured my creativity and surrounded me with tons of children’s books and art books growing up. I grew up seeing a lot of illustration styles that we don’t always see here in the States. I was exposed to a lot of illustrations from China, Japan, and Europe. I believe the style of my illustrations reflect these influences.
I also learn a lot from her. Like how to make the most of fragments of time. I tend to waste time that does not come in chunks. So she inspires me to get more done!
Are there ever times you feel your creative spark dying? If so, how do you light it back up?
Of course! It happens a lot. When this happens, I read. Reading is always very inspiring and gets the mind going. I also flip through magazines, listen to music, watch movies, or anything that might inspire. But sometimes, you just keep working and pushing through even when you’re not feeling that creative spark. I really believe discipline is more important than genius because I see how hard all the people I consider successful have worked for their success.
Do you have a favorite illustration you could share with us that has a story behind it?
That is a really good question! I have a hard time liking my own work, because I can see how it can be better. But I’ll share a recent piece I made for my promotional card. It is of pickled children. I was inspired to make this illustration after reading George MacDonald’s fairy tale, “The Giant’s Heart.” In the story, the giant eats children and likes them pickled instead of boiled; this is because he likes them crisp. I just couldn’t help myself after reading that!
Have you ever set a really tough goal for yourself and succeeded? Could you share with us what it was and how you accomplished it?
I don’t think it is the toughest goal I could have made more myself, but more than a year ago I set out to figure out how to make a website for myself. I took a few classes and finally launched my website in March. Even now, there are changes I would like to make to my site but I am going to need to do more learning for that!
If you could pick a word to describe yourself, what would it be?

Thank you Alice! And I have to say that your website is, um, WOW! Great job. If you would like to find out more about Alice Young you should not only check out her website but her fun blog as well.