This blog is a bit longer than usual but with good reason! Something wonderful is happening all over the United States now through December 7, and I have the joy of being part of it, thanks to Anni Matsick, my illustrator for our Starbird Ridge story series that has been running in Pockets Magazine (www.pockets.org) for the past two years.
In our great excitement at being part of this event, Anni and I decided to do an interview to post here on my blog. Here it is below, along with a picture of Anni Matsick and the snowflake she has designed for the auction. I’m asking the questions, and Anni is answering.
Why did you choose Annie for the snowflake?
Annie is a charming, spirited little character who would enjoy a good snowfall so she popped into my mind instantly when I was thinking of possibilities. I’m into illustrating the third year of the series so I know her well and I particularly enjoy the episodes where she appears. Especially if she is wearing her red cowboy boots or has done her own pigtails. :)
Yes, the ones where you made me work hard researching things mentioned in the story! I had to find visual references for bear bells, flame flowers, an Ethiopian cocoa pot, and many more things that figured in the plots. That’s how you and I got to know each other, through the email exchanges. Chris Schechner (Pockets art director) and I always laugh about having to contact Peggy again when we are stumped. We always agree that’s what makes your stories so special, introducing new, interesting things to your readers.
I have to admit, Anni—I do get a kick out of throwing in those little unusual details, and I smile when I see you figuring out ways to picture those in the series. I’m wondering though--Do you ever get tired of showing the same characters?
People asked me that when I did Goofus and Gallant for Highlights Magazine over a nine year period. The characters seem very real to me after a while so it becomes easier to portray their postures and emotions. There are quite a few characters in Starbird Ridge so enough variety exists to keep me interested.
As a closet artist/illustrator myself, I’m curious. What medium did you use? Could you describe your process for us?
I had to buy a new set of acrylics since I haven’t used them since college. My work for publishing is in watercolor. I practiced a bit on a piece of gessoed cardboard. The snowflake has two layers of gesso which I sanded for a nice, smooth surface. My composition was worked out in a sketch on tracing paper in reverse, so that when I rubbed it the pencil lines transferred to the snowflake surface. I began with light washes of color, diluting the acrylic paint with water, to lay in the palette. After that, I used the paint full strength to develop the image in small brush strokes. The facial expression is always the first thing to establish, then I work around it. I kind of loosened up on Haggis, with the snow on his coat.
Once the paintings dried I applied quite a few light coats of spray varnish to seal the image and create an even surface that I think enhances the work.
And I know readers may want to know this as well—could you tell us your background and professional experience?
My degree in painting from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh gave me a strong foundation in drawing and a valuable aesthetic sense. I’ve worked for close to twenty years in children’s illustration.
Looking at the snowflake you designed, and seeing how natural Annie and Haggis look on this snowy day, I have to ask you--Do you live in a place where it snows?
My home is in a college town in central Pennsylvania so I am very familiar with snowy winters! Snow has been lucky for me, since I acquired my reps Cornell & McCarthy when they saw an image depicting children making snow angels in an ad directory. It was one of my first covers for Pockets, which has been a great association over the years.
I recall the debut issue of Starbird Ridge had a snow scene on the cover done by you!
Yes, and the winning bidder will get a signed copy as a bonus.
Where can we see more of your work online?
Samples are on my reps’ website and at Picturebook online:
I’m excited about participating too, Peggy, and having two charming characters to make the snowflake special. It will be fun to watch the bidding!
And a final note to all of you: Remember, you can preview the snowflakes online (and if you’d like, place a bid) by going to www.robertssnow.com . Anni’s snowflake will be in Auction One, November 19-23.
And if you'd like to go to my (Peggy's) website to see what else I've been up to recently, come on over, at www.peggyking.com