Today I have the privilege of interviewing the illustrator of the newly released children's book, Fur and Feathers, by Janet Halfmann. Laurie Klein graciously answered some questions for me just for this blog tour and I'm so excited to share her thoughts with you. I hope you enjoy what she has to say. If so, please leave her a comment and let her know your thoughts.
WFAR - Please tell us a little about yourself.
Laurie - I guess the biggest thing is, I have always loved to draw and from my earliest memory made up stories and illustrated them (i even still have some of those early efforts). I grew up in Philadelphia, PA (before moving to Florida when i was 8) and i distinctly remember one of the strongest creative influences from that time - a local kids program, "Cartoon Corners General Store" hosted by Gene London. I tell this story a lot (it comes up in every bio) but i really do credit him (along with Disney animation and being read to as a child) as my inspiration. Between showing cartoons and other character bits on the program, Mr. London would tell stories (fairy tales, myths, legends) and illustrate them on big sheets of paper. That was truly my first introduction into the art of illustration and i have wanted to do it ever since. Art major in school, art studio major in college (Maryville College in maryville, TN), then worked as a graphic and paste-up artist in Atlanta, GA before deciding to do freelance illustration full time. Which i have been doing pretty steadily (with breaks to be a mom) for the past 25 years.
WFAR - How were you chosen to illustrate Fur and Feathers?
Laurie - As a freelance artist and illustrator you are always sending out samples and taking your portfolio around trying to drum up interest and, of course, work. It's actually the hardest part of the job (and, truth be told, my least favorite). I was showing my portfolio and my work caught the attention of Loran Wlodarski who had written a children's story and was looking for an illustrator. We wound up collaborating on the book (If A Dolphin Were A Fish) and Loran spent 7 years sending it out to publishers with little success. Ironically it was Loran's expertise as a science writer that brought him to the attention of Sylvan Dell (they contacted him about checking the content of one of their new books). He told them about "Dolphin" and they liked both the story and my illustrations so that is how i got my foot in the door (or perhaps that should be pencil). After that, when SD would get a manuscript that they felt suited my style, they would call and see if i would be interested in illustrating it. I had already done three animal books for SD so F&F was right up my alley.
WFAR - Have you worked with the author and/or publishers before?
Laurie - Yes, on both counts. My very next book for Sylvan Dell (after If A Dolphin Were A Fish) was Little Skink's Tail, written by Janet Halfmann. Skink was my second book for SD and my first book working with Janet and since Janet is the author of F&F i couldn't resist tucking in a few little "Easter Eggs" (to use a DVD term) in the new book. On page 2 - the wind storm - Little Skink is rather prominently shown getting sucked into the vortex and on page where Sophia id getting the jar of slime for the frog, Little Skink's Tail (along with my two other books) is on the shelf.
WFAR - What materials or techniques did you use to illustrate Fur and Feathers?
Laurie - F&F was done with Prismacolor color pencils on Stonehenge paper. I tend to apply a lot of layers when i color - i start with Black Grape and work out all the shadows and darker areas then start applying various shades. It's all a bit trial and error but i discovered a great technique in a color pencil book that i use pretty extensively - once the pencil is down on the paper i take a brush and go over it with odorless mineral spirits and it helps blend it and make the color a bit more fluid (almost like water color).
WFAR - What else have you illustrated?
Laurie - As noted I have done 4 books for Sylvan Dell: If A Dolphin Were A Fish by Loran Wlodarski
Little Skink's Tail by Janet Halfmann
Where Should Turtle Be? by Susan Ring
Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann
and I am currently working on my 5th book for SD, Meet the Planets by John McGranaghan, which comes out Spring 2011.
Prior to my wok for Sylvan Dell I illustrated 4 books for Peachtree Publishers in Atlanta - Out To Pasture, Over What Hill?, Older But Wilder, and One More Time all by Effie Leland Wilder.
And I have done spot illustrations for several educational books, camp field guides, and activity booklets for SeaWorld Adventure Park.
WFAR - What are your favorites?
Laurie - Oo, this could be dangerous - and lengthy - but I'll try to keep it to the top few in each category.
Author - depending on my obsession of the moment I tend to read a lot of history/science/philosophy/non-fiction books so "author" doesn't come into play much. I have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on every free wall so the list is pretty eclectic but I DO still have some favorites (particularly from childhood) that come to mind: Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ursula K. LeGuin, Diane Ackerman, Carl Sagan, J. R. R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne, Joan Aiken, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Marguerite De Angeli,. Marguerite Henry, Austin Tappan Wright, Barbara Tuchman, Lois Lowry, Karen Cushman, Charles Dickens....
Food - Everything - really. I love trying new things (and want desperately to eat some of the weird stuff Andrew Zimmern eats on Bizarre Foods) but hummus is a particular favorite. And sushi, pizza, and chips & cheese (a family snack food must).
Color - the quick answer would be blue, but technically I really like all colors, or at least many different hues and shades of all colors.
Book - If my author list was eclectic (and long) my favorite books list is even longer so I'll just keep this list to the books that had a big impact on me or i go back to time and a gain and have read more than two or three times: Lord of the Rings, Islandia, Little Women, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Dispossessed, ...And Ladies of the Club, Beautiful Joe, Black Beauty, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Guns of August, Cross Creek, A Distant Mirror, Catherine - Called Birdie.
- That of course is an abbreviated list of individual titles but in terms of favorite Subject Matter in general - I have entire shelves of books dedicated to polar explorers and exploration, travel, Florida (history and stories), whales & dolphins, art & artists, science & science fiction and - of course - children's books!!
I could go on forever, and you did list "Other", but I'll end with...
Artist - As with authors and books the list is long, but a few key influences come to mind (and because i simply can't leave them out) - Tasha Tudor, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, N. C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Edmund Dulac, Edward Gorey, Alan Lee, John Howe, Trina Schart Hyman, Brian Froud, Charlie Harper, M. C. Escher, Toulouse-Lautrec, and the 9 Old Men of Disney Animation. But let me stress - this just scratches the surface!!!!!
Thanks so much for chatting with me, Laurie! I really enjoyed your thoughts as we corresponded getting this interview together!
Sylan Dell has been gracious to offer one of my lucky readers a 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing’s 55 book. All you have to do is let me know in the comments that you'd like to be entered. This contest is open internationally and will run through midnight, Friday Aug. 20.
You can watch the Fur and Feathers trailer here.
Here is the full tour schedule in case you missed any of the posts.
Day 1 Thursday Aug. 5
Cafe of Dreams
Day 2 Friday Aug. 6
Interview with author Janet Halfmann & Giveaway of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Laurie & Janet (ship US only)
Katie’s Nesting Spot
Day 3 Saturday Aug. 7 - rescheduled for Friday, Aug. 13
Interview with illustrator Laurie Allen Klein & Giveaway of 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing’s 55 books (international)
Write for a Reader
Day 4 Sunday Aug. 8
She Is too Fond of Books
Day 5 Monday Aug. 9
Guest post by Laurie Allen Klein and Giveaway—choice of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Janet & Laurie (ship US only) or 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing’s 55 books (international)
Pudgy Penguins Perusals
Day 6 Tuesday Aug. 10 (Official release date)
Review and Giveaway—choice of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Janet & Laurie (ship US only) or 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing’s 55 books (international)
Day 7 Wednesday Aug. 11
Review & Giveaway of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Laurie & Janet (ship US only)
Day 8 Thursday Aug. 12
Guest post (“The Wonders of Writing about Nature”) by author Janet Halfmann & Giveaway of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Laurie & Janet (ship US only)