Interview with Bethany Barton

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Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Sure! I’m a kid’s book author and illustrator, with a “day-job” in film & TV. (Because one career isn’t enough, so I decided to have 2? haha) I’ve been fortunate enough to have written and illustrated 5 picture books so far, as well as occasionally illustrating for other authors and commercial clients like Starbucks. 

I’m passionate about creating books that help kids address and discuss fear using superpowers like facts and humor. My 2015 book I’m Trying To Love Spiders won the 2016 Children’s Choice Award 3rd/4th Grade Book of The Year. And my 2017 book Give Bees A Chance was a SCIBA Award finalist, was listed in Scripps National Spelling Bee “Great Words, Great Works,” and was featured in the New York Times. 

But don’t let that stuff fool you—  I still pretty much I have no idea what I’m doing… ha! 

Can you tell me about your new book coming out?

Heck yes I can! My newest non-fiction picture book addresses a subject that terrifies kids (and adults) the world over: MATH! It’s called I’m Trying To Love Math, and it hits stores in July. It’s chock full of space aliens, electric guitars and cookies… you know, math stuff. 

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Do you actually hate math in real life?

You know, writing this book really changed my relationship with math. It all started as a joke with my agent. My husband is getting his masters in physics (!) and keeps writing giant, rambling equations on our sliding glass door with dry-erase markers. I joked that I should write “I’m Trying To Love Math” to understand what the heck he was writing, and then my editor (the talented and wonderfully patient Tracy Gates at Viking) LOVED the idea. In the course of the book, I had a mathematician/friend answering all my stupid questions and explaining concepts to me (a genius named Erich Patrick Enke) — and he was/is so in love with and excited about math that I started to love it as well!  Seriously! Math is so much more creative then I’d ever realized! Great teachers absolutely make the difference, and Erich was/is a fantastic one for how my brain works. 

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Did you always want to be a children's book writer and illustrator?

You know how Pete the Cat was walking down the street… and he just kept stepping in stuff… and then BAM - he had super sweet shoes? That’s basically my publishing career. 

I knew I wanted to be a working artist. I wanted to “Wake Up and Make Stuff” and then be able to trade that stuff I made for goods and services. I had stories to tell, and images to make, and thankfully I also had great mentors in my life. But I wasn’t particularly choosy about which field I ended up in, as long as I was creating things, telling stories, promoting honesty & empathy, and in doing so, was able to pay my bills.

It was actually my agent (big hugs to Stephen Barr at Writers House!) who found my art and stories on a blog I used to have and told me they could be children’s books. He saw it first, and I was overjoyed with the idea. 

It’s like Jim Henson said about working in the arts, “You have to be very very prepared… and very very flexible.” 

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How did you come up with your style of splotchy watercolor backgrounds?

Honestly, I made my first few books with all-white backgrounds because that’s what I find myself drawn to visually. My editor & art director wanted more color for Spiders, but just filling the background with a solid color seemed lifeless and not-in-the-same-world as the messy, gestural, energized artwork of the book. So I made a happy watercolor mess — a bunch of them, really— laid them into the background of the files, and VOILA!  I liked the tone it set; it seemed really happy and full of life.

Can you tell us about the process of creating your books? Do you write the stories and then sketch them out or do the images come to you first?

For me, since I’m making non-fiction books, it starts with research. LOTS of research. There’s so much competing information out there, so getting to the truth is important to me. Then I start typing and doodling. I draw with ink on paper, but I also draw digitally in Photoshop.

I make DOZENS of extra pages — with full-on text and illustration—  that don’t end up in my books. If I try to edit as I go I’ll overthink myself into stasis. So I just create, create, create.  Then I’ll go back and edit. My agent knows about this process, so if he doesn’t like an idea he’ll ask, “Is there something else you made for this part that ended up on the cutting room floor?” and usually there is. There’s probably a more time-saving process out there, but this one seems to work for me. 

Who is your favorite picture book illustrator and why?

Oh man, this changes all the time, there is just so much to love out here. But as of this moment? Everything Oliver Jeffers creates is inspired and filled with the most delicious layers. Kathryn Otoshi is able to evoke so much emotion within such a clean, simple, visual world… I really love what she’s doing. 

Where can we find you online?

www.bethanybarton.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bethanybarton/

NEW Daily Art Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bethanybartonart/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/awesomebARTon

Thanks so much for joining us, Bethany!!

Interview with Stacy Innerst

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Stacy Innerst is an acclaimed artist, illustrator and arts educator. He was born in Los Angeles and studied Art and History at the University of New Mexico.

His picture books for children have earned a host of starred reviews as well as numerous awards, including a 2017 NY Times/NY Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award (for Ruth Bader Ginsberg), the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration (for The Music in George’s Head), the BCCB Blue Ribbon, two Parents’ Choice Gold Medals and recognition by the NY Society of Illustrators, the Smithsonian and the American Library Association, among many others. M is for Music was named a 2003 Best Book of the Year by the School Library Journal and Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011. His paintings and prints have been exhibited widely in New York, California and throughout the United States and abroad. He lives in Pittsburgh.

The artwork for your pictures books is very unique. How did you develop that style of art?

I’ve always had a painterly, loose style and I studied painting and printmaking in college so that carried over into my work as an illustrator. I never really set out to develop an illustration style, per se, but I suppose I have over the years.

It’s more a function of doing what comes naturally and making pictures that I find pleasing rather than settling on a style. I love the way paint looks when it’s brushed onto a surface so that dictates pretty much everything I do.

How much planning and research do you do before you actually start painting?

The research component of my nonfiction picture books is actually quite time-consuming, but it’s also quite fun. The historical research leads me in directions that I might not otherwise go in picture-making. Part of my process is watching films that are set in the period I’m illustrating or researching the art and music of the era.

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Which picture book was your favorite to work on?

I’ve liked them all for different reasons, but The Music in George’s Head was especially gratifying. I really liked being able to visually represent Gershwin’s music. It was a kind of visual poetry for me.


Who is your favorite illustrator?

If I have to pick just one children’s book illustrator, I’d say Edward Ardizzone or Leonard Weisgard, I think, but it’s tough! Tough question! It changes from day to day. A few of my favorite artists and illustrators, in no particular order: Vladimir Radunsky, Quentin Blake, Robert Lawson, Carson Ellis, Wanda Ga’g, Sydney Smith, Edward Gorey, Eva Bednářová, Roger Duvoisin, William Joyce, Oliver Jeffers, Lopez Rubio, Leonard Weisgard, Antonin Clave, Pablo Picasso, Edward Ardizzone, Ludwig Bemelmans, Sean Qualls, Willem de Kooning.

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Do you have any upcoming books?

I’ve recently completed two picture books and the cover and interior illustrations for a middle grade chapter book. They should all be out next year. They are:

Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer’s Fight for the Statue of Liberty, by Claudia Friddell, Calkins Creek

The Book Rescuer, by Sue Macy, Simon and Schuster

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat, by Caroline Adderson, Groundwood Books.

I’m super excited about all three! They’re wonderfully written books by excellent authors.

Where can your fans find you?

I’m on social media-- mostly on Instagram but also Twitter and Facebook --@stacyinnerst. My website is stacyinnerst.com.

Thanks so much for joining us, Stacy!!