Sandbox World-What books were you influenced by the most when you were a child?
Patricia– So many different titles come to mind. Regarding picture books, I loved and still love everything by Dr. Seuss. Horton Hears a Who, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Sneetches are probably my favourite Seuss stories. I really connected with the Suess books? not only because of Theodor Geisel’s dynamic illustrations, but also because of his delightfully witty and intelligent writing. From a very young age I was drawn to clever, humorous writing and playful words.
I also read a lot of cartoon books ? Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, BC, The Wizard of Id, as well as collections of cartoons by New Yorker cartoonists, and various works by British cartoonists like Ronald Searle, Thelwell and Gerard Hoffnung. I was always attracted to humorous writing and illustration. I also adored the Asterix the Gaul books, which were written by Ren? Goscinny, and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. The artwork in the Asterix stories is amazing, and the writing is very sharp and clever. I only wish I was fluent in French so I could read the original French versions. I?m sure I am missing a lot of great humour by just reading them in English.
Sandbox World-At what age did you decide to become an artist and who did you want to emulate? Which artist has influenced you the most?
Patricia– I suppose I’ve really always wanted to be an artist ever since I was a little kid. But in terms of making the real-life decision about being an illustrator and a cartoonist, I would say that answer came at two different stages of my life. When I was about 22 I realized that I really could earn money from drawing funny pictures, but I ended up doing freelance illustration and cartoon work on the side for many years while I worked full-time in a variety of professions. I worked in libraries, and I worked as a desktop publisher and then graphic designer until about 5 years ago when I finally made the leap into illustrating and cartooning full-time.
At different stages of my life, different artists have had a particular influence on me. I know that I used to copy the style of the British illustrator and cartoonist Ronald Searle a lot when I was a teenager. Then as a young adult I discovered the Canadian cartoonist Lynn Johnston. I loved her down-to-earth drawing style and her snappy gags (early on in her cartooning career her cartoons were much more gag-oriented, as opposed to the family saga storylines you read these days). Lynn Johnston really inspired me and motivated me to do more with my talents, because I realized that it was possible for a woman to be a successful cartoonist. Nowadays I think (and hope) that I have my own distinctive style. But I?m always changing and growing.
Sandbox World-What is your process of creating a picture book?
Patricia– I don’t think I’ve illustrated enough picture books yet to be sure of what my process truly is (I’ve illustrated three educational picture books and one trade picture book), but so far for me, this is how I work on a picture book: The art director of the project emails me the manuscript. Often within the manuscript will be some minor instructions as to how the editors would like the story illustrated (ie, they may want certain characters to look a specific way, or there may be a pivotal scene that they want illustrated in a particular way), but for the most part, I get to unleash my imagination and create my own vision. When I read a manuscript, pictures will pop into my mind, of say, certain scenes, or what certain people look like. I create very rough sketches for the art director and editors to look at, so they can be sure I?m on the right track with the story. I’ll get the rough sketches back with comments, and once I know we?re all in agreement with the direction of illustration I am taking, I’ll start on the rough page layout of the entire story. If it?s a picture book that is at least 32 pages (like say, 13 Ghosts of Halloween), I may get a mock-up of the book layout, telling me generally where the text will go, and where to fit the illustrations. Once these roughs have been approved (and any changes made) I finally get to colour the story. Most of the illustration work I do is a mix of hand-drawn and digital. I will draw the story in pencil on paper, ink it with a brush and india ink, and then scan it in Photoshop for digital colouring. There may be some changes required from the art director regarding the use of colour, but for the most part, once I?m finished colouring, the job is finished for me. I’ll send the final images to the publisher, and eventually I will see a beautiful printed book with wonderful words and my pictures!
Sandbox World-Do you have a dream writer or artist that you would like to collaborate on a book?
Patricia– A couple of writers come to mind? I think it would be great fun to illustrate a book written by Robert Munsch. His stories are full of fun and energy and silliness, which suits my illustration style perfectly. And I would be thrilled and honoured if not a tad intimidated to illustrate a children?s book written by Margaret Atwood (I believe she’s written three picture books so far). Aim high, I always say. So Bob and Peggy, give me a call!
Sandbox World-Do you do school visits and what reaction do you get from kids and how does it effect your work?
Patricia– It?s still too early in my illustration career to be doing school visits, but I certainly hope I that I’ll eventually get to do some. I hope I will be entertaining. I know I will be terrified.
Sandbox World-What new projects are you working on right now?
Patricia– I just finished illustrating a fun project all about the history of democracy. The book contains lots of factual information, but it’s presented in a very humorous style, and hopefully my silly cartoons will help make the book even funnier! I’m also working on a funky CD cover of spoken poetry for a literary publication. And recently I?ve been working on ideas for writing picture books. My dream is to be able to write and illustrate my own picture books one day.
Sandbox World-If you were not illustrating, what do you see yourself doing instead career wise?
Patricia– I really can’t imagine myself not illustrating. That?s like asking, ?if you were not breathing, what would you see yourself doing??. But I’ll try and answer that question…I imagine that I would probably be working in some area of the book industry, if not in libraries (which I did work in, for 10 years) then probably in the book publishing or book selling world. And I imagine that I would still want to try and do something career wise with writing.
Sandbox World-Dream assignment, what character or book would you love to tackle as an artist?
Patricia-My dream assignment quite frankly, is illustrating a book that is written by me!
Sandbox World-What advice can you give a young inspiring artist that wants to go into your field?
Patricia– I’ve given this advice before, and I’ll say it again ? get as much education as you possibly can in all subject areas, not just art. The more you know about the world around you, the better illustrator you will be. Feed your brain and your imagination with good books, both fiction and non-fiction. Cultivate a curious, inquisitive mind. Develop a tender heart and a thick skin, because you?ll need your sensitive side for illustrating, but you?ll have to be tough enough to take the inevitable rejection that will come your way. And it’s important to know that having talent is just one small part of becoming an illustrator. You really do have to be a tenacious, savvy business person, because as creative as this job is, it is in the end, a business. And of course, have fun!
Sandbox World-What is the hardest thing about being an illustrator? What was your toughest book to illustrate?
Patricia– There are lots of things that are hard about being an illustrator, but I suppose the hardest thing might be the whole struggle of maintaining a somewhat steady income. It?s often said that the freelancer?s life is “feast or famine”, and that is certainly true in an illustrator?s job. There will be times when one is simply overwhelmed with work, and then other periods when no job offers are coming in, and then panic and insecurity have free reign over your over-active imagination.
Probably the toughest book I illustrated was my first educational picture book, “Fifty Little Penguins”. I think you can figure out just from the title where the difficulty was in doing this job. That was a lot of penguins that I had to draw! And remember that I had to do rough sketches of all these penguins before working on the final. After a while it got to be pretty confusing, trying to make sure that I was drawing the exact number of penguins on a page. I?d start counting and then get lost, and then have to start all over again. But as tough as that job was, I still loved it, because it was my first illustrated children’s book, and because I love penguins!
Sandbox World-What qualities do you look for in a manuscript? Do you ever feel a project was not right for you?
Patricia– I like manuscripts that have a lot of energy and humour. I have yet to be offered a project that is not truly right for me, probably because the art directors who have contacted me are very familiar with my style of work, and know what kind of stories work best with my illustrations.