Sandbox World-What books were you influenced by the most when you were a child?
Patricia Storms– 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 Rene 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 Storms– 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 story lines 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 Storms– 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 Storms– 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 honored 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 Storms– 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
Sandbox World-What new projects are you working on right now?
Patricia Storms– 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 Storms– 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 Storms-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 Storms– I’ve given this advice before, and I’ll
say it again I 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 Storms– 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
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 Storms– I like manuscripts that have a lot of
energy and humor. 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.