As part of our continuing series of 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (www.foryoungreaders.com) faculty interviews with interviewer Carol Lynch Williams.
Carol Lynch Williams: What is your favorite picture book (not of your own)? Why?
Kevin Hawkes: I have several favorite picture books. The Story of Ferdinand is a very early favorite of mine. I love it because the black and white drawings somehow convey lots of color. Baby Brains by Simon James is a hilarious book and the art is perfectly matched. Alphabet Soup, by Scott Gustafson, is a choice when I want to immerse myself in gorgeous oil paints. Brave Irene, by William Steig, is for the dead of winter when I want comfort food. In Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, DB Johnson’s paintings are stunning and the idea of walking somewhere far away is so appealing.
CLW: What is your best advise to picture book WRITERS?
KH: Write for the child you were and are. It’s not about being trendy or filling a niche or marketing what lesson you want to teach or even being on the cutting edge. It’s about remembering what is/was important to you as a child.
CLW: How did you feel when you found out something of yours had been accepted (or that you had been chosen to illustrate something)?
KH: I have had a few of those days and they are fabulous, giddy, exciting times.
My first picture book offer came in person when I visited Lothrop, Lee and Shephard Books in New York. Susan Pearson came out of her office and shook my hand. “You must be Kevin Hawkes,” she said. “I’d like to be your publisher!”
I stammered something incoherent like “okay.” Afterward I went to the Empire State Building where Karen and our newborn son were waiting. I was grinning from ear to ear and said, “I’m going to be published!” There were screams and hugs and the baby was crying and we went to eat in the Big Apple Cafe. Sweet times.
CLW: What will illustrators learn in your class?
KH: To think of a picture book as a theatrical performance. Each day we will focus on one, or possibly two, critical elements of picture book illustrations. As we discuss these important parts of “the play,” I hope the illustrators will be inspired to change or improve something they are working on, hopefully a dummy book or portfolio sequence.
I’ll teach them everything I know about light, color, movement, perspective, shadows, character development, textures, value, pacing and humor. Then we’ll have lunch and try to figure out the rest of the week.
CLW: Hahaha! Good one! What is the best skill that you think an illustrator should have?
KH: Two skills: Visual imagination and technical ability.
CLW: If you could change one thing about being an illustrator, what would it be?
KH: I’d like to spend more time outdoors and I’d like not to have to pay for my own health insurance. 🙂
Kevin Hawkes has written and/or illustrated over 45 picture books and young adult novels including the New York Times best seller, Library Lion. Other books include Chicken Cheeks, The Wicked Big Toddlah, Weslandia, My Little Sister Ate One Hare and many chapter books written by Eva Ibbotson. Kevin is a graduate of Utah State University and began his career in Boston working at a bookstore. He is known for his unusual perspectives, rich colors and dry sense of humor. He lives in Gorham, ME with his wife and children who keep him focused on the important things in life: gardening, tree forts and chocolate chip cookies.
Kevin Hawkes will lead the breakout session “If the Art Fits” on Monday, June 14, 4 p.m. and “Back to the Drawing Board” Wednesday, June 16, 3 p.m.