Today, we are doing something a little different. Here at the Ginger Mom, we have talked with quite a few authors but today, we have a real treat for you. Today we are welcoming Virginia Allyn, illustrator of the adorable kids’ book Night Night Farm, to the blog!
Crystal: Welcome, Virginia! We are so excited to have you here with us for Kid’s Book Week! First of all, we have to ask – how do you do it? How do you take someone’s brief manuscript and bring life to it with your images? Is it hard or do you just see what it should be when you read?
Virginia: As an illustrator, it’s my job to take a writer’s words and bring them to life pictorially. Which is a fancy way of saying I get to draw and color all day. Remember in grade school when your teacher handed out manila paper and crayons and told you to draw a picture based on a story? It’s a lot like that and just as fun. I think everyone imagines pictures as they read and if you can draw those images, you’re an illustrator.
Megan: Do you do your illustrations by hand, digital, or a mixture of both?
Virginia: I work entirely digital, sketches to final art.
Megan: That is amazing! I can hardly sign my name digitally without it looking like my three-year-old drew it! I know many authors are avid readers. Does that apply to illustrators, too? Are you?
Virginia: Absolutely! I read a lot of biographies and I have a HUGE collection of children’s books. I also listen to audiobooks while I work.
Crystal: Is there a big difference between illustrating a kid’s book versus something like a graphic novel?
Virginia: A graphic novel would require a lot more time but I think the illustration process would be similar.
Crystal: Amazing! Is this something you would like to do in the future?
Virginia: I haven’t illustrated a graphic novel yet but I’d love to.
Megan: Okay, we’re curious – with a book like Night Night Farm, how long does the illustration process take? Do you have redos? Or do your ideas not always mesh with the author’s?
Virginia: We are usually working on two books at a time so sometimes I will be illustrating the cover for the next book before I’ve started coloring the interiors for the previous book. But I would say each book takes approximately two months to illustrate, sketches to final art.
For Night Night Farm, I received an art brief along with Amy Parker’s manuscript from the art director at Thomas Nelson, wonderful Jennifer Showalter Greenwalt. Jen described what she would like to see on each page and which animals to include. She wanted the baby animals to be cute and sweet and sleepy so we put them in cozy pajamas. I had the idea to include the little mice to add a fun side story that wasn’t in the text. Nothing too goofy, just warm, drowsy and comforting.
After reading through all the notes, I completed a round of rough sketches and sent them in for Jen’s approval. Jen sent back her thoughts on what worked and didn’t and also suggested elements that needed to be adjusted to make room for the text. We went back and forth with sketches until we were both satisfied. Then the sketches went to the publisher and to the author, Amy Parker, for approval.
After the sketches had been approved, the fun part began and I got to color! For Night Night Farm, Jen wanted bright, fun colors but nothing too loud since this was a bedtime story. We wanted the moon and stars to look soft and magical since they carry through from page to page. Each two page spread takes me approximately three days to color then we go through the same back and forth as with the sketches, making adjustments until we are all happy 🙂
Amy Parker has been fabulous to work with. We try to work out all the kinks in the sketching phase so there are rarely any large revisions that have to be made. But sometimes a spread just isn’t as effective as it could be so we’ll give it another go.
Megan: Wow! What an amazing process! I had no idea so much work went into it, though you can tell by how the art turned out that a great deal of care was taken. The illustrations in Night Night Farm are absolutely gorgeous! So, last question – is there anything else you want to share with us before we say goodbye? Maybe a current project or promo?
Virginia: We have lots more Night Night books on the way and I’m coloring as fast as I can!
Oh, how exciting! Mister Chu and Lady Quinn absolutely adored Night Night Farm so I have a feeling we will be picking up each of the others as fast as you can put them out 🙂 This cover is so gorgeous – I can’t wait to see what is inside! Thank you so much for joining us, Virginia. It was so much fun to see the other side of the magic that goes into children’s books!
Night Night Farm comes very highly recommended from the Ginger Mom. Both Lady Quinn (pictured above) and her brother, Mister Chu, adore the pictures. We have a house full of moos and oinks as they sit and read this book together. The story is simple but sweet and the colors are, like Virginia said, bright but not too loud. It’s a wonderful bedtime story!
Come back all week for more Kid’s Book Week fun!