I mean, just look at that guy. How could you not love him? I do. I do, I do.
Making picture books means collaborating with the whispers of someone else’s art. And now that this particular book is off the printer and into the hands of readers, I got to eavesdrop on this conversation between Blobfish’s author and illustrator.
To Jess! And David!
JK: Hey guys! Hey Carter!
I’ve been really blown away by all of the love for my new book, Pink is for Blobfish! Working on this book was an incredible experience, and it’s so wonderful to see it reach the hands of young readers—thank you so much!
Today, I wanted you to meet one of the shining stars behind Blobfish! When I was writing this book, I couldn’t stop picturing what sort of illustration would accompany my (often bizarre) text. When my editor sent me David DeGrand’s take on our creatures, I was so thrilled! His work is hilarious, quirky, and a perfect match for the series. I’m jealous of his talent!
To celebrate David and his awesome work on this book, we got together for a virtual chat! I hope you enjoy it, and check him out online too! Without any adieu whatsoever, here we go!
Starting with a trip down memory lane, what inspired you to get into art and illustration?
DD: I started drawing cartoony illustrations and comic strips after my fifth grade art teacher assigned us to write and draw our own comic strip. I instantly fell in love with the process and so I kept writing and drawing my own comic strip that I would show my family and friends. It became on obsession and eventually a career, which I’m very fortunate for!
JK: As a writer who is completely jealous of illustrators, I’d love to know more about your process. Can you take me through it? What happens after a manuscript like Pink is for Blobfish is sent your way?
DD: All illustration projects are a little bit different, so the process varies according to what the project entails. When I got the manuscript for Pink is for Blobfish, the first thing I did was look up as many reference photos as I could find for the different animals. I then started sketching different designs for each animal to try and find the funniest and silliest way to represent that animal in the book. It was a ton of fun!
JK: You get to pick one artist in history (alive or dead!) and have coffee with them. Who would you choose?
DD: This is really tough, but if I had to pick just one artist I would love to sit down and talk with Ed Emberley. His simple art instruction books were a big part of my childhood, so his influence has been with me as long as I can remember. But more importantly, I really admire and respect his point of view that drawing and creating should be accessible to everyone and that it shouldn’t be intimidating. He made it easy and fun for anyone to pick up a pencil and create a picture, regardless of your artistic background, and that’s something I have always admired and learned from.
JK: A must-ask for all the kidlit writers reading this: what was your favorite children’s book growing up?
DD: Hands down it was Where the Wild Things Are, I must have read it every night for years. It started my obsession with monsters and all things strange and bizarre!
JK: Killer journalism time: do you have any favorite snacks to munch on while you’re working? (I’m partial to popcorn.)
DD: I almost always have a bag of either almonds or pistachios on my drawing desk to munch on. I like to try and snack guilt free!
JK: Okay, time to share some DeGrand wisdom. Say a budding illustrator is reading this. What are the one or two best pieces of illustration advice that you would give them?
DD: The best advice I can give to someone wanting to be an illustrator is to simply draw what makes you happy. Sometimes I think artists can get caught up in trying to keep up with a popular artistic trend thinking that will help them in the business, but that’s not really being true to yourself. I think all artists should simply have fun with the creative process and by doing that your unique voice will always come through. When you’re enjoying what you’re creating, that joy will shine through and your art will find an audience.
JK: You’re stranded on a deserted island. Which three books do you bring with you?
DD: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, Nightmare of Ecstasy by Rudolph Grey, and Robert Ebert’s Book of Film by Roger Ebert (I’m a huge movie geek!).
JK: Lastly, when I was researching you online, I came across this photo. Readers need to know: what exactly is going on here and did you win the Showcase Showdown or what?
DD: Oh yes, the moment I was almost famous! Here’s the story: I occasionally contribute cartoons and comics to the one and only MAD Magazine. One of the cartoons I did was a parody of The Price is Right. Drew Carey saw the cartoon and enjoyed it enough that he bought the original art from me! If that wasn’t enough, the producer for The Price is Right invited my wife and I out to LA and gave us a backstage tour and let us sit in the audience for a taping of the show. Right after the show I was able to meet Drew Carey very briefly and get the picture taken with him. It was all very surreal and amazing, to say the least!
Thank you so much, David! And a huge hug to you, Carter, for hosting us! We love ya!
(Anytime, pals. Blobfish friends are forever!)