Today I'm interviewing fellow PBAA (Picture Book Artists Association) member, Peggy Collins, about her first picture book as both author and illustrator, IN THE GARDEN!
Q: Tell me a bit about your publishing history...
A: Well, I graduated from Sheridan College in 97. I travelled and planted trees for awhile. In-between contracts I got a job as an in-house illustrator and designer for an upstart workplace magazine. It was great experience for me, a lot of on-the job learning and lots of published pieces and room to play.
My big break came when we moved back to Ontario. I got a great job as a designer at a college, and there I got to meet the paper rep that changed my life. I had some illustration work on the wall and he was quite taken with it, and a few weeks later I was offered a contract with Fraser Papers to illustrate a promotion for the Pegasus Black and white line. It was a wicked job, won lots of awards and was so much fun. From there it snowballed, I got regular magazine work and then Scholastic hired me for 6 books in a row and my 3 for my UK publisher. It was wonderful, I took two years off from work when my son was born and this was the bread and butter I needed.
In 2007 I met John Whalen, the Publisher of Applesauce Press. I was working on a project with them where my work was just a bit too young for what they wanted, but he wanted to work with me - and asked if I had any other projects I wanted to share... and you know what? I did. So I sent him the sketches and captions I had been doing of my little guy playing in the garden, and out of that grew this book. It was a lucky break for sure, and I am glad I was ready for it.
Q: Since you're in Canada, what is your window for growing a garden and what are your favorite things to plant?
A: I am in eastern Ontario, where it gets pretty balmy fairly early on. We usually plant on the long weekend in May, sometimes we do have to madly run out to cover things if there is a frost warning, but generally it is ok.
I love the things that grow underground.. it is like a treasure hunt - finding carrots that come from a tiny little seed or potatoes from table scraps... It is oddly thrilling. We are also very into berries, the strawberries are out now, and every night our son picks the 5 that have gotten ripe with the sunshine that day (I don't think I've eaten ONE in two years) but that is ok. And PEAS. We love peas. We sit in the garden and eat peas off the vine till our tummies hurt.
Q: I love that the main character is modeled after your son - how old is he now? Did he really plant trucks and buses and bulldozers in your garden? (I love that they grow too.)
A: YES! He did (does), and we keep finding them all over the place. He is almost 4 now, eats all his veggies, no questions asked and is an amazing little helper in the garden. He rescues the earthworms and knows the difference between the weeds and our plants... getting your child into gardening has so many positives!
Click here to see some images and inspiration from the book!
Q: Your images are so big and vibrant and colorful. I love all the details as the garden fills in - lots for kids to look at and explore. What is your medium? How long did it take you to illustrate?
A: Thank you. I used gouache and ink to begin with. After I sent in the scans of the final art they came back saying the dirt was TOO brown. Initially I was devastated, but I managed to hold it together, and in the end they were totally right, so I ended up using pencil crayon on top of everything.
It took about 6 months from start to finish. The publisher (and me) really wanted to get it out as soon as possible. I work as a designer in my day job, so I got to design it myself as well, which is so much fun. It is nice to be able to see a project through like that.
Q: Since this was your first book as both author and illustrator, can you tell us a bit about your process as both?
A: More pressure, more work, but much less guesswork. I knew exactly what my character looked like, and so it was more liberating. I find when illustrating other peoples writing, I spend a lot of time worrying about what they want, and in the end not liking it as much. But I am learning, every project is a new adventure, and a chance to get to another level.
Q: I know you're in Canada, but where can people find IN THE GARDEN in the US?
A: As far as I know it is in all the major bookstores, on amazon, B&N etc... heck I even saw it on ebay!
Q: What's next for you?
A: Well, IN THE SNOW comes out in November, I am working on a book set in the Gambia for my UK publisher that is super challenging - real people, real places. I am out of my comfort zone, but it is making me better because of it. Also trying out some new media - funky papers for the beautiful clothing all through the book.
Congratulations and thanks Peggy!
Thank you so much Elizabeth...