Thursday, December 13, 2012
SANTA'S HAT by Linda Bleck - giveaway!
There's a cute new Christmas book available this year called SANTA'S HAT, written and illustrated by Linda Bleck (Running Press). What is Santa to do when he can't find his hat? I asked Linda about her new book...
Q. Linda, how did you come up with the idea for SANTA'S HAT?
A. Santa's Hat was initially conceptualized from a piece of art I created to build my children's work portfolio about 10 years ago. The picture was Santa standing in front of a Hat shop and he is looking at a boy. There were all kinds of hats in the window. My agent informed me that the editor asked if there was a story. I never say no and quickly over the next year I attempted to write a story. It was rejected, but I didn't give up. I rewrote the story several times and Lori Nowicki from painted-words.com continued to show it around. Over time the story evolved and my writing became better. Marlo Scrimizzi form Running Press liked the story—and so there you have it, Santa's Hat.
Q. I LOVE the endpapers - all the different hats. I would have stared at them for hours as a kid. How did you come up with so many hats and do you have a favorite?
A. Oh I love those end papers too. I took some of the hats from the story and then I created several more as individual pieces of art. I love to design pages as my background was in graphic design initially. It took me about two days to compile the grid and get everything lined up so I was pleased how it looked in the cropped state. The page was assembled in Photoshop and I used several repeat and paste steps. It gave me an opportunity to introduce those hats I couldn't make pages for. Too bad picture books are not 64 pages. It is hard to choose a favorite but I think I like the one Mrs. Claus knitted for Santa. It was inspired from a hat that my sister Cathie had as a teenager except hers was fake fur. The other favorite hat is called a "Stormy Kromer" which is a regionally Midwestern-made hat. A good friend requested that I make that one in the book.
Q. What is your medium? I'm guessing watercolor?
A. My medium is an opaque watercolor called gouache. Many find the medium hard to control, but I have worked with the medium for almost 30 years and now understand how the paint reacts. You can make it more solid or transparent. It really is a wonderful medium. Interestingly many of the Impressionists used the medium for on sight color sketches, as they found the oil sketches hard to transport.
Q. Please share your path to publication with my readers - many who would love to write or illustrate books of their own!
A. Oh my path to publication is a long one. This was my first picture book and my previous books were a series of pop-up books based on Pepper the Dog, printed in 2005 for Simon and Schuster. I started as an editorial illustrator in 1987, creating art for many types of publications, mostly business and science journals as well as corporate identity, packaging, exhibits, logos, and many other applications. My work was rather technical. The transition to the children's market was a challenge for me and for my buyers. I decided to try to break into the market around 1999, after the birth of my second child. My children were very inspiring and they had changed my artistic sensibilities. I wanted to create work that wasn't temporary. My work tended to be stilted and editorialized. Children's illustration requires many nuances, such as using strong characters, expressions, active based illustrations with lots of details, characters that interact. It's rather like setting a stage for a play. When I create my scenes I am always thinking in that way. How does this look as a whole? Will it stand alone without text? Does each picture tell its own story? But over the years I really worked hard at developing that craft and I continue to strive to be even better today.
My biggest break was a series of books I created for Sterling Publishing in New York. I was asked to create a series of four books based on traditional rhymes, songs, lullabies, and prayers. It was so successful they asked me to do two more books based on poems and Mother Goose writings. It was in this series I really pushed and learned so much. I had no time to think; the images just flowed and I painted after a very short approval stage. I created four books in 5 months. My work has a somewhat “Little Golden Book” look which they found worked well. The series is called The Children's Treasury of Poems, Rhymes, Songs, Lullabies, Prayers, and Mother Goose.
Over the last 4 years I created a few other picture books by other authors, Moon Shines Down by Margaret Wise Brown and The City Kid and Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti. My ultimate goal was to do a picture book written and illustrated by myself.
With my agent’s encouragement, I began working on the Santa's Hat book. I would guess the book evolved over a period of about 6-7 years until I felt it was worthy of showing. I had actually shelved the idea after the first round because I just did not have to time to rewrite. Lori (my agent) showed it to many editors and it was rejected. Some liked the concept, but they already had competing Santa stories so I was really glad Marlo liked it.
I always accept criticism and try to use to my benefit. I ask many questions about why someone doesn’t like a book or what they thought was working in the story. I never give up! I keep a sketch book handy in case I have an inspiration. I am currently working on another pop-up book for Scholastic which I think is going to a nice addition to the collection. I just love what I do and when I see children happy when they read my stories or look at my pictures it makes me feel so wonderful inside. I love being a positive force.
My mother was my biggest advocate and she herself was a wonderful illustrator and writer, although her stories were never published. We lost her this year and she will be missed! She was my best teacher and always instilled in me that when you draw or paint make your pictures move.
Q. Finally, this is a wonderfully festive book for the holiday season, and I love Bell and Bow. How's it feel to have a Christmas book? (And are those your dogs?)
A. I do not have any pets, believe it or not. We live in the woods so we have many creatures outside. My husband’s family has pets and their dog’s name is Bow. I just thought the dogs were such a nice addition and allowed me to write in a visual subplot. I like to subtly layer my stories with extras.
It feels fantastic to have a Christmas story! My mother was happy to see a Christmas story, too.
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Review copy provided by the publisher.