IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK by Brianne Farley
I love to feature unusual or high-design-looking picture books like Brianne Farley's debut picture book IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK, especially since I teach Design in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books at Hollins University each summer. I also love Ike's story - he's the ultimate procrastinator when it comes to writing. Not that any of us can relate to that. *ahem* Brianne dropped by to talk about her cutting edge style...
Q. Brianne, CONGRATULATIONS on your first picture book IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK! You've been an illustrator for some time now, how did you fall into picture books?
A. Thank you! I’m so happy that INK is a real book. Sometimes I see it at a random bookstore in the middle of nowhere and it’s always weird and surprising that this thing I made is out in the world, loitering in random bookstores.
I’ve always loved books and always loved drawing. Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake were my childhood heroes. As a kid I spent a lot of time reading while sitting in a tree, for some reason. It’s actually very uncomfortable. I don’t recommend it. I went to college as a Creative Writing major and Studio Art minor. At the time I wanted to be an editor, but after a few internships realized it wasn’t for me. College is where I was first introduced to and fell in love with printmaking and became interested in combining words and pictures. A few years later I went back to school for my MFA in Illustration and focused on picture books from the get-go.
Q. Your style is so cutting edge - almost editorial or with that elusive "European look." Do you have a philosophy behind your style?
A. Ooh, thanks! Well, my work is usually finished digitally but I’m very much inspired by printmaking. There’s a wonderful printmaking technique called chine-collé that I was thinking about when I made these illustrations. Also, I made the first draft of INK while in grad school, and getting it published was the farthest thing from my mind. So, I was able to focus on making illustrations I would like to see in a book, rather than something I thought would be marketable. I was also just hoping to write and illustrate a good story, not necessarily a children’s book. The picture books I like best are the ones that have something to offer to any age reader. That being said, kids are smart people with giant imaginations, so they’re a great audience.
Q. How do you work? I see hints of cut paper, computer, pen and ink...
A. Yes, good eye! The illustrations for IKE’S INCREDIBLE INK were first drawn with ink (um, I mean incredible ink) and a dip pen. I then scanned these drawings along with a “library” of ink splotches for Ike’s body and an embarrassing amount of found paper (beautiful handmade paper, old graph paper, dry cleaning tags, etc.). I “cut” the paper digitally and layered it behind the ink drawings. You can see some of the process HERE.
INK is a story about writing and story telling, but it’s also about craft! It’s about ink on paper. It’s about getting your hands messy and having an experience worth writing about. So, that’s part of the reason I chose to use ink and cut paper. My next book (yay!) is about an imaginary tree fort (of course!), so the illustrations are a little looser.
Q. Can you share a photo of your studio?
A. Haha look at my studio. I like my desk to be perfectly clean and my walls to be a perfect mess. My studio is in a little nook in my apartment that my roommate was kind enough to let me take over. My desk is a glass-top kitchen table I turned into a giant light table with some cleverly placed Christmas lights. It’s probably a fire hazard.
Q. Being your first picture book, I'd love to hear your path to publication.
A. I made the first draft of INK for a class in grad school. We were asked to complete a cover and three finished spreads, but as a total crazy person I decided to finish the whole book. Author/illustrator/friendly-human Peter Brown was on campus to give a lecture on picture books and stopped by the illustration grad studio (where I was working like a crazy person). He liked my book and suggested I send it to his agent, Paul Rodeen at Rodeen Literary Management, who is now my agent. It took a while, but the wonderful Elizabeth Bicknell at Candlewick Press gave INK a home. She and Ann Stott and Heather McGee and the rest of the Candlewick team helped me refine and improve the work I started in school. They’re a dream team.
Q. Ike does everything in his power to stall having to actually write. Might your own situation have inspired the story?
A. Haha MAYBE. The line in which he needs to “find his favorite pen” before getting to work is definitely inspired by real-life events. Sigh. BUT I would also make the argument that INK isn’t all about procrastination. It’s also about getting out and finding your story. My favorite thing about Ike is that he isn’t afraid. He wants to go to the moon so he just starts building a rocket. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing but no matter, tally ho. I want to be like that.
Q. Are you working on another book?
A. I am! I’m working on another book with Candlewick. It is about an imaginary tree fort, but it’s also about siblings. It’s inspired by one ANONYMOUS bookish older sister and one enthusiastic younger sister who, many years ago, spent a lot of time together in the woods in their backyard, drawing plans for tree forts.
Sounds great, I look forward to it!
Candlewick has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below!
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IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK. Copyright © 2013 by Brianne Farley. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.