FLASHLIGHT by Lizi Boyd is a fascinating book. As a teacher of Design in the picture book MFA program at Hollins University, I often talk to my students about directing the reader's eye - usually through the use of light, contrast, saturation, etc. FLASHLIGHT hits all those buttons and more! With strategically located cut-outs and the flashlight beam highlighting small mysteries, I kept flipping back and forth through the book to catch vignettes I'd missed, like babies in a nest, or bugs in a bush. Truly, the book is brilliant. I'm thrilled to have Lizi here today to ask her about it!

Q. Lizi, congratulations on such a lovely book and all the fantastic praises it's receiving, like "This is creative genius at work" from Kirkus! How did the idea for this book come to you?
My black labs, Zuli and Olive, went out for an evening ramble. I was working and suddenly realized they’d been gone for a long time. It was late fall, pitch black outside, so I took along a flashlight. I could hear them in the apple field below our house and when I caught them in the beam of light; their eyes, collars, the apples, field grasses were all in color. It was so utterly cool and simple. At that moment it became the idea for a book. My theory about ideas is that they’re all only ten feet off the ground and whomever reaches up and plucks it down gets to do it. I was excited this one was mine.

Q. This is a wordless picture book. How did you get the idea of it across to Chronicle Books?
At the time I was working on INSIDE OUTSIDE, another wordless book so It wasn’t surprising to Chronicle. The next day I prepared a black paper mock up book and starting sketching it out. My mock ups are pretty tight and they have a somewhat finished feel and look, although they're not elaborately done. When I’m presenting an idea it seems best to show a mock up where there isn't a need for a ‘visual leap’ between a rough rough sketch and a finished piece. The closer the idea looks when it's presented the easier it is to ‘see’ where it can go.

Q. You must have dummied this up a million times to get it all to line up just right, yes?
Thank you for appreciating how many go arounds one might need for such a seemingly simple book. Luckily it wasn’t even close to a million. I did do several rounds of mock-ups and many ideas for possible die cut shapes. Sara Gillingham, brilliant art director, did plenty of thinking too and Binh and many others in the production at Chronicle. It was truly a collaborative work.

Q. What is your illustration method?
I used designer’s gouache on 100% cotton rag.The paper was quite unforgiving so it was very careful work and because it was rag I had to do several coats of the gouache to get the colors to pop.The die cuts were not part of the finishes so I used templates to trace out the reveals. There was a bit of reconfiguring of the die cuts by Sara Gillingham once all the paintings were done. Sara has a great eye and sensibility and knows all the computer tricks which I don’t know... here in a studio surrounded by two hundred plus paintbrushes.

I did most of the gray line illustration while I was at our summer house on Lake Sunapee. This is where I met the Luna moth, the tiny white spiders who crawled onto my paint tray one night and the small white moths. Our house sits by the water on one side and the woods on the other. I’d hop up, go hunt for some little forest greens, mushrooms i.e. and bring them back to the table. I finished the book in Vermont but needed to make a terrarium to remind myself of the Sunapee woods and all the smells.

Q. I love how the boy is curious, but when he loses his flashlight, it quickly turns to the animals being curious about him! How did where you live influence the story?
Living in the country influences my work in many different ways. I take long walks with the dogs everyday so I‘m always seeing ideas along the way. And any work that’s going on in my studio is encouraged by these walks; the road, the quiet around me, subtle changes always help me to imagine different possibilities and directions.

Q. How are you celebrating the release of FLASHLIGHT?
I had a wonderful launch party at our house/studio in collaboration with The Norwich Bookstore. We had a basket of little gray or black flashlights. I’d never done a launch party so it was really fun to celebrate this book.

Q. What's next in the works for you?
The next project is different and has a bit of text. It’s working title and likely it’s final title is The Big Little Book. I’m in the midst of the sketches so I don’t want to talk too much about it because it’s still changing and showing me new directions. It’s a skinny, tall book, so look for it in 2015.

I will! Wishing you much continued success!
Check out this lovely book trailer!

CLICK HERE if the embedded video gives you any trouble.

Chronicle is generously offering one free copy of FLASHLIGHT to one of my lucky winners. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below:


Mrs. B. said...

Want this now!

apple blossom said...

love to share with my students thanks

Marcie Wessels said...

I can't tell you how much my children, particularly my five year old, enjoyed this book. We were just able to get it from the library this week. She loved finding all of the different animals in their "hiding places" in the forest. I also had the pleasure of seeing Lizi's original artwork from Inside Outside at the Society for Illustrator's Show here in San Diego. Truly exceptional. Kudos and much success to you, Lizi.

apple blossom said...

sounds like a wonderful book thanks

bn100 said...

Nice interview

Rebekah said...

This looks like a great book to share with my preschoolers. I am also sure that my older children would love looking for hidden things also. Can't wait to see this book

Anonymous said...

This is such a deceptively simple looking book! And those are actually the toughest to get right. Cannot wait to read this and hopefully get it for our kids!