Must admit I've never been a huge fan of Valentine's Day. Monsters on the other hand... the fuzzy, huggable kind... I ADORE monsters. Put the two together, and now we have a Valentine's Day Book I can get behind! Illustrator Bats Langley dropped by to tell us more about GROGGLE'S MONSTER VALENTINE (written by Diana Murray, Sky Pony Press).
e: What is your creative ghastly process, can you walk us through it?
Every project is different. For Groggle, I was given Diana's wonderful text, and from there, I created the characters of Groggle and Snarlina. We went back and forth on what we both hoped to see in the final illustrations. Then I created black and white watercolors, a few of which are actually available to purchase at the AFA Gallery in New York. Then I scanned them and colored them in digitally.
e: What is your favourite monster medium?
Anything I can get my hands on! I love all mediums, but my favorites are acrylics, watercolors and colored pencils. Sometimes if I'm completely without a pen or pencil, I use what's around me. I'm very fidgety, and when I'm in a restaurant, waiting for my meal, I keep myself busy by painting a portrait in pizza grease, or making a watercolor using coffee. The other day I was in a sushi restaurant, and while I was waiting for my sashimi, I created a landscape with smudged wasabi and washes of soy sauce.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
An illustration becomes magical when you want to see what's just outside the frame. When you are so immersed that the page feels like it has no borders. When the artist's passion shines through, and you can almost feel, hear, taste, and smell whatever is inside the world that they've created for you.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Google’s Monster Valentine?
Diana Murray, the author, and I are represented by the same agent, Brianne Johnson. At the start of this project, Bri had just taken me on as an illustrator and was looking for one of her writers to help create a vehicle to showcase my art. Diana looked around www.BatsLangley.com and was inspired by a piece called The Love Nibbler, a pink one eyed monster nibbling a heart that simply said "LOVE." It was originally created for my fiancé as a Valentine's Day gift. Both Groggle and I love making Valentines to show our affection—but thankfully, my fiancé didn't eat the painting!
Groggle actually looks a lot like my fiancé, and it didn't dawn on me until I saw the two of them side by side. I had a bunch of version of Groggle that I had been toying with, but once I saw the similarity, I knew that version was the one I had to move forward with.
e: What was your path to publication?
For Groggle, it took a little time until we found the right home for him, where he could flourish, and be his own kind of monster. When Sky Pony Press signed the project, both Diana and I were thrilled to be working together. Diana was actually the first author I had the honor to illustrate. She wrote this wacky poem for Spider Magazine about a girl who wildly imagined what her mother was making for a mystery dinner. The girl pondered her mother using slimy slugs and slithering snakes as ingredients. It was filled with the kind of fun, icky text Diana is so talented at writing. It was a great combination with my monster work.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My absolute favorite part of being a creator is that magical moment when you've worked really hard on something really difficult, and the final product works out so well you impress yourself. It doesn't happen every day, but when it does, it feels incredible.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
When I designed Groggle and Snarlina, I wanted them to be the reverse of what people might expect. Snarlina, the girl monster, is big, strong, and loud. Groggle, the boy monster, is small and cute. I think there are so many types of boys and girls in the world, it's important we show them that whatever way they happen to be is just fantastic.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
At the moment I have a few picture books that I have written that I'm still trying to find the right publishing home for. As I shop things around, I'm usually painting and showing in galleries. Most recently I've shown in Los Angeles at Gallery Nucleus, and at the AFA Gallery in NYC and Las Vegas.
A dream project would be creating either a short or feature length animation. It's something I have always wanted to do, but other fabulous adventures have always gotten in the way. Hopefully, in the near future, I find the right person or some company to work with.
e: Thanks Bats! By the way, folks, Bats has some Groggle Monster coloring pages on his website!