e: Hi Will - welcome! What are your creative processes and medium, can you walk us through them?
Will: I hated on the first iPad because I thought it was silly. As I type my question responses on my iPad I have never been more wrong about a product. I made all of the drawings for Bonaparte on this iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. It is capable of creating large file sizes and the "Procreate" app gives artists the ability to make graceful tonal lines. It's a complete tool for some digital artists working on certain projects. I still love my Wacom Cintiq for painting but Bonaparte was mostly crosshatch drawings.
Will: Margery and I worked on Skeleton for Dinner a few years ago and speaking for myself, I had a great time with that process. I made sure Margery felt appreciated in that I loved her story and have an absolute LOVE of everything Halloween. I don't know if that had anything to do with us switching houses to Penguin Random House or not? Something went right because I was offered a contract last year and was delightfully surprised to see Margery Cuyler on the MS.
Will: A magical illustration is born from our own experiences that we interweave into the stories we tell visually. In Bonaparte I specifically related to feeling out of place in the school environment. I, like many, experienced being bullied. I never had the most fashionable clothing or was particularly gifted in athletics nor did I come from a wealthy family. I suffered from allergies, asthma, and was a little overweight...not the sort of attributes that give you a ticket to the "cool kids table". Bonaparte has a pretty big problem and I knew right away why he was worried about school starting. As I envisioned his situation I also pictured my supportive friends who liked me for who I was. I think this is one of the most common problems our kids are struggling with - the need to belong and be accepted. This manuscript spoke to me and it was easy to imagine the emotions associated with these characters.
e: What was your path to publication?
Will: Because I was contracted to illustrate Bonaparte this wasn't a hurdle for me - the acceptance part. I was able to focus on the illustrations and to my delight, my editors and art director didn't request many changes. In general, I think if an illustrator is matched up with the right manuscript and that illustrator gives their heart to the story there will usually be fewer alteration requests.
Will: I love concepting the illustrations in the early rounds. I'm fond of the ability to dream. It's truly my life's dream job to get paid to think of interesting images that tell a story. I'm often accused of rambling on and on telling stories...guilty as charged. I love being able to sketch out an idea, evaluate it, sketch another, evaluate it, and so on. Sometimes I consult my editor when I'm stuck between several directions but that's rare. The most challenging part is forcing myself to consider additional options after I've fallen in love with a particular idea.
I also enjoy the rendering to finished digital painting but that process is relaxing and much less exciting...but seeing the final product is pretty cool too.
Will: This is the first book where I felt I was able to get out of the way of the story. As I look at my backlist I feel like my most common sin has been to impose my desires on the story at times. I was asked to use my 2nd style on Bonaparte - the cross-hatched/line work/limited color/vignette heavy style. This allowed me to give myself the latitude to include much less so the story could more clearly be told.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Will: There's talk of a sequel to Bonaparte but nothing official yet. I'm working on some of my own stories and am excited to submit them for review later this year. I'm also spending much of my time with my duties at svslearn.com where we teach people how to write and illustrate sequential art for children's books, graphic novels, comics, and general illustration. I also attend about five or six comic conventions around the country selling my work and my assistant goes to an additional 15 shows to sell for me.
My dream project is to illustrate my own stories...it will happen.
e: I believe it! Thanks for stopping by, Will!