POPPY'S BEST BABIES, Part 1: Susan interviews Rosalinde

Every now and then I get to share a special treat with you - the author and illustrator of a book in conversation with each other. Such is the case with POPPY'S BEST BABIES, written by Susan Eaddy and illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnett (all the way over in France). In Part 1, Susan asks Rosalinde some questions. In Part 2, coming soon, Rosanlinde will ask Susan some questions right back. Take it away, ladies!
A few Questions for Rosalinde from Susan.

Susan: Rosalinde, I am so in love with your illustrations and your expansion of Poppy’s world. I have some questions about that rich community you have created.
Rosalinde: Thanks Susan! I feel so lucky to be paired with you. It’s such a joy to illustrate Poppy’s wonderful world!

Susan: What gave you the idea to make GeeGee such an unconventional Grandmother?
Rosalinde: As soon as I read your text, I saw GeeGee as a hard rocker (a kind of pirate for Poppy). It was obvious for me to depict GeeGee as a unique person inside and out. I mean, Poppy has such a big personality that, in my opinion, she could not have this strong tie with GeeGee if she was a conventional Grandmother.
It’s also a fun wink at the back cover of the first book, Poppy’s Best Paper. I drew Poppy wearing a skull helmet and applying a makeup inspired by Catman from Kiss. Now, we can assume that the helmet was gifted by GeeGee. And Poppy is probably already a little music rock expert thanks to this super cool vocalist/guitarist Grandmother.
Susan: Do you have a map of Poppy’s house and town in mind when you illustrate.
Rosalinde: I had a vague map of the town in mind… However, I spent hours drawing a detailed map of each floor of the house before starting the sketches of Poppy’s Best Babies. The characters appear in a lot of different rooms and it had to be consistent with the previous book. I succeeded in arranging everything inside but the house seems more spacious now from the inside than from the outside… This is probably a magic house like Mary Poppin’s bag!

Susan: The characters who populate Poppy’s world have such personality. Lavender, Petunia, the smitten Pig; even the parents! How do their backstories come to you?
Rosalinde: For me, in a picture book, the art must not just turn words into pictures in a symmetrical interaction. The illustrations have to expand the words, even often by telling stories which are not in the text. It’s difficult to explain how I develop these backstories because this is something that comes to me naturally and almost instantly. But I will say that for Poppy’s Best Babies, there was already a lot implicitly in your text. The personalities of your characters were probably well designed in your mind. In result with only a line, an action even a silence or an absence we figure out your characters’ personalities. I highlighted and developed that visually. For example, Herb, Poppy’s little brother, seems to be a patient and reasoned little person, the opposite of his big sister. I added in the pictures that he practices kendo to strengthen this feeling of self-discipline and spirituality.
I can also be inspired by my sketches. For example, in the first book, Poppy’s Best Paper, I drew Pig next to Cow. It was fun to imagine he was a big fan of her, what I developed in Poppy’s Best Babies. But shhh, Cow doesn’t know!

Susan: What is your creative process and medium? Can you walk us through it?
Rosalinde: When I receive a manuscript, I read it several times and I doodle everything that pops into my head.

Then, I do character designs.

If the team likes them, I go on to thumbnails and sketches. All these research steps are my favorite part. (Click the thumbnails image to see it larger in a new window.)

Once the sketches are approved, I start the final art. For Poppy’s books, I wanted the illustrations to look a bit vintage. So I used a specific technique. After doing and inking the final drawings, I rubbed them down with sandpaper.
I scanned everything and I added materials with Photoshop (clothes, wallpapers and floors). I printed all the spreads on watercolor paper.

Then I painted with watercolor.

Here is the final art:

Susan: I know that you have written & illustrated many books and also illustrated books written by others. What determines the illustration method you decide to use for each book?
Rosalinde: For stories written by others, it depends of the atmosphere, the setting and the characters. I try several techniques and papers, then I choose what works best.

For my books, most of time the stories come from drawings. So it often depends of my favorite medium of the moment. For years, I worked with acrylic. But now I prefer ink and watercolor. Recently, I also developed a passion for felt pens. So it’s very likely that one of my next books will be illustrated in that way.

Susan: What is your favorite part of being a creator? What is the most challenging?
Rosalinde: I love to create fantasy worlds which can be source of joy, dream and inspiration. Picture books can have a real magic power. As a child, I was utterly fascinated by classic fairytales illustrated by Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackam, Ivan Bilibin and Edmond Dulac as well as the books by Samivel, Beatrix Potter, Tomi Ungerer, Rosemary Wells, Arnold Lobel and John Strickland Goodall. These creators and my parents, who told me a lot of stories each day since birth, deeply inspired my love of books and made me want to become an author-illustrator at a very young age. I never separated from these books. This is my treasure!
I think the most challenging part when you are a creator is to always believe in yourself and stay authentic. The path being long and full of pitfalls, some can be tempted to follow the trends in order to sell projects easier/quicker, and to self-censure by fear of criticisms and controversies. The risk is to produce a consumer product instead of a real artistic creation.

Susan: What is next for you?
Rosalinde: I am working on several projects in various domains: editorial, fashion and animation… And I do hope there will be a third Poppy’s adventure!


Ellen B said...

As soon as I read the words "the smitten pig" I knew I had to see this! Beautiful work and great characters, Susan and Rosalinde. Rosalinde, I am curious which paper you use and which printer are you able to use it with. Thanks, Ellen B.

Rosalinde Bonnet said...

Hi Ellen,
Thanks for your kind words :-) My printer is fantastic, it’s an Epson Stylus Photo R2000.
For Poppy's books I used a relatively thin paper: Arches Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper 300gsm.
But, I also regularly use a much thicker paper: Moulin Du Roy Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper 640 gsm.
With this thickness, I have to help the printer a bit by pushing gently the paper at the start.