THE SONG OF SPRING by Hendrik Jonas
made me laugh out loud, and I love the artwork. I also have a feeling it will make a great read-aloud for storytime. Hendrik dropped by all the way from Germany to talk about it...
e: What was your creative process/medium for The Song of Spring, can you walk us through it?
It’s a mixture of different techniques. Mainly I paint with acrylics on paper, board, wood or whatever I find in my studio or on a fleemarket.
I like it when the background is still partly visible and having a dialogue with the painting/drawing on it. Sometimes there’s a meaning behind it, sometimes it’s just a compostion elemet and coincidence.
In the german version of The Song of Spring
one of the cows is painted on an advertising-book for margarine from the 1950s.A critic wrote that she liked the story but really didn’t like the fact that one of the cows is painted on a margerine advert. I was really surprised at that point but the English/American publisher didn’t like it either and I had to replace it…
I often complete the painted figures with coloured pencils and combine it with collaged paper pieces. Thinking on the work of this book I remember that the biggest challenge was to make it not too perfect, to keep some "scetchy“ elements in it. I often missed the perfect point and had to start all over again.
e: What was your path to publication?
At the time I lived in Edinburgh/Scotland as an Illustrator (mostly for the Guardian) and painter. My kids were five and two years old and we pretty soon ran out of new German childrens books (my English partner spoke and read English to them, me German). I always read the same good night stories and we all got a bit bored after a while. That’s when I decided to write and illustrate my own story. To be honest I wasn’t well informed on the book market in general and how it worked and sent, without being asked, the story and several illustrations to one of the most renowned publishers in Germany. It still seems a miracle to me that they got back to me and offered to publish a couple of pages in their magazine. In the end another big publisher found my work there and offered me a contract. That’s how my first children’s book was born.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
I read to my youngest son when I had the idea of turning the concept "which animal makes which noise?“ around. He was very small and very interested and I knew how proud he’d be to guess or name the right animal behind the noise.
The next step was to introduce the bird and all over sudden it became a story of finding friends and love
I presented the idea to several publishers at the international childrens book fair in Bologna/Italy but the story had a complete different twist:
in one of the versions he called out "nee-nah, nee-nah“ and a fire engine came along to talk to him (I actually still miss it…) and in somel of them he didn’t find a bird-friend at all (but hey, he got plenty of new friends, even a fire engine).
and in one of the versions the book ended with him calling out "meow."
In the end my publisher Tulipan helped to get the story on the right track.
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?
I think heart art is when the reader is "in" the book and wants to stay there for a while because he or she is surounded by nice companions and/or in a magical landscape or room.
I had my first crisis when I was a young boy and just finished reading a Astrid Lindgren Story "Holidays on Saltkrokan." I was so very sad that the book had ended and I wanted to be THERE. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried and it took my good parents a little while to get me out and back to my real life in Bavaria. That is actually the definition of heartache art, which is the same of course.
I am happy with a figure when I look at it and want to be a friend of it.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Oh dear. I have a very old website which I successfully shift to renew and Social Media accounts with facebook
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Generally I really love what I do as a profession and I feel very privileged and grateful. And I still love to go to my studio every single day apart from that odd few days when I can’t even draw a football
Advertising myself I find challenging, see answer above. Especially this website of mine. I’ll start tomorrow!! What I’m not so fond of either is the fact that I haven’t got a lot of cloth without any blurs of colour.
And then there are those things in the middle: when The Song of Spring
got released my publisher asked me to make a reading in their Berlin department. Since there’s so little text I decided to create a puppet theatre around it and expand the story. I got completely lost in managing the figures, which I fotocopied and attached to wooden sticks; the kids and their parents at least had a great time...
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
You don’t have to be perfect. Just try as good as you can, pick the day and be open for surprises. There’s love and friendship everywhere.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I’m currently working on a book about a hotel occupied by dogs and some adventures around a young chap (a dog as well). I’ve got a mountain of scetches but haven’t started "in real" because I’m not completely happy with the story. I think I found the right twist now and am looking forward to the next step.
e: Great - I look forward to seeing it!
Studio Photos Credit: Kerstin Stelter