I just love the detail in Kenneth Kraegel's new WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON. He stopped by to talk about it...
e: Hi Kenneth! What was your creative process/medium for Wild Honey from the Moon, can you walk us through it?
The illustrations were done with ink and watercolor on Arches 140# cold press paper.
For each illustration I drew a number of rough, full-size sketches, slowly zeroing in on the right composition. When my art-director and I were both happy with the composition, I would draw a final detailed sketch, working out all the remaining problems. Using a light box I traced the sketch onto watercolor paper. Then I drew over the pencil with a technical pen, erased the pencil lines, and painted. I paint lightly at first, so that as I add more layers I can get the colors and value where I want them to be.
I am a self-taught artist and somehow did not know about light boxes for the first book that I made. Now, every time I use it, I feel so cool!
e: What was your path to publication?
At first I just sent links to my portfolio website to all kinds of agents and editors. Then I started going to SCBWI conferences and writing and illustrating new stories. It was important to spend some time creating a body of decent work.
Eventually I had a dummy for a book that was far better than anything I had submitted before and my portfolio had also improved quite a bit and was getting some notice. I sent the dummy to an agent I had been in touch with and she agreed to represent me. She sent the dummy to a dozen or so editors. An editor at Candlewick bought it. Many books later, I am still with the same editor. My art director has been with me since my second book. I really enjoy working with them, we have formed a nice team.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Wild Honey from the Moon?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but after the story was finished I saw that the book was really about my wife as a new mother. Our son was very young when I first wrote the story and I was fascinated by the new side of my wife that surfaced when he was born. I really admired her new strength and devotion and it found its way into Mother Shrew’s character.
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 of artists, any type of artist, as having a heightened sense of emotion. When they direct that sensitivity into a piece of art in a way that is true, that is when when you get the magic. It isn’t easy to do, but artists are internally very driven to create, so we keep at it until we get it right, until it comes out true.
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
I have tried a few different things, but had to admit I am not great at keeping things up. Right now I am just focusing on keeping my blog and Facebook up to date. I have a good relationship with my publisher, so I send them proposals and enough of the them are acquired that I stay fairly busy.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
It can be really exciting when a story starts to take shape. The same is true of an illustration - it is exhilarating when a piece starts coming together. The most challenging part for me is coming up with stories that I find compelling.
e: Is there something in particular about Wild Honey from the Moon you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Well, there are a few little things that I hid in the illustrations that I hope readers find. The book is about the force of parental love, I hope that resonates with some people. It is a beautiful thing.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Wild Honey from the Moon was a dream project for me. I loved working on something big - I spent a year on the illustrations. I have a board book coming out in 2020 and another larger picture book after that. I have lots of ideas that are jostling for a position in the queue.
e: Can't wait to see them!
WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON. Copyright © 2019 by Kenneth Kraegel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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