Brandon Reese's CAVE DADA

When I moved to South Carolina, I joined a local Illustrators' Critique Group. During normal times, we meet once a month at the Barnes & Noble in Charlotte. It's been so nice to find like-minded peeps so easily in my new home. Happily, one of them, Brandon Reese, is celebrating the release of his new picture book, CAVE DADA (Chronicle Books). Not only did I ask him to come talk to us about it, the other members of our critique group created tribute illustrations, their own interpretations of Cave Dada to help celebrate! So, read on and enjoy!
e: Welcome Brandon! What was your creative process/medium for CAVE DADA, can you walk us through it?
All of my stories start out with a drawing or idea in my sketchbook. If that drawing or idea sparks a narrative, I just let my mind wander. Once I’ve figured out a solid beginning, middle, and end… I’ll then type up all my notes in Text Edit or an email to myself and print them. I’ll fold up those notes and keep them in my sketchbook. I’ll edit and refine the writing on that printout and continue to make sketches. It’s back and forth like that until I feel I have a solid manuscript. It’s at this point when I share with my agent. If she likes it, I figure out the pagination and work up a dummy and a few sample spreads. Then hopefully we can go out with on submission!

e: What was your path to publication?
My path to publication is not a unique one. Like many author/illustrators, I started out as a graphic designer. Eventually I found work as an art director for a small kid’s magazine. It paid the bills but it wasn’t my passion. I wanted to be a picture book author and illustrator. As art director I would assign myself illustrations in the magazine. This helped to build up my skills and portfolio. Around this time I was also participating in Illustration Friday. That was a big help too. Eventually, I started getting illustration work from kids magazines, music albums, toys, etc. I was now a skilled illustrator but I was missing the writing component. So, in 2013 I attended my first SCBWI conference. That’s when I finally started to get some traction. At that conference I met my first agent and an editor who gave me my first book illustration assignment.
The case of the book has an inset image...
e: Wow - sounds like you and I were on very similar paths! Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of CAVE DADA?
Hmm. I remember another author/illustrator friend of mine (Jenn Bower) was working on a story about a kid with a pet rock. In the story, the kid would drag the rock around on a leash. I told Jenn it would be funny if she drew sparks coming up from the rock as she dragged it. I stole my own idea and put it in CAVE DADA!
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?
Heart Art is an illustration that immediately hits you with an emotional gut punch. It tells a story. Makes you happy. Makes you sad. Makes you think.
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
Sometimes I’ll send out postcards to art directors… but I’ve gotten really slack about that the past few years. I mostly just update my site and hope I have repeat visitors!
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My favorite part of being a creator is the problem-solving. When you work and work on a story and just isn’t coming together… then POW! Inspiration strikes. It’s magical!
e: OMG! I have to ask you about that Frankenstein in your studio!
Aren’t they great! They are bootleg reproductions of an old Jack Davis door poster from the 70s. I found them on ebay and for some reason the guy sent two instead of one. (Right click to see the ad larger.)

Tribute image by Christopher Doehling

e: Fantastic! Is there something in particular about CAVE DADA you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I just want it to be a funny and fun read. I want parents and kids to perfect their caveman voices! IT FUN. :)

Tribute image by Hilde Deprez

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I’d love to do something in the vein of Edward Gorey or Charles Addams. Something a bit spooky!

e: I'd love to see that! You'll have to come back to visit! Meanwhile, here are more tribute images from our Illustrators' Critique Group:

Tribute image by Dy English

Tribute image by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Tribute image by LeighAnneCarter

Tribute image by Matthew Myers

Tribute image by Matt Metzgar

Tribute image by Zoe Ranucci

Tribute image by Ashley Belote

Tribute image by Jolenna Mapes

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