Arthur A. Levine & Kevin Hawkes' THE HANUKKAH MAGIC OF NATE GADOL

It's exciting to see the books coming out from Arthur A. Levine's new imprint )))), and even more exciting to help him celebrate a book he wrote, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Kevin stopped by to tell us more about the illustrative side of this book's creation.
e: Hi Kevin, welcome! What was your creative process/medium for Nate Gadol?
I began this book by doing some color sketches of the main character for the editor and art director to give them a clearer idea of what to expect in the finished art. Once we had arrived at a solid approach to the main character, I began sketches of the other characters as well as some costume research and some historical references. This is the fun creative stage where I am figuring things out, like what are the rules behind Nate’s magic? How do we depict that visually? Eventually the sketches become a dummy book. I use pencil and paper for this. Acrylic paintings on Bristol vellum paper are the finished art.
e: What was your path to publication?
I began my career working as a bookstore clerk in Boston while trying to find any kind of art commissions I could. I did portraits, landscapes, and editorial work. On my lunch breaks at the bookstore, I browsed picture books and made sketch dummies of my own. After a year or more of sending samples to publishers in New York, a sales rep from a major publisher came into the store. The store manager showed him some of my sketches. He liked what he saw and took them back to New York to show an editor. One thing led to another and a few months later I got my first contract for one of my own stories: Then The Troll Heard The Squeak and I was off and running!
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical/Heart Art?
I think what makes an illustration magical is the way it reacts with the text. I know it’s magical when I look at the illustration while the text is being read aloud and I know much more than the words are telling me. The art has to work on multiple levels. Not only does it show you what the story is describing but it has to give a deeper understanding through additional details, color, expressive line or facial expression. Perhaps it’s raining in the illustration when there is no mention of rain in the text. A simple crescent moon can change the whole feeling of an otherwise ordinary scene.
e: How do you advertise yourself, or do you?
Part of my work involves visiting schools. That’s one form of advertising. I am active on Instagram @kevinhawkesofficial and Facebook. I also do work for other companies outside of publishing and there are a few murals of mine out there. Other than that, my books are my best advertising.
e: What is your favorite/most challenging part of being a creator?
My favorite part is creating characters and worlds to match texts. My most challenging part is getting the characters to look the same throughout the story. Oh. and finding cardboard to mail finished art.
e: Is there something in particular about this story that you hope readers will take with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I just love the idea of Nate’s superpower being the ability to make things last, and his kindness and willingness to work together with others.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
My next book is Shoshi’s Shabbat by Caryn Yacowitz. My dream project would be to reimagine Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I love those old stories.

e: Would love to see that! Meanwhile, Arthur gave a great intro to The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol on Vimeo (click the image to watch)!

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