Sunday, November 11, 2007

Behind the Snowflakes-Up Close and Personal

It's been fun following, Blogging for a Cure 2007 with over 70 bloggers highlighting many of the beautiful snowflakes created by children’s book illustrators as part of Robert’s Snow: for Cancer's Cure. You can still visit the handful of artists featured each day, and get to know each one of them up close and personal. Remember you can bid on your own original art snowflake while helping to fight cancer.

Today I have the privilege of featuring another author and illustrator and snowflake creator Chris Gall! (You can read about the first artist I featured here.) This is a special privilege for me since Chris is one of the illustrators I find my inspiration in. He is one creative guy with a keen eye for detail. Chris Gall is a direct descendant of Katharine Lee Bates author of America the Beautiful, the classic poem and anthem. He has worked with clients all over the world including Time, Newsweek, Money, and National Lampoon, to name just a few. Be sure to visit his website!

Interview with Chris Gall

First let me congratulate you for being selected in this year's Original Art Show at the New York Society of Illustrators. How many times before have you made it into the show?

I was just in New York for the show. It was great fun! My publisher, Little Brown, threw a party. They don’t usually do that. New York is the place to be if you are in illustration or publishing. All three of my books have been in the show. Although only one illustration is displayed, the jury makes their decision on the book as a whole.

How did you become involved in Robert’s Snow and what was your inspiration for your snowflake, “Dinoflake”?

I got a call from Grace Lin. I knew it was for a good cause but at the time I didn’t know a lot about the project, after some checking I found it was a great conglomeration of illustrators. For my snowflake I wanted to do something different, that’s the way I approach all of my art. So I went with something in contrast to the expected imagery, yet not too random, Santa Dino!

Who had the most influence on your work?

As a kid, no question, Maurice Sendak. My grandmother was friends with him. She owned a small bookstore and he would visit. I would get gifts and signed books from him. As an adult I would have to say my influences come form Chris Van Allsburg and David Wiesner.

What is your all-time favorite picture book?

Where the Wild Things are.

How did the project for your first book, America the Beautiful, come about?

After spending a long time as a commercial illustrator, doing magazine and editorial work it became dry, not so rewarding. I decided I wanted to do children’s books. Even with success as an illustrator elsewhere, it’s hard to break into publishing, so I was looking for a pitch. Something that would interest a publisher. My family kept asking me to illustrate America the Beautiful-I am the great grand-nephew of Katharine Lee Bates—the poem’s author, and after 9-11, I felt the need to do just that. So I put together a proposal and sent it to friends, who sent it to friends, until it ended up in my agents hands. I still have that agent today.

Are the original hand written lyrics on display now?

The family has one of the hand-written copies of the lyrics.

You are the writer and illustrator for your last two books. For you, which comes first, the pictures or the words?

The manuscript first. Always. The industry is biased toward the story not the art. You have to have a strong story. They buy the manuscript. I will include some sample art along with the manuscript when I send it.

You have such a unique style, tell us a little bit about your illustrative process.

I start with thumbnails, sketches, layouts, tracings, and composition. I spend the most time on composition. Then I do a black and white engraving on clay board, kind of like a woodcut. Then it’s scanned and colored in Illustrator. 75-80% of the color is done on the computer. I might then use Photoshop too to move elements or make any changes.

There’s Nothing to do on Mars is due to be released early next year. This book seems like it will help fill the void in picture books for boys, do you have more like it planned for the future?

Yes! I definitely want to fill that void. Early in my career I walked into a bookstore to research the current state of pictures books, and I couldn’t find much that I (with my 7 year old hat on) wanted to actually read. I was determined to create books that I would like if I were a young boy. Of course, girls are always welcome too!

With such a busy schedule, do you still find time to do stand-up comedy? (You curious readers can see what I’m talking about on his bio.)

Oh, I retired from that four years ago. I toured, I was in an improve group, but it was too exhausting. It’s a serious business! But it did give me public speaking experience. If you’re used to dealing with 300 drunk, rowdy, chain-smoking strangers on a late Friday night—all of whom are convinced they are funnier than you are—then entertaining a few 3rd graders is a piece of cake.

Thank you Chris for letting us get to know more about you! His Grandmother was friends with Maurice Sendak, how cool is that! As a special treat I will be giving away a copy of Dear Fish to one lucky reader of this blog. That's right! Just post a reply on this post and your name will go into a drawing. The winner will be selected on the first day of the auction. (You can find the auction details here.)

All images © 2004 - 2007 Chris Gall.

Be sure to check out the other snowflakes being featured today:

Sunday, November 11


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Gail and Chris. The second dino-flake this year (James Gurney has one, too)! I love it. And I love that he got to hang out with Sendak a bit as a child. Wowzers.

And I liked reading about how he sells his picture books. That insight into the publishing world is neat (story first with just an illustration or two). ....thanks!

JenFW said...

Love the frog image, and all the vivid colors.

I look forward to turning the neighbor kids on to There's Nothing to do on Mars when it comes out. Their 2 dogs are named Pol and Aris (Polaris). They're not robots, but I think they'll like the connection anyway.

Karen Lee said...

what a cool snowflake - not your everyday subject matter! Great interview.


tanita✿davis said...

Wow - what a beautiful website AND what gorgeous work. And even before I read that he is your personal inspiration, I thought that you had similarities in your artwork -- that gorgeous light, detail and color enrichment that just makes it sing. Great interview - beautiful.

Jennifer Thermes said...

Great interview, Gail.

How lucky to meet Maurice Sendak at a young age. And I love how he got his public speaking experience!


LindaBudz said...

Great interview, Gail! I know a certain little boy who would LOVE that flake!

jama said...

What fun to learn about Chris and his work. Too surreal about the Sendak connection! Very cool flake.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

We love that dinoflake over here! Please put me in the drawing.

Anonymous said...

What a great interview. I love the intensity of the colors.

Anonymous said...

Santa Dino--now there's a Santa for our house. Jr. would be thrilled.