I am super excited to share my newest interview with Frog on a Blog readers. Say “hello” to awesome author/illustrator Carin Bramsen. The first time I saw her beautiful picture book Hey, Duck!, I became an instant fan. Her style is playful, colorful, and so detailed, three qualities I love in a picture book. Just look at this gorgeous cover. Of course, to really get what I’m talking about, you have to check out the book in person. I immediately noticed the amazing realistic detail of the little duck’s feathers and the cat’s fur. And of course, the story is wonderful too. Enjoy the interview!
I have fallen madly in love with your soft, little duckling and his gorgeous feline friend from your book Hey, Duck! I’m excited to have this chance to get to know more about you and your work through this interview, and to share your answers with my blog fans.
1. How did you get your start in children’s books? And which do you prefer, writing or illustrating?
CB. Thank you so much for inviting me! I’m honored and delighted to appear on this wonderful blog devoted to picture books.
My path to children’s books was roundabout. I’ve always loved both drawing and writing, and some of my best childhood memories are of illustrating my own stories. But as a misguided young adult, I thought I had to choose between writing and the visual arts. I made many false starts in either direction. At some point, my sister, Kirsten, and I spoke casually of collaborating on a book about one of her childhood experiences. We eventually revisited the idea, she wrote a terrific story called THE YELLOW TUTU, and I set about trying to illustrate it. I had much to learn, so I started poring over heaps of picture books to see what worked. I read Martin Salisbury’s Illustrating Children’s Books, which taught me how to put together a picture book dummy. The more I worked at it, the more I fell in love with the challenge of telling a story through pictures as well as words. We published THE YELLOW TUTU with Random House in 2009. By then, I was hooked on the picture book genre, and my own stories flowed naturally from learning about narrative art. One of the many things I love about this field: it turns out I don’t have to choose between writing and illustrating!
2. Your characters are so full of life. I feel as if they could jump right off the page. What medium did you use to create your illustrations for Hey, Duck?
CB. Thank you! I’m so happy to hear you find my characters full of life. I drew the illustrations for HEY, DUCK on my computer, with a digital tablet. The tablet comes with a mouse shaped like a pen, which I use to draw (paint) colors, shapes, textures and tones as I would with a traditional brush or pen. But Photoshop allows me more flexibility than paint and paper would for moving parts around, layering and reworking if need be.
3. What is your workspace like?
CB. My workspace is an unprepossessing corner of my living/dining room. (And by “corner” I mean a third of the space; this is a Brooklyn apartment, after all!) I have my computer desk next to a folding table with a drawing board on top, and lots of jars filled with brushes and pencils. Lately, I’ve dragged my old easel into the living room, where I’ve been playing around with bigger drawings. I still love all kinds of traditional media, and the visceral feel of working big.
4. What picture book authors and illustrators do you most admire? Do you have any favorite picture books?
CB. Oh, dear. I have so many favorite authors, illustrators and picture books, I can’t keep track. A few of the books that make me sit back and say, “perfect”: THE SNOWY DAY, by Ezra Jack Keats; SNOW, by Uri Shulevitz; TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. I adore the Mole Sisters books by Roslyn Schwartz. I often find a special beauty in books that skew very young, and I love anything that makes me laugh. But my tastes range anywhere from James Marshall to Dr. Seuss to Kadir Nelson to Gennady Spirin. There’s an endless variety of riches in picture books, all indispensable.
5. What other books have you written or illustrated, and are you working on any new projects?
CB. I’m pleased to say there are new books with Duck and Cat on the horizon.
6. Where can people go to learn more about you and your books?
CB. I have a website: http://carinbramsen.com/home.html
I also have a blog: http://carindraw.blogspot.com/
And I’m on Twitter: @carinbramsen
7. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog fans?
CB. Often, a good picture book experience owes much to a talented art director. I’m indebted to Tracy Tyler, the Random House art director who has brought so much knowledge, dedication and inspired insight to both of my book projects to date. Picture books are always a team effort.