[The following appeared in Facebook 8/25 to 8/26]
What is your favorite medium?
Melanie Hope Greenberg: Taught myself using gouache and still love it. Also work with color gel pens for precise details. I started out creating collages. The collages were cutouts from newspapers and magazines. They evolved into cutouts of my own art to create 3-Dimensional Reliefs.
Chris Demarest: Even though I was an art major in college, most of what I learned in the ensuing years as a children’s book illustrator was self-taught or should I say sacrificed. Thankfully I was paid for my early work which I’d describe as tentative, color-wise, at best. It wasn’t until I tackled Firefighters A to Z, where I’d been asked to do something in a different medium, that I’d felt a real challenge in decades. The learning curve of chalk pastels was intimidating but thrilling. And I found it was the perfect medium for both fire and water. I have Brenda Bowen and Emma Dryden to thank for this challenge.
Melanie Hope Greenberg: Hi Chris, I like your cartoonish art as well as the later style. Now you have a variety of styles that can probably get you more work.
Chris Demarest: You’d think. I’m just an old dinosaur in this business. I’m heading to Scotland to paint and eat the heather. In my dreams….But thanks. I hope you remain busy forever!
Ned Norman: Hi Melanie, great to be part of this discussion. What determines your palette? Do you have a set of signature colors that you use regularly or are the colors based on the subject of your story?
Melanie Hope Greenberg: That’s a great question. Each color palette is determined by the story I am expressing in a book or any other illustration job I might have. In The Wind’s Garden, various shades of green described the changing of the seasons from early spring into summer. Usually, my jobs call for bright colors, I think of them as the sharp notes in music.
Ned Norman: Thanks Melanie! Apologies for my delayed response, and I appreciate your reply!
Joan Hansen: It appears that you have created tints, labeled them, and stored them by color tone. Very smart. Are the pan colors gouche?
MHG: Good eye Joan. Having similar colors next to each other has taught me to be fluent in reading colors. Most times I can breakdown the mixtures in a tint. The tins are gouache.
Vera Lisa Smetzer: You are wonderfully organized, Melanie! Interesting to see the tint creations!
Joan Hansen: [Your art is] absolutely wonderful! Do you work to the finished size of the book, or larger so that it can be tightened up when it is reduced to the book size?
Melanie Hope Greenberg: I work to the finish size of the book. Also, I add a “bleed” or a border of extra art about 1/2″ to 1″ around the painting. The art gets printed onto over-sized paper and the printer needs to cut the paper to size of the book. The extra border leaves room for less mistakes when the paper is cut.
Joan Hansen: That sounds like a wise decision. I’m impressed that you are allowed to both write and illustrate the books. It was my understanding that most illustrators illustrate other writers’ work. Yeah for you!!
Melanie Hope Greenberg: Actually, illustrators can break into children’s publishing faster if they write the books themselves. The author and illustrator usually come together via the publishing house. Sometimes we know the author or maybe have never met the author or we meet them casually at conferences. There are no fast rules. Thanks for the great questions.
Joan Hansen: You are very kind to share you wealth of knowledge with us. Thank you!