Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Some authors' stories read as if they were giggling quietly to themselves the entire time they were writing.  When I saw the cover of 

Trouble Gum

, the image of a giant pink bubble being blown by a small piglet, I knew I found such a book.  Matthew Cordell wrote and illustrated 

Trouble Gum.  

Matthew Cordell (from my estimation) has fun for a living.   So being the nosy person that I am, I had to include this talented author/illustrator in our Mini Interview line up...

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:

Still. Figuring. It. All. Out.

richard scarry
richard scarry

Which books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?

I wish I could point to some really obscure and never-heard-of illustrators as my childhood inspirations, like that would make me sound cool, maybe. However,  I think I'm not too different from most in that I can remember the "classics" being read during my own childhood. Specifically, I can remember being drawn to Maurice Sendak (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), Dr. Seuss (GREEN EGGS AND HAM), and Richard Scarry (WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY?) as a child. And I still love all three of them. Maybe this still makes me sound cool?

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.

My first author-illustrator book, TROUBLE GUM, started out with this image I had in my head of a pig who blew a massive bubble gum bubble and it lifted him or her up into the air and took flight. I didn't have a story to wrap around that image, but I was very much in love with the possibility of making a book that somehow used that visual. I knew very little about writing picture books at the time, so it took me many incarnations of this bubble gum pig story, over the span of several years, before it actually, you know, took flight. But eventually one of those incarnations landed into the hands of my lovely editors at Feiwel and Friends, Liz Szabla and Rebecca Davis, and they helped me officially find its way to publication.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek

I do! Occasionally, when there's a place to hide some text or if there's a background character or element I could use as a tip o' the hat to someone I love, I'll take advantage. For instance, on this page from ANOTHER BROTHER, I've used these letter blocks to spell out the names of my daughter, Romy, and wife, Julie. These are always fun things to point at at school visits! Kids get into the whole secret message thing.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?

Lately I've been trying to do some work before doing the actual "work." Meaning, some kind of warm-up routine to get the creative juices pumping. I didn't want to put a huge amount of time into thinking about subject, so I decided to start doing portraits of friends, family, co-workers. It's been a great deal of fun and I love surprising folks with my interpretation of themselves on Facebook.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell

Your books are so amazingly different - do you ever talk yourself out a of good idea because it skews the mainstream industry?

There was a time that I felt like I had to be a certain way and do a certain type of book and stick to it. Like I could ONLY do funny books. Or I could ONLY do sincere books. Or I could ONLY draw this way or that. For me, it gets old fast to think that way. So I'm happy to hear that you find my books so different from one another! One of my favorite contemporary author-illustrators, David Ezra Stein, has shown me that each book can be approached completely as an individual and the means of production can flow from within. And this kind of artistic freedom and sincerity... THAT is your style. That is your moniker. Now that I've opened myself up to whatever comes, I feel so much more free and able to create without being put in a self-imposed box. I don't know if it's good or bad or whatever, but I know it makes me feel better not having to live up to just one ideal or aesthetic.

Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews 2013
Mini Interviews 2013

Matthew Cordell is the illustrator and author of many acclaimed books for young readers. Though he spent most of his life in small town South Carolina, at the turn of the century he migrated midwest to set up shop in Chicago. It was there that he met his soon-to-be bride, his passion for children’s books, and deep dish pizza.  Matthew is the illustrator of many books including the Justin Case series by Rachel Vail, 

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It

 by Gail Carson Levine, and 

Toby and the Snowflakes

 by Julie Halpern. He is the illustrator and author of 

hello! hello!, Another Brother, 

and

 Trouble Gum

.  Matthew now lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his talented wife, author Julie Halpern, and their two children.

Be on the look out in 2014 for ROOTING FOR YOUa picture book by Susan Hood with illustrations by Matthew. He is currently working on his third author-illustrator book, WISH, and illustrations for a picture book by Philip C. Stead titled SPECIAL DELIVERY.

Stay connected with Matthew through...

web: 

matthewcordell.com

blog: 

matthewcordell.blogspot.com/

facebook: 

facebook.com/cordellmatthew

twitter:

@matthewcordell

A Mini Interview with Juana Martinez-Neal

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Oh Juana, Juana, Juana...what could one say about Juana?

Is she talented? Check. Is she enterprising? Check. Is she supportive, caring, and giving? Check, check, check.

Juana's work is a visual reflection of her personality and heart - enthusiastic, bright, cheery and colorful. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Juana Martinez-Neal, a great illustrator and friend.

Juana Martinez-Neal is a Peruvian born children’s illustrator living in sunny Arizona. You can follow her tweets @juanamartinez, updates via facebook or see works in progress on instagram. Visit her website at http://juanamartinezneal.com

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1. Once you decided illustration was the career for you, what were the first steps you took to achieving your goal? The very first thing I did was googling "children's illustration". SCBWI was at the top. As anal as I am, I went through every link in the first 8 pages of the search but went back to SCBWI.org. They looked reputable! So I looked at the site and at the chapter's page. They had a chapter here in AZ and the were having the Annual Conference in only 2 weeks! 2 weeks!! I stopped hyper-ventilating and yelling at the husband from my little spare bedroom-office about the Conference that was going to happen here, and dug in my purse for my wallet. I joined SCBWI and immediately printed and mailed my registration for the Local Conference. I went to the Conference although I had the most inexplicable stomachache that morning. I listened to every presenter and break-out session I could. Took notes and at the end asked Laura Jacobsen if she had time to talk. She presented that year. She answered to my extremely infuriating newbie questions and I went home SO very happy. I got back to Children's Illustration. All that was left had to be to work like crazy.

2. Put your pride aside for a moment and share some of your first mistakes starting out… Oh, boy! First biggest mistake. I didn't know where to start getting work so I looked at craigslist. Yes, I did! Shame on me! I found a post looking for a children's book illustrator posted by someone here in Phoenix. I emailed her, she immediately replied and could probably read my desperation on my email. She asked for sketches for the main character. I did 3 versions and email them to her within a day. Yes, I did! Without asking for a contract and without getting a penny. And I never heard back. I emailed her several times and she never replied. All I can say is: Don't Do That! Craigslist is not the place to look for work and NEVER do any work without a contract.

3. How do you maintain a daily routine of writing/illustrating when it is so completely different from a day to day job? Well, this is my job and I've always been freelancing in some way so I'm kind of used to working at my own pace. I do need a quiet studio to work, though. I can have my music playing, that's ok. But screaming (regardless if it's happy or furious screaming) or a TV on will ruin my working mojo. Sooo…. I work when my boys are at school or sleeping. I do have to say that working has got a lot easier now that the boys are older. They now understand if there's a deadline and they actually help me by trying to get along - key word here is "trying".

For the daily routine: I drop the boys to school and I'm back by 8am. I immediately take care of emails, Facebook, twitter, and anything that requires a computer. Most of the time I'm done by 9.30am. At that time, I move to my painting table and sketch or paint until 2pm when it's time to pick up the boys. I can squeeze an hour or two more of work here and there when the boys are home but that's about it. Some days I sketch in bed at night for an hour or two with the DVR playing so I get to spend some time with the hubs. Now, if a deadline is approaching, all the aforementioned schedule is thrown out the window and it's just a dance between my painting table and my computer desk.

4. What is one thing that has helped you to get noticed in this sea of illustrators? Consistency, I guess. I keep at it relentlessly. Twitter and Facebook have helped me getting my work noticed, too. Maybe some people are an overnight success but that's just not me. It has taken me time. Years. But I don't mind, really. As I said, I just keep at it. R-e-l-e-n-t-l-e-s-s-l-y. And if you don't believe me, ask my husband.

5. What one piece of advice would you give to a young illustrator? Learn about the industry. You will save yourself lots of time by learning from other people that have made it already. How do you do that? Go to conferences, presentations, workshops or anywhere where there's a remote chance to see and listen to children's authors and illustrators.

Make sure to leave a comment below for your chance to win an original illustration painted by the lady in question!

The winner will be randomly chosen from all entries, and announced on Monday November 28, 2011.

The more ways you enter, the more chances you get to win!

For more chances:

Follow Juana on Twitter @juanamartinez and copy this retweet on your status: RT @juanamartinez Enter to win an original illustration #giveaway Like Juana's page on Facebook

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