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Barbara Reid, author & illustrator: "I look at EVERYTHING."

What was the first book you bought with your own money?

An Archie comic, then I graduated to Mad Magazines. I was a heavy library borrower and didn’t start buying actual books until I left home and started filling my shelves from used bookstores.

Have you ever stolen a book? Why/when/where?


What book changed the way you look at the world?

N.C.Wyeth; The Collected Drawings, Illustrations and Murals. I begged for and received this expensive tome for Christmas when I was a teen, otherwise I may have stolen it. There was a photo of Wyeth in his studio that made my head explode. It was the first time I realized that book illustrators were real beings that walked the earth and that I needed to be one.

In which fictional house or land would you like to live?

Narnia, pre Pevensies.

Which fictional character do you wish was your best friend?

Dickon from The Secret Garden.

Of all the authors or illustrators you’ve ever met, who were you most impressed with?

Ed Young, although he may now be tied with Sydney Smith.

Would you rather have good reviews or good sales? (“both” is not an acceptable answer)

And why?

I chewed my pencil over this one. Good reviews. While good sales are a form of good review, for books that are not mass-market, reviews attract academic attention and can lead to award lists and international connections. Awards help books stay in print so they have more time to reach their particular audience. Good reviews have not made me rich but they have led to the most valuable relationships and experiences in my career.

Where would you most like to go to research your next book?

Baffin Island, Nunavut.

Which images do you remember best from the books you loved in childhood?

I adored all of Beatrix Potter illustrations, but the one of Mr. McGregor’s overly large hand turning over the flowerpots looking for Peter in the Tale of Peter Rabbit annoyed me. It was appropriately terrifying, but I also wanted to correct the drawing. Pauline Baynes’ drawings in the Narnia books were a huge influence. I copied them and learned about composition and motion – her illustrations dance.

How do you figure out the colour palette for a new project?

In a picture book the palette can tell as much of the story as the text. I start with colours suggested by the story: location, season, and time of day. I think of the mood because colour is emotion. Then I look at EVERYTHING: books, textiles, gardens, old wallpaper, fine art, both online and in the real world. I take a lot of phone shots. I play with combinations and eliminate until I have a reduced palette. From that I make colour pencil sketches of characters and costumes as well as a plasticine palette with notes - a lumpy swatch book.

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