Interview with Children’s Author/Illustrator Kathy Temean
I met Kathy when she was the Regional Advisor (RA) for the New Jersey Chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) several years ago. She organized some of the best workshops and conferences I ever attended. Though no longer RA, she continues to advise and guide writers and illustrators through her vast knowledge of the publishing industry and her wonderful blog WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING FOR CHILDREN: www.kathytemean.wordpress.com to see her illustrations visits www.kathytemean.com .
Kathy also has her own web-design business and has created the web sites for many Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, including your truly. Her first picture book – YOGI’S TEAM – written by Tina Overman showcases her wonderful illustrations in a book about Yogi Berra.
1. Congratulations on your first PB as Illustrator. How did it come about?
Author Tina Overman called me and asked if I would be interested in doing some illustrations for non-fiction book about Yogi Bear. I hesitated because I was so busy, but then I hit myself in the head and said, “What’s wrong with you? Make it happen” so, I did.
2. What kind of research did you do for the book?
I had many ideas, but it was baseball and I needed details. Example: There is a famous photo of Yogi jumping up on Don Larsen after he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. I had to find that picture on the Internet, in order to do a realistic drawing. The publisher really liked it and used it for the cover of the book. I looked for pictures of Yankee uniforms, so I could make sure the clothing was correct, and I wanted to end the book with an illustration of what Yogi looked like today, so I had to find pictures of him to get that job done. It was fun research and I learned quite a bit about Yogi.
3. Where did you get your art training?
I was always interested in art and music growing up. I wanted to go to college and remember at the time trying to decide between the two. Actually, I was better at art, so that’s what I picked. I was offered a scholarship to Moore College of Art, but I was an only child and my parents did not want me to go into Philadelphia after my Uncle told them I would get raped, mugged, or murdered if they let me go, so I ended up getting a BFA in art at Rowan University with a secondary degree in education and started out my career as an art teacher. After I graduated, I took classes at Moore and some classes at Pratt in NYC. While in high school, Pratt had offered classes to me, but you can image how that went down with my parents.
4. How did you come to illustration as your art form?
I used to get teased at in college, because my art was commercial looking, realistic, or what companies would want in an advertisement, so I guess I should have been illustrating right from the beginning. The difference between illustrating and fine art is when you illustrate; you are paid to do a specific piece, so the art has to work for the client. With fine art, you are the only one who has to be pleased. Funny thing is, I find that I am pleased even more illustrating.
5. You’ve worn many hats over the past decade. SCBWI Regional Advisor, web designer, writer and illustrator. Which hat feels most comfortable?
I don’t regret the ten years I spent helping other writers and illustrators. I learned so much about the publishing industry during those ten years, made tons of connections, and made so many friends – wouldn’t change that.
I create web sites and help writers and illustrators market themselves. I like to see people become successful and it gives me a chance to use my Masters degree in marketing and also what I learned in the field while working with corporate 500 companies. Plus, it brings in some money to help with the bills. When it comes to writing and illustrating, I find it so hard to choose. I love both. I didn’t develop an interest in writing until late in life. You can read more about this topic in another interview I did. Here is the link: http://newjersey.scbwi.org/author-spotlight/november-2013-kathy-temean/. I should have been a twin, then one of us could write and the other could illustrate or maybe I should start illustrating some of the picture books I’ve written. But right now I have a few novels that have grabbed a hold of me and won’t let go.
6. You’ve met a lot of “movers and shakers” in the Children’s Book Publishing Industry. What is one of the most interesting or unusual thing that happened while you were RA?
My lips are sealed. I have tons of funny stories, tons of great times with authors, editors, agents, and art directors, tons of weird stories, and tons of heart wrenching stories, but you’ll have to get me aside with a few drinks to loosen those lips.
7. You’ve been a web designer for fourteen years. Many of your clients are Children’s Book Authors. Is this intentional or just a good fit? Tell us some of the best selling authors you’ve worked for.
Of course, with spending so much time with authors and illustrators, it only makes sense that I would be working for a lot of like minded people. It is fun for me to work with writers and illustrators, because I approach their websites like I would a picture book. A picture book tells a story with artwork and pictures and what a writer or illustrator should want in a website designer is someone who will tell their story, so that is what I do. I think I bring something more to the table with my design, marketing, and illustration background.
Current published author/illustrator clients are: Jerry Spinelli, Eileen Spinelli, David L Harrison, Betsy Devany, Amalia Hoffman, Robin Newman, Darlene Beck Jacobson, Tori Corn, Carol Ann Williams, Anita Nolan, Carol Roth, Carol Murray, Eileen Cameron, Gayle Aanenssen, Connie Steiner, Carol MacAllister, and Donna Taggart.
8. What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I am working on the final revisions for a young adult contemporary novel and a humorous middle grade novel. Once that is finished, I would like to complete my first draft of a young adult contemporary thriller I started (maybe new adult). I would like to re-write and illustrate one of my picture books in the New Year, since a number of agents have expressed an interest in that.
9. Complete this sentence: The greatest part of illustrating children’s books is: I get to think, explore ideas, get to experiment, get to play with color, and get to develop my artist skills while feeling like a kid again.
10. If you could meet a famous author or illustrator – dead or alive- who would it be and why?
Toulouse-Lautrec has always been one my favorite painters of the Post-Impressionist art movement. His perceptively compelling images used pure color and were shockingly original for his time. He loved cafe life, drinking, and women and he painted what he loved, which probably is why his style is so instantly recognizable.
If I could study with a children’s illustrator, I would choose Chris Van Allsburg. All you have to do is look at his work to understand why. Second choice: Any of the illustrators I have featured on Illustrator Saturday. There is so much talent out there.
11. What else would readers be surprised to know about you?
I had a few modeling gigs when I was in College, which lead to running a few fashion shows later. I never thought about it before, but I guess those kicked off my career of running events.