Today it’s my pleasure to have an interview with an author/illustrator friend I recently had the pleasure meeting at the NJSCBWI Conference this past June. Patricia Keeler’s work is playful, uplifting and filled with a sense of whimsy that is a joy to behold. Here’s Patricia:
What kind of art interested you as a kid?
I would say everything I did in my free time as a kid qualified as art–decorating cookies, stapling together Halloween costumes, cutting my hair, making mud villages, and chalk drawing on the sidewalk. Drawing was in the mix, but it was probably one of my least favorite types of art.
To get the flavor of my home growing up, my mom was a fibers artist. She shaved our black French poodle and wove cloth for a dress for herself. I didn’t want a dress made from my dog.
When did you decide to pursue illustration as an art form?
I was hired to create sets, do advertising, and background images for PBS television programming in Virginia. I was amazed you could get paid for doing that!
Did you go to school or are you self-taught?
I’d say self-taught, as I got a Master’s in Art Education.
What advice would you give to kids who are interested in drawing and illustrating?
Say something through your art about your day. Got wet feet on the way to school? Mystery meat for lunch? New cat? Show what your feet feel like wet, what the lunch room mystery meat tasted like, and how happy your new cat was to see you. (Show what your cat would look like if you found her wet and eating mystery meat.)
Don’t worry about using a certain medium like watercolors or colored pencils. That ‘pick a medium’ is a made-up rule. Use whatever in that moment that helps to get your idea out.
Which illustrators do you admire?
I fall in love with every piece of children’s book art I see these days! It’s crazy–or folks are just that good. I think children are amazing artists! But my current perfect illustration person would be a mash-up between Laura Cornell and Frank Viva.
What is your process?
I get coffee from Starbucks and one of those chewy chocolate cookies. Those are scary good. I sit by the Hudson River and watch the boats go by, the dog walkers, babies . . . Then something floats up in my mind that makes me laugh. Like babies flying with books for wings.
After that it’s a wrestling match with pencil, colored pencil, watercolor, and digital. It’s like trying to pick out a tiny, slippery seed from the inside of a ripe tomato. I just keep picking at that idea until it fabricates.
Generally I make a lot of sketches, than paint a few loosely in watercolor. I scan the images into the computer. I change the colors and add textures.
Digital gives me so many colors, texture, placement options–and I’m learning more all the time. So mostly I run out of time. I feel like I could play with the ideas in Photoshop indefinitely.
Do you have an agent?
Yes! I’m excited to be working with Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris of Liza Royce Agency.
Do you have new picture books coming out?
I have a busy year ahead because I’ll be illustrating two new books! Both books will be published by Sky Pony Press in the spring of 2017. The working title for the first book is LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL. For the second book we’re still working on the title.
I’ve illustrated, photographed, and/or written trade and educational books including DRUMBEAT IN OUR FEET, (Lee and Low Books, 2006) and A HUGE HOG IS A BIG PIG, (Greenwillow, 2002), a selection of the Junior Library Guild and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club. I received the Christopher Medal and the New York Book Festival First Prize in 2011 for illustrations in WOULD YOU STILL LOVE ME IF, an Indie picture book, written by Wendy LaGuardia. Over the years, my books have been reviewed by the New York Times Book Review, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Booklist and The Horn Book.
An original painting from DRUMBEAT IN OUR FEET went to the Children’s Art Auction, ABFFE, this past May 2014. This piece was purchased by the Kerlan Collection’s curator, Lisa Von Drasek. The Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota may be the largest collection of children’s books in the world, as they house more than 100,000 books, as well as original manuscripts, galleys and color proofs.
Eventually the Kerlan Collection was interested in the entire DRUMBEAT file, from illustrated pages, galleys, proofs, acceptance letter, contract, pages of editorial critiques, and early sketches to the original paintings. I’m pleased my work found a final home and is now available for students and artists to explore a comprehensive example of children’s book illustration process.
More of my work can be seen at http://www.patriciakeeler-author-illustrator.com.
You can also contact Patricia at:
Thank you, Darlene for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and process.