Those of you who follow my blog somewhat regularly probably already know of Michaele Razi's blog: razi ink. If not, it is definitely worth your while to take a look! Michaele is an extremely talented up-and-coming illustrator who I am fortunate enough to call a friend and critique buddy. To celebrate her children's book illustration debut (a great picture book called Playful Moon) I thought it would be fun to do an interview with Michaele. So, without further ado HERE WE GO!
Ben (B): Michaele, how did you decide children's book illustration was something you would like to do?
Michaele (M): I've always LOVED children's books--obsessed really--since I was a little girl and onward to adulthood. And it was always a dream but a very distant, daydream to do children's illustrations that seemed almost out of reach to me. I did freelance product design for several years but after my son was born, my priorities changed and I felt like in order to raise my son with the belief to be anything he wanted, I needed to follow that advice myself. So I, like so many artists, jumped in feet first.
B: How did Playful Moon come about?
M: I heard about Playful Moon through a very good friend who knew someone who knew someone (etc...) who needed an illustrator for the book. The writer, Michelle Leclaire O'Neill, works for the non-profit organization, Smart Beginnings/Easy Preventions, and I read the manuscript and fell in love. It really was a wonderful project!
B: I love your illustrations for Playful Moon. Could you share a bit about your process? Please!
M: Thank you, Ben! Coming from you, that's a huge compliment. I first started with character designs. Lots and lots of sketches of the main character, a little girl.
I then added another character, her puppy, just because I felt like she needed a buddy to share her adventures. The next step was to lay out the spreads which was challenging because I like to get obsessed with teeny, tiny details. But with the help of my critique group I was able to loosen up, ditch the details and begin to layout the book with loose lines that emphasized the flow and movement.
B: What is your favorite spread from the book?
M: My favorite spread! Goodness, that's a tough one since each one had it's own mini journey for me. It would have to be a tie between the little girl and her puppy in the tree and she's "hugging" the moon, I really tried to capture the sweetness of the story. But I also love when she and her puppy are laying on the grass in the sun, there's nothing like laying in the sun with your best friend, especially if that friend has four legs.
B: What are some of your favorite picture books?
M: You mean besides yours? Let's see, most of my favorite books are from my childhood, one of them is ironically called, Japanese Children's Favorite Stories, edited and rewritten by Florence Sakade and brilliantly illustrated by one of my favorite artist's, Yoshisuke Kurosaki. Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is so wonderful too. I also love Twice Upon a Time written by Irwin Shapiro and art by Adrienne Adams. This was published when children's books had a lot of text along with the illustrations. I do miss those days. Current books I love are Clara and Asha by Eric Rohmann, The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett and My Friends by Taro Gomi, just to name a few though the list goes on and on.
B: What's next?
M: Right now I'm working on writing and illustrating my own book. Like Playful Moon, I'm starting with character design but will be laying it out soon and completing the manuscript. So exciting! There are also a number of other story ideas bouncing around my head but I'm going to focus on one at a time for now.
B: Do you like armadillos?
M: Armadillos? Love them! But if I didn't there would something seriously wrong with me, I think. Did you know there's a species of armadillo called the Pink Fairy Armadillo? How awesome is that!