As many know, children's book editors usually choose the illustrator for a project, and the author and illustrator rarely meet or communicate until the book is completed. Each brings unique talent and vision to the story and the resulting book is often better than the sum of its parts. I (Lynn) was delighted to finally have the opportunity to "meet" and interview Cinder Rabbit's illustrator, Elyse Pastel, online. Of course I hope to meet Elyse in person someday soon. Thanks Elyse, for bringing these bunnies to life. And thanks to Reka Simonsen (our editor at Henry Holt) for believing in Cinder Rabbit's story, finding Elyse, and putting it all together.
Lynn: Please tell us a little about your career as an artist, animator and illustrator. How did you get started?
Elyse: I started out in the animation industry and worked for Marvel, Don Bluth, Disney, and many other companies. I've worked on many films and TV shows including; Pocahontas, The Great Mouse Detective, The Black Cauldron, DuckTales, and The Secret of NIMH. After Pocahontas I transferred to Disney's Consumer Product division. This is where they make up new products for kids and put the Disney character on the products, like clothes, toys, or lunch boxes. After I left Disney Consumer Products I started to do children's books and teach art in high school.
Lynn: Have you always enjoyed drawing? What kinds of things did you draw as a child?
Elyse: I always drew. As a child I drew houses, trees, and mostly people. I used to draw food when I was hungry and it wasn't lunchtime yet. Then I would pretend I was eating my lunch!
Lynn: Do you have any quirky habits or rituals that feed your creative process?
Elyse: I usually have a hard time starting a new project. I'll find excuses, like doing the laundry or walking the dog. But once I start I become completely involved and work day and night until it is finished.
Lynn: What is your workspace or studio like? Are you well organized or surrounded by creative clutter? Do you have any toys that inspire you?
Elyse: My studio is a room off the kitchen that has lots of light. It has a big picture window to the street. I have stacks for different projects but they're organized stacks. I keep small figurines of different animals and vehicles. These are very helpful when I have to draw an animal, truck or car from a different angle.
Lynn: How did you first hear from Holt about illustrating Cinder Rabbit? What were the initial steps? What media did you use for this book?
Elyse: Reka Simonsen wrote me and said she had seen some little boys I drew. She really liked them and asked if I could draw bunnies. I drew her some bunnies and she liked them and asked me to illustrate Cinder Rabbit.
I draw everything in pencil. Then I scan the drawing into my computer and use Photoshop to paint them.
Lynn: What did you like about the story? Was there any part you particularly enjoyed illustrating?
Elyse: I like that Zoe conquers her fear. The poses of Zoe trying to figure out how to hop were the most fun to draw.
Lynn: What was most challenging part of the process? How did you overcome that challenge?
Elyse: The biggest challenge was getting the black and while values correct for the printing process. I worked closely with the editor and art directors at Holt to get the values right.
Lynn: Do your children give you any input on how you're illustrating particular characters or scenes?
Elyse: Yes, they tell me when they like something and when they don't think it's working yet.
Lynn: Kirkus Reviews described Cinder Rabbit as "Plentifully illustrated with darling, expressive bunnies..." Could you please share any secrets of how you made the bunnies so expressive?
Elyse: If I'm having a hard time with the expression, I use a mirror and draw myself making the expression I need. This is an old animation trick.
Lynn: Did anyone you know become a knowing or unwitting model for one of the bunny characters in Cinder Rabbit?
Elyse: No. It's all out of my head.
Lynn: Please tell us about any of your other projects.
Elyse: I illustrated another book called Tutu Twins which is a graphic novel for children. It just came out this spring.
Lynn: Do you have any advice for aspiring children's book illustrators?
Elyse: Keep a sketchbook and draw a lot. Draw everything. Don't worry about how the drawings look, just keep drawing and they will slowly get better. Draw while you're watching TV. Draw in the doctor's office. Draw any time you are waiting around with nothing to do.
Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Elyse Pastel