Please welcome author and book illustrator extraordinaire Courtney Pippin-Mathur. It wasn’t until college and an awesome teacher that she realized she could draw for a career. She switched from government to Studio Art and never looked back. After graduating with a Studio Art degree she got married, had a baby and moved to the east coast. Find out more at her web site http://www.pippinmathur.com/.
Q: When did you get started as a book illustrator for children? What did you do before?
A: In college, I majored in Studio Art taking photography, life drawing and watercolor classes. I always knew I wanted to illustrate children’s books, but I didn’t start pursuing it seriously until my daughter could occupy herself in the studio while I worked.
Q: Your newest book released this month is “Maya Was Grumpy” which you also wrote. What did you find the most challenging thing about the creation of this book?
A: I wrote the story pretty quickly and my editor was incredibly helpful with revisions. I think the process of illustrating a picture book is a monumental task. You don’t realize the vast amounts of revisions you will go through to get it “right”. I remember despairing about 2/3 of the way through, after painting after painting didn’t work. With (my style of) watercolor, if it doesn’t work, there is no going back and adding a new layer. You have to start over again from scratch. Now that I survived, I appreciate the process a lot more and look forward to going through it again.
Q: You have a very unique style. Did it take you a long time to arrive at a place where you felt satisfied with your signature look?
A: It’s funny, but my style is constantly evolving. When I started corresponding with my editor years ago, my work was a bit more “wild”. After a few years of rejections, I was working towards taming my style. When my editor and I started working on the book, she encouraged me to return back to the more vibrant washes that I had previously discarded. It was like returning home again, but it took a while for me to get back into that style of creating. Then, I started to take my paintings into Photoshop and that further evolved my style. So, I guess I’m still not completely satisfied.
Q: Will there be more Maya adventures in the future?
A: None in the works. Yet.
Q: What other children’s books have you worked on?
A: This was my first book.
Q: What are you working on now? Do you have any other art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I am in the land of subbing now, getting my stories into the hands of editors.
Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your art as a children’s book illustrator?
A: Not really. I do create a few custom pieces for clients. But it’s usually similar to my watercolor illustrations.
Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: I start with a very rough sketch. Then I draw on watercolor paper (smooth or rough, usually 140 pound or 300 pound if it’s for a book) I ink my lines, erase the pencil marks and paint with watercolors and watercolor pencils. Then I scan it into Photoshop and clean up and tweak the paintings.
Q: What is your favorite medium to work in? Have you always worked in this media? If not, why did you switch?
A: Pencil and Watercolor always. Since college when I would create large abstract watercolor paintings.
Q: Do you use models/source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: I look at photos or sketch from life then draw from those sketches.
Q: What gets you through an illustration when you’re stuck for inspiration?
A: Usually walking away from it. Then I try to fill my brain with something interesting, like a trip to the museum, other illustrators work that I admire, going to a national park and just hanging with my kids. When I return after a few days, I can usually find a solution immediately.
Q: If you could be anything other than a book illustrator, what would you be?
A: A writer or teacher.
Q: What book do you remember from when you were young?
A: Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl books ere my favorite.
Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now?
A: Polly Dunbar, Oliver Jeffers, Peter Brown, Marla Frazee to name a few…
Q: If you could illustrate any writer’s new work, who would it be?
A: Ack, that’s a hard one! I’ll go with Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein, since they were my favorites growing up.
Thanks so much for visiting, Courtney. Congratulations on your first book. I’m sure it will be one of many.