Roxie Munro is the author/illustrator of two interactive animated apps, and 35+ children’s books. They’ve been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese. Her recent books include: EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures (SLJ Star; Smithsonian’s Best Science Book for Children); Hatch! (Outstanding Science Trade Book, NSTA and CBC; Society of International Librarians Honor Award; Bank St College Best Books of 2012, w/Outstanding Merit); Busy Builders (Bank Street CCLL Cook Prize Finalist). She received her education at University of Maryland, Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore), University of Hawaii (BFA, Painting), Ohio University (Athens) Graduate School. Yaddo Fellowship. Roxie lectures in museums, schools, conferences, and teaches workshops. She also creates oils, watercolors, prints, and drawings, primarily cityscapes, and has work in numerous private, public, and corporate collections. Visit her website.
Q: When did you get started illustrating for children? What did you do before?
A: I have worked as a professional artists all of my life. I started writing and illustrating children’s books in the mid 1980s, after I moved to New York City. Before that I was a freelance artist in Washington DC. Worked for newspapers, like the Washington Post, and magazines, like The New Yorker and Gourmet, and also was a television courtroom artist, covering trials, the Congress (this was before they were televised) and the Supreme Court. It was great training for life drawing, concentration under pressure, and making deadlines.
Q: Your newest book released this month is “Slithery Snakes” which you also wrote. What did you like best about working on this book?
A: I loved illustrating it – the patterns, the colors. I actually became quite fond of snakes.
Q: Is “Slithery Snakes” part of a series?
A: Kind of. Earlier books were “Hatch!” (about birds and their habitats) and “Busy Builders” (about bugs and their habitats). All three books have a kind of guessing game, in addition to the factual and visual content.
Q: Do you have any other books planned for the future? Can you share anything about them?
A: I have a couple cool ideas involving mazes…one about food, and the other involves fantastical magical mazes, called MazePlay.
Q: What other children’s books have you worked on?
A: I’ve had over 35 books published, mainly nonfiction. They fall into several categories: nature books (those mentioned above, as well as Ecomazes: 12 Earth Adventures; Desert Days, Desert Nights), four lift-the-flap books like Doors and Go!Go!Go!, four biography books (written by my husband Bo Zaunders); six Inside-Outside books, five maze books, and more.
Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I have several apps out, created with an excellent developer, OCG Studios: “Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure” is an original animated game app (up to 5 players) with commissioned music, sounds, and lots of challenges, based upon my five published mazes books; “Roxie’s Doors” is a direct book-to-app conversion, with animations, 3-D, sounds, music, narration, word-highlighting, and guessing games, created from my OP Chronicle book “Doors.” Interactive apps are also being made by OCG Studios for a fun book project I am working on called KIWiStoryBooks. These are giant walk-in picture books about a variety of subjects.
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 children’s book art?
A: I create oils and prints, in a style similar to my book illustration (lots of drawing, strong use of color, interesting perspective). Usually city scapes, which I show in galleries. I also license images for high-end holiday cards.
Q: Can you explain your art process? (please include a URL link to any visuals you may have on a blog or web site)
A: I do pencil sketches or thumbnails – very loose to start and then as I redraw (and do more research), they get more detailed. When I have a good pencil sketch done, I enlarge it with my copier, and using a light table, transfer lightly in pencil to good paper (usually Strathmore Bristol 500 2- or 3-ply). Then I ink it in, do the underlying shadows, and the final colors. Here’re some images of works-in-progress.
Q: What is your favorite medium to work in? Have you always worked in this media? If not, why did you switch?
A: I have been using the same ink and paints for years, so I have full control over it, and can leave my mind free to develop interesting compositions and colors, without having to struggle with the media. I really like FW colored inks and Liquitex acrylic inks – they are both lightfast, and I love the colors: from brilliant and rich, to quite lush and subtle. I use mainly transparent inks, so that my black drawing ink line and the underlying shadows show. Sometimes use opaque for touchups and detailing.
Q: Do you use models/source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?\
A: I use models/images/photos and draw from life when necessary in order to have the correct information in the art. If I’m drawing, say, a pencil sharpener or a cement mixer, I have to look at one to figure out how to draw it right. Or a specific species of animals. In some (not all) of the maze books, I can play around a little more.
Q: What gets you through an illustration when you’re stuck for inspiration?
A: Sometimes I set it aside and start another one, and go back to the first later. Looking at it in a fresh way, after some time goes by, often helps. With problems in the art, sometimes it is helpful to look at it just before you leave the studio, or go to bed, and, magically, your unconscious often solves the problem overnight.
Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
I have no idea. Maybe an oceanographer.
Q: What book do you remember from when you were young? (list one or multiple books)
A: My favorite was Andersen’s Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Szyk. Fabulous art, color, patterns, line – and he could draw anything beautifully! I pored over the work … concentrating on the lines, the details. When I found the book again in my late 30s and looked at the art, it was if I had just seen it all yesterday, rather than decades earlier.
Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (list one or multiple illustrators)
A: All my illustrator friends 😉
Q: If you could illustrate any writer’s new work, who would it be?
A: My husband, Bo Zaunders, has written four children’s books (a series of biographies) that I’ve illustrated. They got various awards, SLJ stars, and were on Best Lists. He is an excellent nonfiction writer…he’s the only one I would illustrate for.
Thanks for joining us this month, Roxie Munro!