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Read on for an interview with Karen Lee, author and illustrator, as part of her friends' Book Blog Tour.
Hi, Karen! I'm so excited about your newest book, My Even Day, and excited to help you along on your book blog tour.
1. You are from a family with a bunch of kids born in a short number of years, just like me. How did that affect your art? As second of five, do you feel like an oldest kid or a middle kid?
I think both nature and nurture have had their influence on how I became an illustrator. I want to point out here that even as a very young child it was all about illustration for me – not fine art. I never wanted to be a fine artist and the reason I didn’t go to the nearby Cleveland Institute of Art is that it is a fine art school. It wasn’t until I discovered CCAD that I knew that was where I belonged.
I feel like the oldest. My brother is one year older than me and then I have stair stepping sisters, so I was leader of the girls (leader of all until my brother got taller than me in high school). I still feel that big sister need to round up my chicks and herd them where they need to go, not that I am a natural leader, just a chick herder.
2. What kind of art did you like to do as a kid?
Has any part of your art remained constant?
I was a very typical kid. I enjoyed art and it was always very exciting for me, but I wasn’t particularly driven. I went through the horse profile stage like every other girl. I had a pretty dynamite high school art experience and was able to try lots of different things. Drawing and painting have remained the constant and the work always looks like I did it – even when I look back on older work, there is something soft and Karenish about the work. That’s sort of frustrating but it’s also what contributes to the style.
3. You're married to an artist! That must make for some interesting
dinner table conversations at your house. How do you keep your work separate? How do you keep from morphing with him into a third, between-the-two sort of entity?
Yes! Our conversations can be pretty fun. I love being married to Tim the guy, but I am really fortunate to be married to Tim the artist. We have always kept each other passionate about art and that is precious. He turns me on to artists outside the children’s publishing world and that keeps me more in tune with what is happening in the broader world of illustration. I don’t think we keep our work separate and I’m glad.
We have had several overlapping clients over the years – one of his clients will call me not knowing that we are married, and the other way around. Although our work is different there is definitely an influence on each other. I am actually ready to morph with him now (oh, how he loves to hear that!). It took some maturity on my part to be able to think of working with him on something and we are beginning to. He is much more adventurous in his art than I am and I want to tap into his bravery, lean on him a little. And I think the art could be pretty spectacular!
What we don’t do is critique each other. We need to stay married and it is too hard to not take criticism personally.
4. Describe the perfect career path for you.
I want to continue to illustrate other people’s writing. I want to be offered work that challenges me to continue to move forward rather than stay in place. I want to continue to write and gain the confidence and skills to create something enduring and universal. I want to be able to delight in the work I am doing (as I am now). I don’t want to map out where the path ends up but find my way as I go. When I look back at where I’ve come from I am grateful that it led me here and I have certainly guided it, butI have also allowed for synchronicity and I know that will influence what becomes of me next.
5. Are you active in SCBWI or any other writer groups? What kind of stuff you do for them? And what do you get out of it?
Yes! I am very active in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators here in the Carolinas. I am the Illustration Coordinator for our chapter – which really means I am the head cheerleader and wrangler for the artists in the organization. I coordinate the art for our quarterly newsletter and occasionally provide articles. We are having our 15th annual fall conference beginning this Friday and I have been very involved in the planning for that. I love this organization and as much as I have put into it, I have received back in spades. It was through my first conferences and the SCBWI online discussion board that I learned the fundamentals of both the art of writing and illustrating for children, and then the business side of the profession. I entered contests (and won), found my publisher, found both online and local critique groups, and most importantly I found myself. I feel like I have a close circle of friends that I can count on, and a larger community that I can be inspired by.
6. You're only 29. Barely out of school and already making a name for yourself. What's different than what you expected, at this stage in the publishing game? What surprised you? What most pleases you?
Ha ha – yeah, 29. The real story is that I spent fifteen years doing storyboards in advertising and after I had both my kids I was exposed to children’s publishing for the first time. I decided to begin building my children’s portfolio when my youngest was two – and now she’s ten. So eight years is no meteoric rise. That is what I didn’t expect. I was shocked at how little I knew about creating effective picture book art, and then how long it took to have someone take the risk of signing me to do a book.
What pleases me? After years of being frustrated with my artwork almost all the time, I am now frustrated with it less than half the time. So for me the process has become the most fun. I love the early concepting phases and all the excitement that brings as ideas come together. I love drawing, I love painting. I love showing the finished result to people and seeing them react to it.
Read Karen's blog here.
Stay tuned for some art by Karen. I LOVE her work and will upload some later today....
Here's the rest of the book blog tour:
Monday: Elizabeth O. Dulemba -
Tuesday: Kim Norman -
Wednesday: here! Ruth McNally Barshaw -
Thursday: Barbara Johansen Newman -
Friday: Dotti Enderle -
Saturday: Kerry Madden -