A Peek at the Creative Space of Salina Yoon (and TWO Giveaways!)
Salina Yoon is an author, illustrator, and format designer of nearly 200 novelty and board books. If you have or work with little ones, you’ve no doubt come across some of her wonderful books like Do Cows Meow, At the Beach, and Pretend and Play: Toolbox. Her latest novelty book is Pinwheel from Little, Brown.
Salina is also the award-winning author and illustrator of the Penguin picture book series, featuring Penguin and Pinecone, and the forthcoming Penguin on Vacation and Penguin in Love from Walker Books. Check out this super cute trailer of Penguin and Pinecone:
And Penguin keeps a blog where you can keep up with his adventures, like the time he tried to decorate for Christmas.
Salina is also the creator of another picture book, Found, also forthcoming from Walker, and the picture book, Level 1, forthcoming from HarperCollins. For more information about Salina, visit her website.
Salina has generously offered not one but TWO GIVEAWAYS! To celebrate the publication of her two newest titles, Pinwheel and Penguin on Vacation (both available for sale TODAY), she is giving away a signed copy of each. To be entered to win, please leave a comment on this post and the title you would most like to win. (Contest open to United States and Canada.) I will use a random number generator to pick two winners. I’ll accept giveaway comment entries up until Sunday, April 21, and will announce the winners in a separate blog post next week. Good luck!
Describe your workspace.
My workspace is . . . open. Open because it has no doors and lots of windows, open 24-hours (for whatever hour I choose to work), and open to new ideas and projects always. It is also open to family traffic, but if I need extra time to work on weekends or after hours, Penguin gets positioned right in the center of my two work spaces. The family knows this means DO NOT DISTURB. When Penguin stands guard, you might hear my husband Chris say, “Boys. Penguin is up. You know what that means.” And . . . they do.
Chris made the penguin cut-out for me for book events, and my mom knitted the scarf!
My studio takes up two small rooms in the front of the house. Let’s take a tour!
The left room: My library is full of reference books (organized by holiday, theme, and format), picture books, and board and novelty books of all kinds. If I’m doing a book on trucks, I know exactly where to pull my trucks reference book. This room holds my desk, computer, and drafting table (for traditional artwork).
I have limited shelf space. The top two shelves of my main book shelf is reserved for just my published titles. It holds the last 100 published titles or so . . . but books get rotated as new titles come in.
The right room: This used to be a dining room. But guess what. I don’t throw formal dinner parties. I throw casual ones in the kitchen or the back patio. So it was converted to my building room. I use this room for engineering formats, building dummies, sketching, packaging, and comes in very handy for wrapping presents. It also has a door to a secret room that Chris built for me (a space underneath the staircase which he finished out) for storage (and a secret play room for the boys). See if you can find the door.
Oh, Penguin! He’s always traipsing through my studio! Describe a typical workday.
The workday officially starts when my husband takes the kids to school at 8:25. I check in with my best writing buds via email, and might hop on over to the Blueboards (message board for children’s authors and illustrators) before officially working. My desk is almost always clear of clutter except my to-do list (tucked away in drawer in photo, as they are super-secret!) My desktop (on the computer) is almost always not! There’s a lot of misc things I need to do and lots of emails to write. If not, I’m playing online Mahjong. At 2:50, I often make a short drive to Starbucks, get a venti mocha, and take a brisk walk over to school to get the kids. Or my husband will pick them up, but I do enjoy the walk. Our community is very scenic and the nice weather often draws me out. Once the kids are home, and if I have more work to do, the Penguin goes up. If not, I’ll still be on my computer (emailing, Blueboarding, Mahjonging, or news reading) but accessible to the family.
What media do you use and which is your favorite?
I mostly do digital artwork nowadays but I’ve worked with various mediums. I love that I can keep my space clutter free when painting digitally. No paints to put away, no brushes to clean, no illustration boards to store . . . and the biggest issue . . . storing away the final art when it is returned from the publisher. I have massive stacks of final art tucked away in my storage room. Now, all of my final files are on my computer and backed up on my external G-drive. I have an iMac, a Wacom Intuos tablet, and photo printer. I use Photoshop and Illustrator for artwork, and InDesign for final layouts. List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
(1) My ceiling. Chris is very good at painting clouds (and pretty much anything else). I asked him to paint them on my ceiling. He used a paint roller, airbrush and paint brush to get this effect. I look up at the ceiling a few times a day, and it just has a lifting affect. If you want to see what else he paints, check out his website: www.christopherpolentz.com The man can paint. 🙂 (But hasn’t attempted children’s books . . . yet!)
(2) Moon face. This is the first piece of artwork I’ve ever purchased. I bought this hand-sculpted hand-painted piece at the university gallery when I was attending college. It hangs at our front entry and greets (or creeps out) our guests.
(3) Magic wand. This was a gift from a good friend who hand-made this beautiful, whimsical, most-magical wand! (Thank you, Mels!) If I have a book submission out, I may wave it around three times over my head and cast the acquisition spell. It has its kinks but it’s only because I lost the magic-wand user-manual. The wand is magic, I’m sure!
Sorry, Cat. You didn’t make it to my top 3 list. But I do adore you just the same. She sits tall, and enjoys the view.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.
If I’m starting a brand new book project, I always do a thorough cleaning of my studio spaces first. I find clutter very distracting, especially for creativity. I don’t mind toys all over the family room floor or even a few dishes in the sink (since I don’t have to see it while I work), but I DO mind an untidy studio space when I’m about to begin a new project.
What do you listen to while you work?
The voices in my head. 🙂
The only time I will listen to music while I work is when it doesn’t require as much thinking . . . like cutting, building, printing out things, or packaging up work. Otherwise, it’s silent. What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
Coffee. Lots of it. With chocolate-flavored creamer. At least three times a day. But I’m not a snacker. I stick to just meals . . . big lunch and light dinner. What keeps you focused while you’re working?
Knowing that my kids will be home by 3:30! But this doesn’t mean I’m always focused. I can easily go through weeks, sometimes months, without feeling like I’m being productive at all, and then BAM! Inspiration hits, and an idea is in the works, and the submission dummy gets done in 3 weeks. Focus is sporadic and spontaneous for me. It is not regular. I do not work on books every day. Sometimes, I just think about it . . . or not. The less pressure I put on myself, the freer my mind will be to create new ideas. Being happy is a key ingredient to creativity! And vice versa. Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
A book idea almost always starts on paper before moving onto screen. My initial rough sketches are pretty rough (and tiny). Here is an example of two spreads from Penguin and Pinecone.
The thumbnail sketch was about 2″ x 1″. The smaller I start, the less intimidating the work is. I write loose notes as I go, but let the picture tell the story before I know what to write. The story is more clear in scenes to me than actual words. As you can see, the final version of the thumbnails stayed relatively the same at finish. I flesh out the details at final stage. (Final spreads were 9″ x 18″, illustrated on Photoshop). How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
I like to look at the whole book layout at once when I develop novelties or picture books. I print out my blank template for a 40-page PB layout, which is just 16 rectangles, each of them numbered. Often times, I end up cutting some of them out, replacing with a revised thumbnail, and taping it back on. In my work bag, I carry small child-safe scissors, tape, a fine mechanical pencil and eraser. These are in my work bag because I often develop story ideas at the library or at my local cafe. If my work requires the computer, I will be home. Whenever I can work outside of my studio, I take advantage of that just to change things up.
Rough thumbnail stage (first 8 spreads): (actual size of thumbnails here are about 3″ x 1-1/2″)
Sample interior spread:
What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?
Creating a captivating and eye catching cover that makes the reader want to open it! The cover is critical, both for my novelties and picture books. How do you capture the essence of the book with just one single image? It’s hard.
Kaleidoscope and Pinwheel (Little, Brown)
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
My 9-yr old son, no doubt. In fact, he often uses my drafting table when he’s got something he’s working on. And I’ve been giving him more drawer and cabinet space every year, so he’s slowly moving into my studio. We love working together, and even help each other out. If he needs a photo reference, I can quickly put it up on the screen for him or grab it from my reference library. Need a space book? Got it. Need a book on sea animals? Have that too. (And some are my own titles.)
Space Walk and Deep Sea Dive (Sterling, 2012)
And if I want his feedback on a book dummy, he’s more than happy to read and share his input. His initial thoughts are often surprisingly on the mark, sometimes to my dismay. We both enjoy working in silence, unlike my husband Chris who enjoys TV or music at all times while he works. It’s a good thing that his studio is on the opposite end of the house from mine! But he comes to visit me often. 🙂
Doors to Chris’ art studio. (Oh… look at that. THAT’S where the frisbee went!)
What is the best piece of writing/illustrating advice you’ve heard or received?
Don’t fall in love with your work. This isn’t to say don’t love your work. If you didn’t, you couldn’t develop it and put in all the time it requires. But be willing to accept shelving it because if you’re not, you won’t be able to move forward and create more work. Each project has its purpose in an artist’s/writer’s journey, whether they are published or not. Whenever I’ve sold something, I remind myself that this project would have never been developed if I didn’t keep going after the last several that didn’t. Don’t make yourself stuck by loving one ms too much. Move forward!