15 Days of Giveaways: Carolyn Fisher

This interview originally ran in December of 2010. To win a copy of The Snow Show leave a comment on this post. 

Congratulations to Linda! You’ve won the copy of THE SNOW SHOW! Please email me your mailing address and I will send it out to you.

This week we’re touring the workspace of Carolyn Fisher, the author and illustrator of the picture books The Snow Show and A Twisted Tale, and the illustrator of Two Old Potatoes and Me written by John Coy

The Snow Show tells the story of how snow is made in a really fun and creative way. The picture book is presented as a cooking show (complete with a commercial break) with Chef Kelvin, a snowman, as your host. Chef Kelvin and friends investigate how snow is made. The art is stunning, the story both educational and funny, and the end of the book includes deleted scenes and even bloopers! The New York Times Book Review’s Paul Zelinsky said, “. . . visually arresting . . . one of the most gloriously exuberant, inventive displays of computer-created art that I have ever seen in a picture book.”

Carolyn Fisher’s illustrations have been commissioned by hundreds of 
magazines and newspapers.  As a special bonus treat with today’s interview, Carolyn is sharing sneak peeks from her upcoming 2011 title, Good Night World, written by Willa Perlman and being published by Beach Lane Books.

When not illustrating and writing, Carolyn Fisher talks to kids and grown-ups about writing and art. You can learn more about her and her work by visiting her website and her blog.

Describe your workspace.

I work in a room in my 1950s house in Calgary, Canada: in other houses of this vintage, it would be the dining room but in my house we dine on pictures and words . . . and eat in the kitchen!

Describe a typical workday.

8:45am I like to begin my workday by wrestling my two-old-son Kieran into a snowsuit, stashing him in a stroller, and dashing through a blizzard to daycare.

9:15am – 5pm Work of all kinds, including:

-Black and white illustration sketches: usually drawn rough on paper with colored pencils, revised over top of the pencil in black ink, retraced and fixed up on tracing paper, then scanned in and adjusted in Photoshop.

-Storyboard sketches, mapping out the way my books will look

-Sketchbook (which may fall by the wayside as a book deadline looms.)

-Critiquing stories from my writing group. (We live in different places, but give feedback via email.)

-Final art (usually electronic–drawn with a Wacom tablet using a stylus and incorporating scanned painted textures.)

-Writing and developing stories.

-Business things like replying to emails, setting up school visits.

Evenings and weekends: if a book deadline is approaching, I work evenings after my son goes to bed, plus weekends.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

I love fellow artist Lisa Brawn’s “New World Monster” who keeps watch just outside my studio and illustration hero Doug Fraser’s black-and-white painting, “Pooté”.

And my sketchbooks, because they’re where I grow stories and stash fragments and idea bits. I feel like my sketchbooks collectively are a bucket for my messy scribbles and scrawls and drawings and paintings: they are all my little stories woven together into my narrative of me.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

One year I took all my rejection letters and burned them in a bonfire. Does that count?

What media do you use and which is your favorite?

Digital media: Wacom tablet and stylus, Photoshop, Corel Painter.

I work traditionally in my sketchbook, but my book illustrations incorporate scanned-in textures plus digital mark making. I have a love/hate affair with the computer: I struggle with technical glitches and slow speeds on my gigantic complicated files. But I love the ease with which I can experiment using digital media. So does my editor, which is why she can make me do a million and eleven revisions to my final illustrations. Say, she’s not going to read this, is she?

artwork from forthcoming Good Night World
What do you listen to while you work?

CBC radio. (Don’t tell anybody about my secret crush on radio host Jian Ghomeshi.)
Music: Classical radio and KRCW.
NPR (a habit from when I lived in New York City), especially Fresh Air and This American Life.
Audiobooks: latest read was Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.

I listen to music when writing or designing illustrations. I save the words for when I’m painting.

artwork from forthcoming Good Night World
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I’m conducting a scientific experiment to see if solid chocolate or liquid chocolate trigger more good ideas per calorie.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

A sure knowledge that as soon as I pick my 2-year-old toddler up from his daycare, I’ll be kept frantically busy singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and playing Legos until he goes to bed.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

When writing, I alternate between scribbling notes on paper, typing drafts on my laptop, and drawing.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

Brainstorm, scribble ideas into sketchbook.

Research idea–read everything I can find about the topic. Rewrite, make notes.

Map out the story in a thumbnail storyboard. Sketch it rough in tiny picture boxes to see if the story idea will fit into a picture book.

Rewrite words on laptop until stuck.

Redraw sketches on tracing paper until stuck.

Repeat eleventy thousand times until book is done!

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?

Um, I don’t really love cleaning my paintbrushes . . .

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be? 

I share my workspace with my toddler, Kieran. Last week, (or perhaps I should say last EEK) he removed the “W”  key from my laptop. The week before, he decorated my file cabinet with marker. (Now we’re installing a baby gate.)

What is the best piece of illustrating or writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Love your sketchbook!

10 Responses to “15 Days of Giveaways: Carolyn Fisher”

  1. Anonymous

    Fun interview, Jennifer! And it looks like a super cute book! Thanks for the opportunity to enter your giveaway. Amy C.

  2. Linda Tate

    This is a wonderful way to showcase an artist's work and an engaging way to bring us into the back story of the artistic working environment and process. Thanks for sharing and for organizing this giveaway!

  3. Genevieve

    Bonfire! I love it. I was saving rejections, until I decided they were bringing bad mojo into the house. No bonfire, but I put them one-by-one into the shredder. Much better mojo now.

  4. Jenn (From the Mixed-Up Files)

    Congratulations to Yvonne Mes! You've won the copy of THE SNOW SHOW! Please email me your mailing address and I will send it out to you.

    Thank you everyone for your comments. There are still more great books to be given away, and more wonderful interviews to revisit. I hope you'll come back soon!