We are breaking out our finest paper napkins and polishing up the mismatched silverware for this! We’ve been baking pie and brewing coffee so pull up a chair and prepare to indulge! We are so pleased to have the illustrious Priscilla Burris in our humble diner. From all the motley doodlers and our friends, “THANKS, Priscilla, FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US!” (actually, their individual imaginary responses are:
Roberta: “Woohoo! Welcome to our diner!”
Teri: “Today’s pies are blueberry, pumpkin, cherry, and banana cream. Let us know when you are ready to order.”
Kathleen: “We also have fresh berries. I picked them myself this morning.”
Candace: “Thanks so very much for coming!”
Linda: “Here, catch!” (tossing Priscilla a pencil…just in case it is needed!)
David: “Are you gonna eat that pie?”
Mike: slugging David in the arm, “Well, are you?”
Val: “Don’t mind them, and of course, yours is on the house. Enjoy!”
When did you first realize you wanted to illustrate children’s books? Growing up across my neighborhood street from our local public library was where my love of picturebooks began. I was always creating art, doodling and drawing, but it was taking a college course for Early Childhood Education that finally opened my eyes to a career in illustrating children’s books. The final project was, in fact, to write and illustrate a children’s picturebook!
As a child, what were some of your favorite books? Any book by Syd Hoff was a favorite of mine. Beverly Cleary books.
Who are some of the artists and/or authors who inspire you? Artists: Syd Hoff. Margaret Bloy Graham. Mark Buehner.
Authors: Jill Barklem (Brambly Hedge Series), Bill Martin, Jr., Dav Pilkey, Daniel Pinkwater
People probably ask you “How long does it take to paint one of the pages?” The best answer I heard for this came from an art teacher. Someone asked him how long it took to make a painting. He said, “My whole life up to that point.” Besides the paintings taking “your whole life” to paint, which in reality, is very true, can you give our readers an idea of how long it might take you to complete the artwork in one of your books? Anywhere from one month to 4 months for the final art to be completed.
Many of our readers are illustrators that have been working hard to break into the industry, or who have done so recently. What advice can you give them? Persevere. Keep at it. Stay on top of what’s being published, immersing yourself in picturebooks on a regular basis.
Take note on what illustrative work moves or inspires you. Above all, be professional and be You!
In what ways do you feel the industry has changed in the past twenty years?Seems more competitive, both in the number of illustrators submitting as well as in the amount of available publishers
In what ways do you feel it has stayed the same?Quality stories and illustrations that evoke heartfelt, humorous and memorable emotions are still needed out there!
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your profession?Creating and developing the characters is a top favorite of mine, especially illustrating their emotions and expressions!
I always say I can’t not work as an illustrator, because I love doing this so much!
Least favorites would be some of the business aspects, especially when a project is cancelled. Rare, but it happens.
Can you tell us something funny or insightful that a child has said to you during a book-signing or school visit? During a school visit, after reading my ‘Five Green And Speckled Frogs’ to first-graders, one little boy asked me if I also did the pictures for the book,
and when I answered yes, he broke out in a huge smile and said, ‘DANG, you’re good!’.
Another first-grader wrote a note to me that said, “The most interesting part was when you knowed how to be an artist. You are the best drawer in the whole wide world!”
Based on your own experience, and despite popular belief or common teachings, how do you think being an author/illustrator is different from being just an author or just an illustrator in terms of submitting stories to publishers? As an author/illustrator we have the distinct opportunity to submit a dummy as well as a manuscript for our books. We come as one package to the publisher, which is in itself a benefit to both!
One of the great things about this industry is that each artist embarks upon his/her own journey. Almost as amazing is that each book also has a life of its own. Does one of your books have a special story you would like to share with us?The Tale Of Jack Frost (Scholastic, Cartwheel Books Nov 08), written by Marcia T. Jones; This book involved something very unfamiliar to me – frost! It was a delight to work on and research what a little town and a little boy would experience living in a frozen setting. Not only did I find photos of frost, snow, and all things related, I also enjoyed movies that had a ‘snow’ base and setting. Always great to get in the ‘mood’ of a story. Research can be so much fun!
What types of things should artists consider before agreeing to work with an agent?Realize that while an agent can open doors for you that you don’t even know are out there, a professional illustrator should continue to self-promote and network in every way possible. I believe an illustrator ready for an agent ought to have this mindset: “I’m on this illustrator career path, and I’d like you to travel this journey with me”.
Now for the big question! When you visit a diner, what would you be most likely to order from the menu? Strong, hot coffee, a club sandwich, and of course a slice of warm berry pie a la mode!
Thank you for taking time to share your experiences with us. Anything else you would like to add before getting back to your artwork?Other illustrators and authors truly inspire me. I love to visit their blogs and websites, and of course, read their books!