Thursday, November 08, 2007

Robert's Snow illustrator profile - Linda Graves

Katerina's Dove by Linda Graves

This... THIS is a Christmas present. Isn't it stunning? And it could be yours if you place the winning bid in the Robert's Snow auction starting December 3.

I'll confess that on first blush, Linda Graves' style doesn't appear to be my cup of fair-trade locally-roasted organic half-decaf. I generally go for the cartoony, the collage-y, the fast and spiky. Let's face it, I read 17 picture books at a sitting. My attention span is so short I've given up on all adult fiction other than serial killer thrillers and Christopher Moore. The only movies we go see are based on comic books, series fiction, or amusement park rides.

So, for dazzled idiots like me, there are plenty of artists who have mastered the gestural line and the hot color injection, plenty of artists whose bold strokes can snag even my fractured attention.

But, luckily for the world of children's lit, not everybody is an idiot like me.

I have these darling girls and boys that come through the library who can sit with a book and just fall into the illustrations. I love those kids. I remember being one of those kids, before boys and the Clash and work and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and motherhood spoiled me for anything not fast and spicy.

For these kids we make sure to buy everything illustrated by any Pinkney, everything by Paul O. Zelinsky, and we keep artists like Sylvia Long and Floyd Cooper bookmarked in our heads.

And I am telling you, after sitting down and spending quality time with The Wise Woman and Her Secret, The Enchanted Gardening Book, The Story of Hanukkah, and a couple issues of The Katie Lynn Cookie Company (seriously!), Linda Graves belongs on that short list of illustrators who have mastered the slow hand, the considered, naturalistic color palette, the precise shading that gives even the smallest details volume and weight.

Looking at this snowflake, you can feel the dedication and discipline that she brings to her work. Equally at home with pastels, colored pencils, and watercolor, she switches mediums, building up layers until she achieves the desired result, "a light and rather dreamlike palette," in her words.

These days, in her "little house with a big studio in the woods on a pond" in the Berkshires, she is trying to master a new medium: oil on canvas or paper.

I caught up with Linda for a few questions this week.

Did you start out in illustration? If not, what brought you to it?
I've always drawn and painted, and was, as a child surrounded by books which were illustrated, so I've always been drawn to illustration. I studied it in art school (San Jose State University).

I love the detail you bring to plants - I'm guessing you draw from life. Do you garden?
I do garden, and do sometimes draw from life. I've always loved the world of nature, both plants and animals, so it gives me great pleasure to be able to paint them.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Another one of my loves is music. I really love all sorts, but Classical, Celtic, some New Age, Choral, some old Rock, and yes, I almost always listen to music while I work. The violin is my favorite instrument.

What kind of books do you like best?
My favorite books are picture books. Fairytales, Folklore, and Fantasy are my preferences.

Favorite candy?

What non-art area are you most qualified to give advice on? i.e. car repair, dog training, baking, dealing with contractors, planning a vacation, that kind of thing.
I guess I'm a pretty good cook--at least that's what my fellow Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild members think.

I really wish I could draw. What do you wish you could do but can't (if anything :)?
I wish I could oil paint first, and play the violin second.

Bad habits?
There are really too many bad habits to list, but I guess eating too much chocolate is one.

Is there a story behind "Katerina's Dove" that you'd like to share?
"Katerina's Dove" was created just to promote the feeling of peace.

The last thing I asked Linda was whether she had a "dream date" author she'd like to work with.
As a matter of fact I am currently working with my "Dream Date" writer. Jane Yolen has written a wonderful Scandinavian folktale based on an old Nordic tale. She is also part of WMIG, and a really fantastic storyteller, as you must know.

If that's not a fairy-tale ending, I don't know what is. Bid on "Katerina's Dove" starting December 3, and watch for the forthcoming Jane Yolen picture book illustrated by the disciplined but never heavy Linda Graves.