An Illustrator for the Young at Art

Young at Art, p.2

Child: What process do you go through when creating a children's book? Can you take us through the steps, from inspiration to finished product?

Carle: It all starts with one's imagination, a spark. Once you have an idea, you sit down and sketch it on a piece of paper. After it seems to work out all right, you put your story in rough form on a 32-page dummy.

Now you've begun. Sometimes the idea develops nicely, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you work at it furiously and for long hours. Other times you may merely dabble a little here and there. You may get frustrated and banish your idea to a drawer or box. (I have several idea boxes.) All this takes time.

After I have my dummy, I start to make my collage illustrations. I didn't invent collage. Artists like Matisse and Picasso made collages, so did Leo Lionni and Ezra Jack Keats. Many children have made collages at home and in their classrooms.

I begin with plain tissue paper and paint with acrylic paint. Sometimes I use paintbrushes or my fingers. Other times I paint on a piece of carpet or burlap to create texture. These colorful, painted tissue papers become my palette for my artwork.

Once the papers have dried, I cut out the shapes I need and glue them with wallpaper paste onto illustration board.

When I start a book, it's a lot of fun. After a while, it's work, and then it becomes labor. Toward the end, it feels like slavery! And once it's finished and I deliver the completed illustrations to the publisher, I become sad. But when I see the printed book, I'm happy again!

Child: What kind of correspondence do you receive from your young fans?

Carle: I get hundreds of letters and e-mails each month from readers of all ages, and everyone who writes receives a response in return. Many children ask me about myself -- how old I am, if I'm married, if I have any pets. Some are curious about my creative process or how I make the noises in the books like the chirping sound in The Very Quiet Cricket. I'm often asked where the ideas for my books come from. Interestingly, it was a child who first asked me this question and then went on to give me the answer. This child said that ideas come from both your outside and your inside. I found that to be a perceptive and accurate response.

The biggest compliment comes when children tell me that they can make art like my collage illustrations. "I am an artist too," they'll say. This is always a big boost to me.

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