Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Joanne Renaud, Illustrator, Ya Artist, And One Kick Ass Broad!


When Katherine introduced me to your work, I was so taken aback by the sheer beauty of your illustrations. Each is as classical as it is whimsical. And there is an elegant, inviting darkness to your work, as well. The women you sketch and illustrate, even in seemingly vulnerable positions illuminate strength and poise. I'm so intrigued by your work and want to know more about it and you. Start spilling, sistergirl.

Do you remember the first time you drew something? If so, what did it feel like?
I've been drawing as long as I can remember. I was always the "artist" in the family. When I was eight or so, I used to write my own Choose Your Adventure stories and illustrate them. I still kept a number of those- one of them was called "The Secret of Unicorn Valley." It was really silly, but there was this boy at school who saw my books and was so impressed by them that he wanted me to do a Transformers story. I was flattered, even though I thought the Transformers were lame.

You have a very distinctive point of view. Did you always have this or was it something that took time to cultivate?
"Distinctive point of view"? Do you mean my style? It's taken me the past ten years or so to really hone it, I think, but I always have room to grow and evolve.

Were any specific artists who influenced your style?
Trina Schart Hyman, Mercer Mayer, Kinuko Craft, Sanjulian, and Judith Mitchell influenced me when I was really young. I loved their craftsmanship, details, rich colors and their sense of drama and whimsy.

Any specific illustrators work you admire?
Rebecca Guay's work is astonishing; I also love the work of Josephine Barrett, Angus McBride, Niroot Puttapitat and Riyoko Ikeda. All of them are amazing at drawing and painting, and can draw people and clothes from different eras beautifully. They're also not married to using models; over-reliance on models, I've found, tends to really stiffen up a drawing.

Do you sell your illustrations to art collectors?
Well, I've shown a few pieces and have done a few commissions, but I haven't really tried to make any serious inroads into the gallery scene. That's a really big investment, and I don't want to move into that direction just yet.

Do you have a sketchbook?
Yes I do. I'm generally pretty good at drawing stuff in it every day, but I haven't been up to it lately. In fact, the last thing I drew was Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck from "The Princess Bride," right before Comic-Con. When I was there, I actually met some friends of Chris's, the guys who made the great animated movie "The Chosen One," who really liked the picture when I showed it to them. I kept in touch with them, and through them I was able to send C.S. a scan of the pic. You can see it
here.

Chris's response to the drawing was: "Truly Cool. Looks like my fuller lipped, blue-eyed younger brother. But what's with those pointy shoes?"

I replied: "The pointy shoes were actually a style popular in the 15th century. I wasn't trying to follow any particular costumes from the movie, but since Humperdinck's wardrobe had a 15th century feel, I decided to draw a specifically mid 1400s outfit." I haven't heard back from him yet, but I hope he was amused by my costume geekery. Fab response. I'm sure he was.

If I'm not mistaken, you illustrate Ya Novels, correct? Please tell me more about that and some of the novels you've worked on.
Well, my first book cover was YA, but most of the rest of what I've done has mainly been middle grade, for the tween market. Nowadays YA covers tend to be Photoshopped photographs, which annoy me. There seems to be this assumption now that teenagers want stock photos on their book covers... I'm not really sure where this comes from. Teens like illustrations too, but good luck telling the publishing houses that.

How has the market changed since you first started selling your work?
Well, that would have been in 2004, so I can't really reminisce about the good old days. I have heard plenty of stories what the children's book industry was like back about fifteen, twenty years ago, and by all accounts it was less corporate, more hands-on, and art directors actually took their illustrators out to lunch.

A friend of Trina Schart Hyman recently told me that Trina used to work 10-12 hours a day on her art every single day. To me that's amazing. Can you imagine? Being able to spend every day drawing and painting! Nowadays illustrators (regardless of medium) have to blog, network, write emails, update their MySpace and facebook pages and know html, in addition to promoting themselves IRL. The days before the internetz seems very long ago to me.

Where do you feel the market for YA and children's books is going?
There's been a lot of rampant speculation about that lately. Graphic novels and comics will probably continue to be really hot, and ebooks and blogs and everything pertaining to the intertubes will probably get more important. Other than that, I really can't say. Almost any predictions about the future are notoriously unreliable. After all, look at "2001." Weren't we supposed to be living on Mars by now? Good point.

Who are your favorite YA novelists out there?
I love almost anything by Jane Yolen, Kathleen Duey and William Sleator; I'm also a big fan of Carolyn Meyer, Edward Bloor, Vivian Vande Velde and Geraldine Harris (who should be better known- her Seven Citadels quartet is amazing). Other fantasy writers I like- ones who aren't specifically YA, but who get read in a lot of high schools- are Tanith Lee and Richard Adams. So many authors, so little time...

How can a YA Novelist contact you for work? Do you primarily work with publishers or publishers and authors?
Mainly I work with the publishers. However, recently I finished a job for an author who hired me to do a number of interior illustrations for a book she was writing for Simon & Schuster. This was actually in her contract, to find and pay for illustrators, since her book is graphics intensive. I've never heard of such a thing before, and neither have any of my colleagues. It was a highly unusual situation, but it ended up working out for me since I got paid far quicker than I would have if S&S were handling the job directly.

Generally, I discourage working with an author directly, unless he or she is planning to self-publish. Publishers frown on authors finding their own illustrators. I've been told many times that the houses want to find their own artists, and it will actually hurt a manuscript if it comes with illustrations that the author hasn't done herself.

Is there a feminist angle to your work? Or am I just projecting?! God knows, I live to project, being a favored pastime and all.
No, I don't think you're imagining things. Depicting strong (and well-dressed) women with agency is definitely a priority of mine. I hated Buttercup from the "Princess Bride" for being such a helpless idiot... I wanted to be Princess Leia. She got to kick ass, slap (and kiss) Han Solo, and wear very cool costumes. I was especially fond of the cloaked pantsuit she wore in Cloud City.

Over the next five-years, what direction do you see your art taking?
I'd like to diversify my artwork, do more editorial, and get into the fantasy market. I also have a few books up my sleeve- one of them involves princesses. Because it all comes back to Leia, probably.

Is there anything else you'd like to spill that we should know about? Because you know we want all the dish, toots!
Well, I don't know if I can think of anything particularly interesting offhand, but I would like to move to New York soon. Also, our mutual friend Katherine and I are thinking of working on a girl's adventure series, about a time-travelling girl mercenary (think Stargate meets Time Bandits, sans midgets). I'll let you know how that goes! You are a riot, child.

You shared a bit about a book you're writing, can you please go into more detail?
I can't say too much about it yet, but it's a picture book about princesses. And bunnies. I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

I'm a big Jew Yorker, you're moving back, when?
Next year, I'm hoping.

Why? (Not that I blame you, of course...)
I have family there, and it's where the publishers are. I've lived in LA for ten years, and it was fine, but now I'd like to move on.

Do you think it will be better for your career? Do you miss the city? Spill.
Yes, I think it will be better for my career in the long run. It's been said that nowadays, with the internetz, one can be a freelancer and live anywhere. That's not quite true. You still need plenty of face to face time with your prospective clients, and if you're in publishing (and not established yet) you either need to fly in constantly to the city, or live not so far away. I like New York. I've spent a lot of time visiting, and I tend to feel more artistically "plugged in" when I'm there. You've got all those cool museums like the Met and the Frick, which I never tire of. Also, I have a lot of good friends on the East Coast and in the UK and Europe, and living in NYC will enable me to visit them more often.

Give me links to all of your work online, everything you got babe!
Okey dokey! Here's my
website, and my deviantArt site. "Honey Cake," by Joan Betty Stuchner, published by Random House, is due out in stores on August 26th. It's a thrilling little middle grade novel about a Jewish pastry shop owner's son who gets caught up in the middle of the Danish resistance in World War 2. It's got eclairs and Nazis... and a cover by me! You can pre-order it on Amazon.
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Joanne is also on Facebook and Twitter (don't whack me darling). Friend the girl and fast. Keep track of her work, dish with her and get to know her even better.

 

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