Corey Egbert, the illustrator of the Niuhi Shark Saga, has collaborated with children’s picture book author Annalisa Hall on a new book, The Holy Ghost is Like a Blanket.
It’s a charming series of analogies for young LDS children that explains the role of the Holy Ghost in their lives. A blanket, a pair of glasses, a seashell, a star—these and other everyday items are used to help children concretely connect with a very non-corporeal concept. The illustrations are warm and inviting and the language is simple and clear, perfect for parents to read at bedtime or whenever they’d like to invite the gentle spirit into their home. Firmly grounded in LDS scripture and hymns, The Holy Ghost is Like a Blanket is sure to be a favorite.
Today’s post is an interview with Corey Egbert, illustrator for One Boy, No Water. Corey was gracious enough drop by to answer a few questions.
Did you always want to be an illustrator?
No. When I was 6 years old, I wanted to be a scientist/nature photographer. Then when I was about 9, I wanted to be a Lego master builder. Even now I secretly wish I could be a travel show host. But I knew I loved to draw since before I can remember, and I’ve always loved books. So I figured illustration would be a perfect job because it is a combination of both of those.
What’s your preferred medium? Would you rather sketch on paper or on a computer?
I wish I was patient enough to do all my work on paper. If I did though, I would have to erase far too much and it would take forever!
I always start out with a pencil drawing in my sketchbook and then I scan it into the computer. The computer lets me do so much in a short amount of time, and if I want to change something, I can do it really easily without having to start over. But even though it’s on the computer, it’s still drawing. I still have to know all the components of art like scale, value, line, perspective, etc. The computer is just a tool.
One Boy, No Water is the first book you’ve illustrated. How is book illustration different from some of the other projects you’ve worked on?
Book illustration is different than doing other art because you have to create images based on someone else’s ideas instead of your own. The author created the characters, objects and world, and you have to draw them to be true to the story. I had to do a lot of research, ask a lot of questions, and sometimes revise my drawings multiple times to get them right. It really helped me grow as an artist because it pushed me to take my artwork farther than I would have on my own.
Which part of the process did you enjoy the most?
I really loved the challenge of taking characters that are only described in words and turning them into something that you can look at. The kids were very fun to draw because they each have different personalities. I enjoyed working on Zader because I felt like I could relate to him, especially since he is an artist too.
Which illustration from One Boy, No Water is your favorite?
I would have to say the one with Zader and Dream Girl and the castle. It was the hardest one for me to do. I worked on it forever and I really wasn’t pleased with what I was coming up with. I dreaded working on it and actually saved it for the night before my deadline! I ended up throwing my first version away and completely starting over. I am really pleased with how it eventually turned out. Castles have always been one of my favorite things to draw.
Now for the really important questions: Crayons or markers?
Haha. When I was a kid I thought crayons were for babies so I used markers. I like the deep, even colors and finer lines you get with markers. Crayons are too hard to control.
Whenever I am asked this, I always say that I like all colors because I am an artist. I just can’t decide.
Who are some of the illustrators you admire?
Maurice Sendak who created Where the Wild Things Are is one of my very favorites and possibly the most influential children’s book illustrator ever. I also used to try to copy the style of Eyvind Earle who did the background art for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Pauline Baynes, who illustrated the original editions of The Chronicles of Narnia was a big influence, too. I also love Glen Keane, Richard Scarry, Edward Gorey, Mary Blair, Kali Ciesemier, Chris Van Allsburg, Paul O. Zelinsky and Carson Ellis, to just name a few.
When you were eleven did you have a favorite cartoon or tv show?
I really liked the show Recess. I love how the playground was a microcosmic empire ruled by kids. It was full of wars, politics, economics… everything, just on a kid scale. I’m still waiting for that show to come out in a DVD collection.
What’s your favorite middle grade book?
There are too many to pick just one! I love Narnia, Harry Potter, the Prydain books, Tuck Everlasting, My Side of the Mountain, The Phantom Tollbooth, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, A Wrinkle In Time, The Giver, The Little Prince… and more. I still read middle grade books, and I can’t wait until my son is old enough so I can read my favorites to him!
Any words of wisdom for burgeoning illustrators who are considering illustration as a career?
Doodle every day! Keep a sketchbook. Learn the fundamentals of art like shape, color, line, value, balance, rhythm, etc. Learn to draw the human figure. Draw your friends and family! Invent your own characters and draw them doing different things. Try to tell a story with your drawings. Observe the world around you. And keep challenging yourself!
Thanks for stopping by, Corey! One Boy, No Water is available in hardback, trade paperback, and ebook on September 29, 2012 wherever books are sold.
Follow Cory on his blog: http://stevencoreyart.blogspot.com/
Writing is a reiterative process and creating the cover for a book is no different. The very talented Corey Egbert is the illustrator for the Niuhi Shark Saga and along with myself and the Jolly Fish Press team developed what eventually became the fantastic cover for One Boy, No Water. Surprisingly, our largest creative disagreement was over footwear.
Originally, Zader was going to be portrayed as wearing over-sized old-fashioned hip waders, the kind pineapple pickers used to wear. It’s not as odd as it sounds; it’s actually a plot point in the book. But when we saw the first draft, Christopher Loke, Executive Editor, didn’t like it. He thought it too clunky and wanted something more sleek and modern.
Corey’s next version was what Chris asked for, but I hated it. To my eye it was too girly. After some discussion, we decided to scrap the hip waders and a few other elements in our original design because we felt they were getting in the way of the emotion we wanted a potential reader to feel when he saw the cover.
Excited about the new direction, Chris asked, “What’s on Zader’s feet?”
“Slippahs or bare feet,” I said.
“On a reef?” He looked at me like I was crazy.
“It’s what kids wear,” I said.
“No, not Zader. It’s too dangerous for him to wear that. He wouldn’t do it.”
“He does in one part of the book,” said Kirk Cunningham, Head Publicist for Jolly Fish Press.
“Yeah, he does,” I said. “It’s in the climax.”
“No, it’s not right,” said Chris. “It’s not believable.”
We thought for a minute. I mentally flipped through images, trying to think of the kinds of footwear I’d seen around lava outcrops.
“What about deck shoes?” I asked.
“I LOVE deck shoes,” Chris exclaimed. “You mean the canvas-type shoes?”
“Deck shoes?” Corey asked.
“The kind from places like Landsend and LL Bean. I’ll send you some pictures,” I said.
“It’s deck shoes!” pronounced Chris, and we moved on.
But something about it bugged me and when I saw next draft, I realized why.
In Hawaii, I’ve never seen a local wear deck shoes to the beach or anywhere near water. It’s exclusively a tourist thing. The reason is simple: no matter how carefully you walk around reef, lava rocks, and the ocean, you’re still guaranteed to get your feet wet by either a rogue wave, bigger than expected splash, or unseen tide pool. In Hawaii, deck shoes, even the canvas ones, get ruined if they get ocean water in them—they never really dry out in the humidity and, well, can stink to high heaven if they’re worn again. Since you never, ever wear your shoes in a house in Hawaii (it’s considered very rude) the last thing you want to wear is stinky shoes you’ll have to take off in public.
I’m not sure why so many tourists wear them to the beach–if it’s because tourists get used to seeing these kinds of images in catalogs or because they think these kinds of shoes will protect their feet better or if they just wear shoes more often than locals–but our house was near a blow hole you could access by walking along lava rocks and tide pools and there wasn’t a day we didn’t see a tourist limping back to his car to nurse the blisters he got where the sand and saltwater’d rubbed his feet raw in his deck shoes.
As a local kid, Zader would never wear deck shoes on a reef.
My hunch was confirmed when I showed the latest image to my kids and husband individually. After “wow” then very next thing each of them said was, “What’s he wearing on his feet?”
JFP’s initial response was no, the deck shoes are great. Slippahs or bare feet would not be as elegant, especially with the heel toward the audience. But then the point was raised that one of our goals for the series was to be true to the local Hawaiian culture, even if that was counter-intuitive to the rest of the world. Corey was green-lighted to change it to slippahs.
I knew it was the right decision when I showed the final version of the cover to my Dad, Mr. Aloha himself, who’d never seen any of the other versions. The first thing he said wasn’t wow or that’s amazing or you’re going to sell a bazillion books with that cover. He said, “Oh, good. He’s in slippers.”
“Really, Dad? That’s the first thing you see? Fo’real?”
“The ghost shark thing is cool. Very sci-fi fantasy. It’s just that when you told me it was a reef scene I was a afraid he’d be in god-awful deck shoes or something.”