The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Illustrator Will Terry
To continue this week's special treat, we have the illustrator of Bonaparte Falls Apart visiting to talk to us a bit about illustrating this book and illustrations in general. He is an illustrator who loves to blog, vlog, teach, and of course illustrate. Will has illustrated about 31 picture and easy reader books.
Will, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest book and illustrating.
Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you draw? How long have you been
illustrating or drawing? What is your favorite type of children’s book to illustrate?)
Thank you for the opportunity to tell a little bit about myself and my work. I've always loved art and music and I draw whenever there's down time...and lately I also pick up my bass to pluck out a tune or two.
What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I can verbally list all 42 prepositions in alphabetical order in 15 seconds...
If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?
Your value is in your unique spirit - nobody can be you - and as an artist the world wants to see what the fully developed artist in you can do - and they'll pay you to see it.
What is the hardest thing about illustrating children’s books?
Understanding the story and staying out of the way of it.
I fell in love with Bonaparte. Your images of his mishaps, especially when “his bones rolled away” are so funny. And I just love his facial expressions. What was your inspiration for Bonaparte?
He is a nice innocent kid who had a problem - and like so many kids he was born with it. He had to look innocent but not look like a victim. He had to show real emotion and we struggled with a few of the images but I'm very happy with the way it turned out!
Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
I really loved P.D. Eastman's work - in fact the final scene in Bonaparte was inspired by the final scene in Go Dog Go - the top of the tree dog party.
What is your favorite medium to work with? Your least favorite or hardest?
I love working digitally - I'm not very fond of gouache.
What is the best thing an author can do to help an illustrator? The worst?
Understand that you're both artists - the author's job is finished after he/she finishes the MS and unless the illustrator clearly doesn't understand the story the author shouldn't interfere. The illustrator needs to be able to interpret the story in his/her own style and storytelling. A good picture book falls apart if the images and words are separated. The worst thing an author can do is project non-essential items as requests or demands to the artist. Eye and hair color of a character is irrelevant if not mentioned in the story - AND should only be mentioned in the story if integral to THE story. (Do I sound like I have a little experience with this one? :-)
Maybe just a little, tiny bit. Did you have any contact with Margery Cuyler before or during your illustration of this book? Was this different that when you previously illustrated Skeleton for Dinner?
We actually worked on another project that didn't go so well many years back and I'm glad that that didn't prevent us from moving on and working on Skeleton and Bonaparte. Life is funny - you make mistakes - get bumps and bruises but I find that those who push forward usually go on to do many wonderful things. Margery writes really fun stories - we raised our boys on her book That's good! That's Bad!
Do you have a favorite book that you’ve illustrated? (We promise NOT to tell the others)
Perhaps one that was the most gratifying to illustrate? Maybe one that means the most you or your family? Or one that tickled your funny bone the most?
I think the answer to this one constantly changes - will continue to change. Right now it's Bonaparte! Not because it's new but because I feel like I was able to incorporate so many principles I learned or have improved on over the years. It's a culmination of my career to date.
Many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the
illustrations. Did you do this in Bonaparte Falls Apart? Could you share one with us?
I didn't have a lot of extra time for this but I did create a list of spooky items that I hid throughout the book - if you look closely you can find them - some are more hidden than others.
Can you elaborate on your indie ebooks and your story app series? Does your style,
preparation, or input differ between these and traditional picture book illustrations?
My ebooks like Monkey and Croc were more of an experiment than anything else - the digital delivery "ebook" was new and the opportunity to self publish them direct to Barnes and Noble or Amazon popped up so I acted. I never expected to make much more money than the time I put into them. Now that the volume of ebooks had grown and the opportunity has shrunk I decided to move onto other projects.
How did your online school and self-study course at Svslearn get started?
It's a long story but in a nutshell I wanted to explore the online options for teaching. I teach to improve my craft, help others, and increase my income. I'm an impatient person by nature so the idea of making a class, publishing it the same day, and promoting it online was very appealing. Luckily I found two other like minded and very talented partners - Jake Parker and Lee White to make svslearn.com a really fun project! We have a blast teaching people in over 100 countries around the world. We'll be moving into an office space together in a few weeks! Who knows where this will go?
Do you have any advice for beginning illustrators? Perhaps something about illustrating or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or anything you’re glad you didn’t know about in advance?
Talent is overrated - passion and determination are much more important. You really can work your way into an art career if you're willing to sacrifice.
Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I can't really share them because of NDAs but one of them is a book :-) ... but I also continue to work on my pop culture character series for comic con shows.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
Dogs because they seem to like me :-)
Thank you, Will for stopping by and sharing with us. It was truly wonderful to chat.
Be sure to check out my review of Bonaparte Falls Apart tomorrow.
To find out more about Will Terry, or get in touch with him: