The Picture Book Buzz - Interview With Patrice Barton
Initially introduced to her work, through the stunning book, The Invisible Boy, it is an honor to interview the gifted illustrator Patrice Barton and learn a bit about the creation of her newest picture book - Brave Every Day.
Patrice Barton’s earned her BFA in Studio Art from UT in Austin TX, where she lives today with her husband and good dog, Archer. Her picture book illustrations have twice been accepted into the Society of Illustrator’s Original Art Exhibit. She also received an “outstanding portfolio” certificate in the fifth grade from Sister Mary Pacella, which was the prime motivation for pursuing her dream job, illustrating children’s books.
She is the illustrator of 30 books, including I See You See by Richard Jackson (2021), Remarkably You by Pat Zietlow Miller (2019), Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! by Trudi Ludwig (2018), Did You Hear What I Heard?: Poems About School by Kay Winters (2018), Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari (2017), The Year of the Garden by Andrea Cheng (2017), Little Bitty Friends by Elizabeth McPike (2016), Bringing the Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals (2016), Uh-Oh! by Shutta Crum (2015), The Year Of The Three Sisters by Andrea Cheng (2015), The Year Of The Fortune Cookie by Andrea Cheng (2014), I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora (2014), The Year Of The Baby by Andrea Cheng (2013), The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (2013) Treasures from Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson (2011), Still More Stories From Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson (2011), More Stories From Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson (2011), Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine by Allison Wortche (2011), and In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson (2010).
Her newest picture book, Brave Every Day by Trudy Ludwig, releases tomorrow.
Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you illustrate? How long have you been illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to illustrate?)
My studio is a converted game room upstairs in our home with a large window that lets the afternoon light shine in. Nice and bright. I have four tables in use. One for my computer and gear, one for sketching. The other two are for playing, covered with supplies I might be experimenting with. I like to have them set up so I can jump in and get busy any time. It’s a nice warm up exercise before I start working.
Before entering the children’s market, I was an illustrator for the state of Texas for a bit over 17 years. I had a few freelance clients in the educational market and I worked on those projects at night after my day job. After saving up my freelance money, and with my husband’s encouragement, I took a leap of faith. I left my day job, freelanced full time and never looked back. I signed with my artist agent, Chris Tugeau, for the children’s market shortly after. I think my first
illustrated trade picture book was published about 2009.
Your studio sounds heavenly. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I jumped out of an airplane once. Not an emergency. It was a recreational thing. College days. My sister and I completed a day of skydiving lessons at a tiny airport named The Crow’s Nest and afterwards, at sundown, it was time to jump. The airplane was little-bitty, no seats except for the pilot’s. And also, no door. When I clambered into the plane all I could think about was how angry my sister would be when I refused to jump. LOL! But when our instructor slapped me on the back and shouted, “GET OUT!” I did. And it was beautiful!
Oh, hey! Like Camile, I was brave, I just didn’t know it yet!
Wow! What a great memory to have with your sister. And of your own bravery. Have you found anything particularly helpful in keeping you inspired and writing these past couple of years?
I’ve always been inspired by little slices of life. A baby's belly laugh, dogs being silly, baking with my son, watching little kids interact as they walk past my house, people watching in general. All those little "everyday" moments tug at my heart and influence my work.
Our neighborhood has always been pretty active, but over the last few years, with people being home more, it’s become very active. Instead of a mother with a stroller walking by, it’s a family with a stroller and their dog walking by. Even the teenagers join them. Not just a dad jogging, but a dad with a few children jogging. Families all on bikes riding along. And everyone happy to wave hello from across the street as we pass each other on our walks. It was comforting to see and share smiles. More of those “everyday” moments!
I've always loved the way you capture kid's every day moments - both sad and joyous. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
One fish two fish red fish blue fish, by Dr. Seuss launched my love for picture books. It was the first book I ever owned. I couldn’t read yet so I pestered every literate person I could find to read it to me until finally, I had it memorized. I delighted in every word, rhyme and illustration.
After learning to read, I became an avid reader. A few of my favorite childhood authors and illustrators were Beverley Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Margaret Wise Brown, Garth Williams, and Richard Scarry. I also loved to pore over encyclopedias and maps.
What was it about the manuscript of Brave Every Day which intrigued you? In other words, was it the manuscript or the fact that you’ve created two other books with Trudy that enticed you to illustrate this one?
I think a well created picture book begins with a great story with a lot of heart. Everything else will build on that. Trudy Ludwig’s stories fit this bill. Illustrating them is a true gift!
One of my favorite quotes: "When you bait the hook with your heart, the fish always bite." John Burroughs
Oh my gosh, I love that quote! Thank you. I put it over my computer. How many revisions did it take to create the illustrations for Brave Every Day?
Not many. A few questions and suggestions are exchanged and discussed in the sketch phase, I send in any needed revisions, then after approval I move on to finals. I think we adjusted the color on a spread in the final art. The cover did go through several revisions. Picture book making is a team effort with everyone working together to make the book shine and I love being a part of the team.
You've all created a stunning,heartfelt book. Is there something you want your readers to know about, or take away from, Brave Every Day?
I hope children will see that in spite of being worried, giving something a “try” is one brave step to take.
Many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Brave Every Day? Could you share one or more with us?
Text © Trudy Ludwig, 2022. Image © Patrice Barton, 2022.
I did tuck in a few of my favorite things. I’m a big fan of cowboy boots, so one little classmate is wearing a pair. I also love clean laundry and clotheslines, so one spread has Camila hiding in a fresh sheet that’s hanging on a clothesline. One more, Camila’s yellow-striped cat companion is a nod to one of my sister’s cats, Yoyo.
I love this spread and the adorable cat! You’ve illustrated a wide range of picture books and the Anna Wang novel series. Is one genre more challenging? Was there anything particularly challenging about the illustrations for Brave Every Day?
I enjoy illustrating both genres. I think the illustrations have different roles in each. In chapter books, they play more of a supporting role. They must say just enough, but no more. I look for an event in each chapter that will make an engaging illustration - one that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers so they will be enticed to read the story.
Just like the illustrations in chapter books, picture book illustrations need to engage the reader. But instead of playing a supporting role, picture book illustrations take center stage. The words are fewer, the audience younger, so the images play a major role fusing seamlessly with the text. They must move the story forward and compel the reader to turn the page and the next and the next.
© Patrice Barton, 2022.
One challenge in illustrating Brave Every Day was to capture Camila’s anxiety visually, sincerely honoring her fears, but not have them feel insurmountable. Have you ever worried about something in the middle of the night only to revisit the thought in the morning and it seems silly? Camila worries about getting eaten by a “big ol’ hungry shark." That’s a scary thought for sure. I chose to illustrate this by drawing a cartoon shark getting a “bite” using a fishing pole and catching Camila on the line. That’s silly. It deflects the scary part of her anxiety. I’m hoping the silliness here may help the readers tame an out-of-proportion worry they may have.
You did a great job of honestly and genuinely putting us into Camila's shoes and providing a possible way to deal with such fears! Is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Which is your favorite spread?
Text © Trudy Ludwig, 2022. Image © Patrice Barton, 2022.
I have a special place in my heart for endpapers. I love opening a cover and immediately beginning the story. Endpapers are a little clue of what’s to come. In this book, the front endpapers show Camila’s worry words - "What if," "I Can’t," and "I’m Scared" swirling in a sea of blue with hints of fish and other sea creatures. The back endpapers have the same swirling blue sea, but the worry words are replaced with "I’ll Try," showing Camila’s growth.
I adore these endpapers and the growth you represent within them. Especially as it shows that everything isn't "fixed," but Camila's trying. Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I am working on a few projects, but nothing I can share just yet.
We will just have to keep our eyes open. Good luck with them. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?
One park I’m longing to visit is Sequoia National Park. I’d love to see the giant sequoia trees, especially the world’s most massive tree, General Sherman. I want to see something so huge and so old and just take it all in.
I hope you get to take this trip! Thank you Patrice for sharing with us a bit about yourself, your illustrations, and your newest picture book.
Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Brave Every Day.
To find out more about Patrice Barton, or to contact her: