Storey acquisitions editor Deanna F. Cook and Hsinping Pan, the illustrator of Babies First Kind Words, Be Kind, and Give Thanks (coming in November 2021), discuss process, inspiration, and so much more.
DEANNA: How did you decide to become a kid’s book illustrator?
HSINPING: I have loved to draw since I was a kid, but I never thought that it could be a career option for me. Until when I was in high school, there was a new bookstore in Taipei, they had a room that was full of children’s books from many different countries. It opened a door for me.
I was so surprised to see that children’s books could be so beautiful and that there were so many varieties. It was a new and beautiful world for me, and I really wanted to be part of that world. I think that was the first time that I dreamt of becoming a kid’s book illustrator.
DEANNA: Did you like to draw when you were little?
HSINPING: Yes, I loved drawing. When I feel bored or sad or happy, I like to draw. Drawing is the most fun thing to do.
DEANNA: Did you have favorite children’s books as a child?
HSINPING: When I entered elementary school, my mom bought a set of children’s books for me. There were 12 books that came once a month. Every month I was really looking forward to receiving the book. Each book was full of ancient folk tales and beautiful illustrations. It was so fun to read.
DEANNA: What was the first book that you illustrated?
HSINPING: It is a book called Work Creature. The story is about the Chinese ancient letters. There are 24 letters about nature, each word comes with a short story and a 30-second animation. I illustrated the book, and also made the animations with my friends.
DEANNA: Where do you get your inspiration for the kids, characters, and scenes you draw?
HSINPING: I like to play with colors and shapes. I have a sketchbook and I like to draw just for fun. I think that is a really good practice. I also collect some beautiful children’s books and they bring me a lot of inspiration too!
DEANNA: What made you think of the tree for the cover of Be Kind? Or the giant hug for the cover of Give Thanks?
HSINPING: When I first read the book Be Kind, I felt the message of this book was like a little seed, when kids read the book, the seed of kindness would be planted in their hearts. And it will grow into a big and beautiful tree. And kindness will reach more people. So, I thought it would be nice to draw a big tree with nice people surrounding it.
For Give Thanks the giant hug is inspired by a small drawing from the Be Kind book. It’s a drawing where two people hug each other with very long arms. The art director and editors really liked it and I thought it fit the book title too.
DEANNA: How do you make your artwork? What’s your process?
HSINPING: When I get a new project, usually I will be a little panicked and nervous. And then I will convince myself to just grab a pencil and my sketchbook to draw whatever comes into my mind.
Once I start drawing, I will feel much better, and more ideas will come. At this stage, I need a lot of coffee and sweets for an energy boost. After the sketch gets approved, I will start coloring. Coloring is a more relaxing part for me. Usually, I use Adobe Illustrator to color, and I like to experiment with many color combinations. And then sometimes I add a little texture in Photoshop.
DEANNA: What do you hope your young readers will feel when they see your illustrations?
HSINPING: When I was a kid, I felt reading children’s books was like taking a journey to many different and fascinating places. It was full of imagination and brought me a lot of happiness. I hope my drawing can make young readers feel that way too.
DEANNA: What’s something that you are grateful for?
HSINPING: I am really grateful to have worked on these books. I love the message of the books, they are positive, warm, and very useful. And I really enjoyed drawing all these drawings! Thank you so much for these wonderful books!