Five Questions for T2 Artist, JANE SMITH

Continuing our T2 interview series, we recently sent five questions to the fabulous children’s author and illustrator: JANE SMITH.  Here’s what she had to say:

1.)     Jane, as a paper artist, how do you go about finding and collecting papers?  And how do you keep them organized?

I find them everywhere from my mailbox to inside my Christmas presents to my local art supply stores! My collection is a large work-in-progress. I have old pantone papers from the days of manual paste-ups. I have tons of tissue papers, salvaged from presents and packages as well as from art supply stores. I have a variety of origami papers, color-aid papers and handmade papers. I always save the colored envelopes that the numerous holiday cards I receive throughout the year arrive in. I have a stash of paper sample booklets from my days as an Art Director. And I always keep the interesting colored wrappings that bouquets of flowers come sheathed in. I have also been using quite a bit of fabric lately and love shopping for beautiful patterns at my local fabric store.

 I keep my largest sheets of paper flat and clean inside a gigantic set of metal flat files that I adore. The sheets are all organized by color, plus a drawer just for patterns. Smaller pieces of paper are sorted by color into large envelopes that are stored inside plastic bins that keep them clean and dry. I also have a big plastic bin for paper sample booklets and another one just for fabric. And since I tend to remember every single piece of paper and fabric I collect, I would say that I have mental inventory list too!

 2.)     Who and what influences your work?

 I have always been inspired by the Abstract Expressionist movement. I particularly love the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Louise Nevelson (her sculpture at the Columbus Museum of Art was a favorite even as a little girl!). I often visit these artist’s works in the permanent collection at the MOCA in downtown Los Angeles.

 The DIY craft movement that has taken off in recent years also influences me. The movement swirls around the bright and colorful world of flea markets and craft fairs that are buzzing with homegrown creative energy. I can’t get enough of browsing on Etsy, and love purchasing everything from homemade pants to hand-thrown pottery to recycled glass bottle cups from individual artisans. It’s very exciting!

 I also love the following things (in no particular order) and find that they often spark new project ideas: silly words like hootenanny & philodendron, everything southwestern from cowboys to succulents to beans & rice, cupcakes, Japanese pottery, vegetarian cooking, reading crime & horror novels, Samurai Jack, hiking and Bigfoot.

 3.)     You are currently creating and fine tuning book dummies for the children’s market.  Briefly describe your process.  Is it pictures first? 

 Actually, no, it isn’t! When I’m working on a dummy book, I start with the manuscript first and like to work it until it is pretty tight (usually 10+ drafts!). Then I pace out the text by cutting and pasting the manuscript into a blank dummy. This process reveals which pages have too much text, where the page turns are working and/or not working, where the climax is hitting, etc. and then I make revisions accordingly. Only then do I start thinking about the images!

 At this point I start with thumbnails. Once I have worked out what the images need to be, how I’m going to accommodate the text and what pages are full spreads versus single pages, I start creating full-sized sketches. Like the manuscript, the sketches usually go through several round of revisions before becoming solid enough to move forward.

 Once I am satisfied with the sketches, I put everything together in InDesign. With my background designing children’s novelty books, using a professional design program to create my book dummy is a natural choice. I lay out the sketches and after spending a fair amount of time scrutinizing fonts, I make my choices for the title and body copy. Then I lay in the text. Once I feel confident about the overall book design, I print out the dummy and assemble it for submission packages to publishing clients.

 4.)     Describe your perfect Saturday night.

 It’s all about simple pleasures! My perfect Saturday night would begin with a snuggle with my 17 month old daughter, Phoebe Love, and then she’d fall asleep by 8pm. My husband, Chris, and I would order takeout from my favorite Italian restaurant: spinach & cheese ravioli with garlic cream sauce and artichoke hearts, mushrooms and shrimp. We would cozy up together and watch our favorite TV show of the moment. I would have a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. And then I’d fall asleep dreaming about a squirrel selling nut-flavored ice creams.

5.)     Picture book: name your current favorite and why!

 This is so hard—I’ve got so many favorites! But if I had to just pick one…I’d say Henry In Love by Peter McCarty. This book is absolutely gorgeous! The palette is sophisticated, the use of negative space is light and refreshing and the character design is sweet, but understated. I really enjoy the gentle pace of this story and am completely won over by the darling ending sealed with a delicious muffin!

Picture by Jane Smith