Thursday, 15 August 2013

Author Interview: Kevin Luthardt

Kevin Luthardt is the author and illustrator of 'When Edgar Met Cecil.' We think you'll enjoy his answers to our questions. 

How did you get the idea for 'When Edgar Met Cecil'?
 I have 4 boys... so robots and aliens are part of the Luthardt family culture!  I was actually painting a mural in my sons' bedroom, transforming their room into another planet (see attached photo) with aliens, robots, spaceships, etc.  After drawing and painting these things for a few weeks, a story idea evolved.  I'm also a big Star Wars fan, so I've always wanted to do a space themed story.
 What medium do you use to illustrate your books?
Although I have used a variety of mediums in different books, for the past several years I have been working with acrylics.
When did you decide you wanted to write and illustrate children's books?
Well, since I was a young kid I always wanted to be an artist of some kind (back then I wanted to create a comic strip like Peanuts).  I studied painting in college and my images always seemed to lean on the narrative side and the whimsical side.  I also started working with kids in different venues (art camps, etc.). After graduation as I was wondering what to do with my life, for some reason I found myself in bookstores and libraries often looking at picture books.  A light bulb clicked over my head, and the rest is history. 
Who is your favorite author, and why?
I'll focus in picture book authors... I am amazed by authors that can say a lot with just a few words, or ones that can tell a simple story in a clever, fresh way.  I guess I am drawn more to humorous writers like Mo Willems, Jon Scieszka, and Lane Smith.   I recently read the book I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.  I read it out loud to my different sons and each time I (along with them) laughed out loud.  It's been a while since I've enjoyed a picture book that much.    
Who is your favorite illustrator, and why?
I am drawn to illustrators that make feel like I need to go take some drawing classes... ones where I say to myself "how did he/she do that?"  Some illustrators that amaze me include: Lane Smith, Peter McCarty, Chris Van Allsburg, Eric Rohmann, David Weisner, Michael Sowa (German illustrator), Quint Buchholz (another German illustrator)... an artist I recently started admiring is Shaun Tan--his book The Arrival is hauntingly, visually brilliant. 
Which is harder, writing or illustrating?
I don't know if one is harder... they are basically two different "languages".  For me, ideas come visually first since I began as an artist.  So, the illustrating comes more naturally to me.  Then, I develop the text and images back and forth together.  Once I began making books, I gained a much deeper respect for writers as "artists of words". 
Which is more fun, writing or illustrating?
I guess the most fun part about making a book for me is when I am in the final artwork stage where I am in that "zone" working feverishly on illustrations.
What's your favorite thing to draw?
Characters with big heads.
What's your least favorite thing to draw?
vampires, werewolves, and zombies... these also happen to be my least favorite themes for movies.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to write children's books?
Write, write, write...  and then write some more!!!  Read lots of books, all kinds of books.  Simple advice, but you can never overstate the importance of honing your craft.  Find ways to get real feedback for your writing outside of your mom and relatives and friends (who will always tell you your work is awesome!).  Once you have a manuscript you want to send out, be very aggressive and get it into as many editor hands as possible.  When you receive that rejection letter, use it as fuel to push you even harder forward.  Learn about the industry from organizations like the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators).   
What advice do you have for someone wanting to illustrate children's books?
Draw, draw, draw... and then draw some more (see above question)!!!  Someone told me once that I wasn't a real painter until I did 100 paintings.  That may not make you an artist, but there is something about the continual, purposeful development of your work that makes you a stronger artist with each piece that you create.  Frequent art galleries, art museums, libraries, bookstores and look, study, be influenced.     

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