Kim Lewis

We have the most exciting range of picture books coming out in 2009 and to celebrate we have asked Kim Lewis, author and illustrator of Seymour and Henry which comes out this month, to give us a peek at what happens behind the scenes in her studio ...

Where did you draw your inspiration from for Seymour and Henry? What gave you the idea for the story?

One day I found two rather naughty looking stuffed ducks in the local paper shop and brought them home. They sat on a shelf in the studio for a long time, looking as if they were waiting for a story. An idea came while watching a mother duck trying to shepherd her brood across a village road on Vancouver Island. So I made a stuffed Mummy duck for Seymour and Henry and let them pit a pat into a book, at last.

Do you have a favourite passage or picture in the book?

I like the page where Seymour and Henry are going for a ride on Mummy’s back. It reminds me of piggy backs and happy times with parents, heading for the comfort of home.

How do you ‘create’ a picture book? Do you write the words first, or draw the pictures?

Because I do both the writing and illustrating, sometimes it’s hard to say which comes first, the words or the pictures. A visual event will spark an idea, just as an overheard or read phrase will spark a picture in my mind. I seem to collect both words and pictures for quite awhile before there are enough ingredients for a picture book.

Seymour and Henry were rather fussy about their story but then I suppose it was because they are really just troublesome toddlers.

Can you tell us a bit about the mediums and materials you work with and why?

I use soft coloured pencils and have hundreds arrayed by the drawing board. Lately I have been doing an under layer of colour with pastels, to give the drawing a bit of a glow.

Is there any particular routine involved in your writing/illustrating process (a favourite paintbrush or a place you particularly like to work)?

For some reason I am happiest doing my writing outside, under the porch roof, as if the fresh air makes things clearer. My drawing board and chair are also near the window in the studio so that I can stare out at the landscape from time to time. And I always have lots of family photos stuck on the walls, for comfort and inspiration. The stuffed animal collection is beginning to get out of hand ...

What does a typical day involve for you?

My work day begins with opening up the studio, turning on the radio, standing and thinking: “Now, where was I?” Usually what’s on the drawing board draws me in so I get curious and sit down. Before you know it a whole day has gone and I am hungry for supper. Then there is a mad dash to light the fire and do house things.

Do you have any pets or a favourite animal?

I have an ex-stray cat called Pip, who is a bit dotty. My favourite animal, forever and always, is the Border collie.

When did you first feel that you wanted to create picture books?

I loved art at school, and writing but I never would have thought of doing picture books if my author/illustrator friend Penny Dale hadn’t suggested it.

So I began by telling the story of the shepherding year for my son who was three at the time. Twenty or so books later and I am still drawn to the pleasure of describing events in a nutshell for children.

What were your favourite books as a child?

Raggedy Ann, Paddle to the Sea, and Winnie the Pooh.

Do you have any hobbies?

My hobbies are walking, mucking about in the garden, rearranging the house, collecting baskets and stuffed animals and spending as much free time as possible with family and friends.

Who are your favourite artists/ do you have a favourite painting?

Vermeer, Rothko and Andrew Wyeth are my favourite painters. My favourite painting is Vermeer’s 'The Kitchenmaid', because of its peaceful domestic absorption and blue apron.