Lynne Avril was born and grew up in Montana, where she received a BA in Art from the University of (Hippie) Montana, Missoula, the Berkeley of the Northwest where she was also able to (somehow) complete her degree without taking a single math class. She has spent the last 30 years, however, living in and enjoying Arizona. She has spent those years trying out several career possibilities such as dishwasher, line cook, oil painter, typeset deliverer, aerobics instructor, and wife, before settling on children's book illustration, by that time getting near late age. Now she is busy working with Herman Parish on the new "young" Amelia Bedelia series and has illustrated over 80 books. She also plays bass in local Phoenix blues bands, and likes to travel to France. Voila!
Full disclosure: I think Lynne Avril is awesome. So, you'll find no unbiased reviews here!
Lynne is the sort of a person who makes you smile just by walking into a room. Her energy and enthusiasm for life and art are contagious! She is also- cool. That word gets bandied about with abandon these days, but Lynne really is. Children's book illustrator extraordinaire by day (and night depending on the number of deadlines she's juggling); in her spare time she plays bass in a blues band, and spends her summers in Paris. I'd say that I want to be like Lynne when I grow up, but one of the many wonderful things about Lynne is that I don't think she has ever totally grown up... And I'd venture to say that it's that sense of play in her life, spilling over into her work, that makes her art so appealing!
But enough of me gushing about Lynne- let's hear what she has to say in answer to our Mini Interview questions!
We begin with a Bonus Question...
Coffe or Tea?
Excellent choice! Now onto...
The (real) QUESTIONS...
1. Describe yourself in five words:
hedonistic, perserverant, energetic, hard-working, creative
2. Now, please tell us how you got started in picture book illustration (in more than five words)...
I've always been an artist of some sort, whether it was oil painting, sign painting, or mural painting, but after my second child was born, I was doing free-lance graphic art and any other job that would come my way. I was actually throwing my son in his car seat and driving around town to various print shops delivering typeset at that moment. So one day, the typesetter person mentioned she had recieved a random call from someone looking to hire an artist to do some children's illustration. Since I am game for about anything, I went to the office of Josten's Learning Corporation in downtown Phoenix, which was somewhat intimidating for me at that time, being a small-town Montana girl. But I had three things to show: one birth announcement for my son, one for my daughter, and one I did for a friend's kid. As luck would have it, I got hired on the spot. Maybe nobody else had answered the call. Or nobody else had had such cute kids. Whatever, I ended up illustrating 18 small black and white storybooks for them, and I knew I had found my metier. So I sent samples to New York, and I got great responses but they said they would really like to see some of my color work. OK. I'll get those right to you.....So I went out and bought some watercolors and brushes, sent out more samples, and one day I came home and there was a message from Lucille Chomowicz at Simon and Schustser, that she had a book for me! And I've been busy working every day since then and that was 20 years ago. I was just damn lucky that's all.
3. If you had to describe your work in terms of your artistic influences, you would say it is...
I would say a lot of my influence comes from European aritsts and illustrators. I would say Bemelmans, Charlotte Voake, Tibor Gergely, Sempe, Dufy. I also love Maira Kahlman, Laura Cornell, and Marjorie Priceman. And don't forget Quentin Blake! I love the Disney artiste extraordinaire, Mary Blair. And I have to give credit to my good friend Brian G. Karas. He's the one who helped me get my first agent too.
4. Of the six fundamentals of 2D design (line, shape, volume, perspective, shading, and color):
a. Which is your greatest strength?
Mmm, I think maybe line and color. Do you know, back in the days, in primary school we had penmanship - yes, children really learned the art of making beautiful lines! And I think that gave me an appreciation for the beauty of line and a control that stuck with me. And as far as color, to me that's like cooking - making something so delicious you want to eat it!
b. Which poses your greatest challenge?
It's probably perspective hahaha but not making it RIGHT, making it WRONG. I like things a little topsy-turvey and nothing makes me as nervous as a straight horizon line. My dad tried to teach me how to draw everything right, and it took me years to unlearn it.
5. Given that illustration is different than many day to day jobs, how to you manage your time and maintain a daily routine?
What I love about my job is the freedom it gives me. I call it my "office in a box" because I can pick it up and work from anywhere. I have been living in Paris for two months of the year for the last four years. I generally work every day from 4 - 16 hours. I don't have set hours, I just know what needs to get done that day and I do it. I used to be a late night person, but now, I'm an early bird.
6. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given as an illustrator?
Here are some good ones: Use the biggest brush possible for the situation. Don't ever crumple up an attempt. A shot of tequila gets the flow going. Never be late on a deadline. Draw everything and all the time.
7. What new projects have you got coming down the pike?
2013 is Amelia Bedelia's 50th anniversary, so we've been very busy getting books ready - picture books, I Can Read books, and chapter books. I have one or two of each of those done and in production at this time. I also have a new Cowgirl book done, called "Every Cowgirl Loves her School", a very fun picturebook called "The Underpants Dance" (which is done all except the cover), a new Ruby Valentine book in the works, and a new book with author Marilyn Singer called "I"m Gonna Climb a Mountain in my Patent Leather Shoes".
Well, if anyone can climb a mountain in patent leather shoes- it's Lynne!
If you're interested in learning more about Lynne's work you can check out her website: www.lynneavril.com
Her page on Facebook
See you back here next Wednesday for another Mini Interview!
And in the meantime... You can check out the rest of this week's Mini Interviews with...
Amanda Shepherd on Juana's Blog (posted Tuesday)
Alexandra Boiger on Mikela's Blog - Thursday
Mary Sullivan on Laura's Blog- Friday