Kelly lives in Long Island, N.Y.. She is right now, drawing in her attic studio surrounded by old radios, books, cartoon collectibles and is usually singing very loudly. She is currently working hard on her first three books. All due out Spring 2014: ,THE QUIRKS - WELCOME TO NORMAL, written by Erin Soderberg (Bloomsbury), ELVIS AND THE UNDERDOGS, written by Jenny Lee (Balzer and Bray), LOUISE LOVES ART, by Kelly Light (Balzer and Bray).
Spring 2015 brings LOLA KNOWS A LOT, by Jenna McCarthy (Harper Collins)
When Juana, Laura, Mikela and I got together over cake and coffee to talk about who we wanted to feature in our month of Mini Interviews...
"Kelly Light! We should talk to Kelly Light!" -was the first thing I said.
'YES!" was the chorus of replies through mouthfuls of delectable vanilla mango cake (provided by Juana).
It was clear to all of us that this was an opportunity to have our cake and eat it too! I could interview someone who is both my pal AND an amazing author/illustrator!
Now, months later it is the day before Thanksgiving... mango cake has given way to pumpkin pie, and I am so thankful that I am playing host to the amazing Ms. Light here on my blog.
The day before thanksgiving is known as "Pie Day" at my house. And on this fine Pie Day, I am thinking of how the wonderful work of Kelly Light is like a scrumptious homemade pie... She starts with the best ingredients: keen drawing skills, a great sense of story, and tremendous humor. Then she stirs them all together, and wraps them up in character designs so delicious that they melt your heart. Last but not least she tops it off with a dollop of the unexpected!
Now, it's time for Kelly to dish up her answers to our Mini Interview questions!
We begin with...
A Bonus Question! Coffee or Tea?
Tea is my favorite. Altho, I need one cup of coffee every single morning.
1. Describe yourself in five words:
2. Now, please tell us how you got started in picture book illustration (in more than five words)...
I decided to switch careers after staying home with my daughter for the first five years of her life. Before having her, I had been working in cartoon merchandising for years as a character artist for the major cartoon properties. When I decided to go back into art full time, I wanted to draw my own characters and tell my own stories. So, I joined SCBWI, took a children’s book portfolio class at SVA in NYC and started the journey to being published. That journey took seven years. My first published book was in 2010. A novelty book. Then I did a few early readers. In 2012, I had my first book offer to illustrate a middle grade chapter book for Bloomsbury, followed by another chapter book for Balzer and Bray, then 3 picture books; one with Balzer and Bray and two with Harper Collins. One picture book is my first as an author/illustrator! All of these start coming out in Spring 2014.
3. If you had to describe your work in terms of your artistic influences, you would say it is..
I am a cartoonist, through and through... As a kid, I consumed Sunday funnies, Saturday morning cartoons, animated movies, comic books, and children’s books. When I was 4, my Grandmother took me to see Cinderella. I remember it. I remember watching the Prince waltz with her and it hit me.... those are drawings! I never wanted to do anything else. I just didn’t think you had to choose what kind of cartoons you were going to make and cartooning you were going to do. I thought I could do it all.
I tried! I had a college cartoon strip. It was awful. It’s the hardest of all of the cartoon jobs- the daily strip. Oy vey, it was bad.
I worked in animation until I was 24. It was exciting and frustrating and thrilling and soul sucking - all at the same time. I want back into that world in the worst way.... I will be taking a book of mine out to L.A. sometime soon....
The merchandise art was like being an idea generating machine. I was a concept generator. I did sketches and comps and passed those on to others to do final art. I would have to fill an entire wall of my office everyday with ideas for merchandise every single day. It was like being in Advertising. Someone would walk in at four in the afternoon and say I need 8 concepts for a dinner meeting ! Go! - That was great training.
Now, with the children’s books... I find it very satisfying...because this kind of creating allows for story telling. The whole enchilada from start to finish. The space to breathe into the work and give it life and hand it over to kids so they bring themselves into the story! What could be better?
AND - I have a (fabulous) graphic novel idea!! So I want to do comic books too!
If I had to choose one, greatest influence, it would be Chuck Jones. He was a masterful drawer and he was a masterful comedian and a masterful observer of life and a masterful actor with a pencil.
I also hold dear to my heart Charles Schulz, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Richard Scarry and Walt Kelly... and that other guy Walt too... the one with the mouse... he had quite a brain... and an eye for talent.
4. Of the six fundamentals of 2D design (line, shape, volume, perspective, shading, and color):
a.Which is your greatest strength?
Line. Line is everything to me.... I love it... it makes me swoon.
b. Which poses your greatest challenge?
Perspective. I avoid drawing extreme perspectives.
5. Given that illustration is different than many day to day jobs, how to you manage your time and maintain a daily routine?
Well, I am a night owl. My life has gotten so busy recently with three books going on at once. I get up at 6:30 AM, get my daughter off to school, run to the gym and run home and work. I work all day while she’s at school. Then take a bit of a break til after dinner. After dinner- I work until midnight. Or later if there is a deadline. I am getting used to not sleeping.
6.What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given as an illustrator?
“What the hell are you waiting for?” - I was waiting for a long time to “be discovered”. I thought it would happen within the SCBWI organization and when it wasn’t happening.. I got very down on my work.When I decided this past Spring, that I was gonna go and put myself ALL out there.... I was suddenly inundated with interest from publishers.
I owe that person a lot. Sometimes we need a kick in the tucchus to wake us up. My tucchus is very grateful!
7.What new projects have you got coming down the pike?
I have books to work on through 2014, with the last one coming out Fall 2015. Right now as I type... I am gathering all of my other book ideas to take in to my agent- to line up more projects after what I have going on right now. I have a book that I have worked on for almost 3 years. It is very, very, dear to me and I have been afraid to show it. After this summer’s amazing experience of putting it all out there - I’m putting this book out there too.
To dish up another helping (or two) of Kelly's work, you can visit:
Kelly on Facebook
We'll be cooking up a fresh batch of Mini Interviews for next week- so be sure to check out...
Mikela's Blog on Thursday
Laura's blog on Friday.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING and HAPPY PIE DAY too!