The first time I saw the artwork of Jeremy Holmes, I was sitting at a SCBWI conference. An art director from Chronicle Books handed me a copy of Jeremy's THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY.
She handed me this book to pass around the room of conference of attendees- but it never made it out of my hands. The art work was so amazing- I was immediately transfixed- but just as amazing was the concept and mechanics of the book itself! If you've never had the pleasure of perusing a copy- go out and find one now. Seriously. I'll wait...
The book jacket is literally a BOOK JACKET- the Old Lady's Coat. And once you help her out of her coat, the surprises only get better! Seeing the way in which Jeremy reinterpreted the form of the book- completely revolutionized the way I thought about what was possible in storytelling on the page. And so it happened, after having my bookmaking world turned upside down by Jeremy's work, that a few years later I ended up with the idea for a new type of wordless and reader interactive book titled FLORA and the FLAMINGO, coming out next spring from... Chronicle Books.
So, Jeremy and I now share a publisher, as well as a love of scrumdiddlyumptious baked goods, and- luckily for me- he's also willing to share a bit more about his work with all of us here in this Mini Interview!
Born in Landstuhl, Germany and raised in Auburn, New York, Jeremy enjoys long walks through the various flea markets of Eastern Pennsylvania in search of all things odd and peculiar for inspiration. Equipped with a Masters Degree from Tyler School of Art, and a Bachelors of Science in Graphic Design from Philadelphia University, he takes his place every morning as Mutt Ink’s resident widget aficionado.The QUESTIONS...
1. Describe yourself in five words:
2. Now, please tell us how you got started in picture book illustration (in more than five words)...
Truth be told, I've always known I was destined to become an artist. Yep, I was that Van Halen t-shirt sporting 6th grader who'd sit around all day drawing horses from memory… Well, maybe not from memory… and maybe not horses… OK… OK… FINE! I didn't draw or own a Van Halen t-shirt… I was more the Huey Lewis hoodie toting "dork grader" who couldn't sit still long enough to tie his own shoe and who was constantly being reprimanded for day dreaming. Fortunately for me, my flaws are now my strengths as a picture book maker. Unfortunately, I'd be well into my 30's before I'd come to realize any of this.
That said, I'd guess you'd say my picture book pilgrimage began in my early 30's, with my decision to attend the MFA program at Tyler School of Art. Originally, I returned to school to study graphic design, but my intentions swiftly shifted upon meeting the brilliant Joe Scorsone. Joe is the one responsible for recognizing and funneling my talents towards illustration and the splendiferous world of children's books. It would be during grad school that I'd create my first children's book, "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," but it would take an additional 4 years and the vision of some extraordinary people at Chronicle Books before I could officially shout the words "I'm published."
3. If you had to describe your work in terms of your artistic influences, you would say it is...
Jeremy's Picture Perfect Potion:
One hair from a Who
Two terrible yellow eyes
A dark colored crystal
An enormous carrot grown by a steadfast little boy
A purple crayon
A handful of Peanuts
A giant peach
and the "Holy Moly" of a Meggendorfer making.
4. Of the six fundamentals of 2D design (line, shape, volume, perspective, shading, and color):
a. Which is your greatest strength?
Because I started drawing later in life, I can't honestly say I'm overly confident with any of the fundamentals… but if you held a fork full of brussel sprouts to my mouth and forced me to answer, I'd say color.
b. Which poses your greatest challenge?
I would have to say perspective hurts my brain the most. Having to draw a character from multiple vantage points makes my hands clammy.
5. Given that illustration is different than many day to day jobs, how do you manage your time and maintain a daily routine?
Because the income model for a newbie author/illustrator is a bit unpredictable (and because I'm a father of 2), I have to teach part-time at the University of Pennsylvania for some financial stability. In short, I don't sleep much. If I'm not changing diapers or taking attendance, I'm drawing.
6. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given as an illustrator?
Never let a good idea get in the way of a great one. Oh, and work hard… and then work harder.
7. What new projects have you got coming down the pike?
I'm currently finishing up a picture book for Schwartz and Wade titled, "Poem-Mobiles," by the wonderful J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian. I'm also putting the final pencil marks on a chapter book for Little Brown titled, "What We Found In the Sofa and How It Saved the World," by Henry Clark.
8. Bonus Question! Coffee or Tea?
Coffee… preferably dark roasted with 2 Splenda and a touch of cream
If you'd like to pour yourself a cuppa coffee, and peruse more of Jeremy's work, (and I certainly suggest that you do), you can visit: