Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!
Which means today (in my house at least) is Pie Day!
We get out all the ingredients.
Make every one from scratch.
Mixing, rolling, baking, testing...
(The taste testing is my favorite part)
When we're all done, we've made an incredible mess, but we've also made something wonderfully sweet, to savor and share.
So, it seems especially fitting that today, Pie Day, is the day in which our featured interviewee is someone who's work is also something incredible.
It's my pleasure to offer you a virtual piece of pie, and something even more wonderful to savor…
The work of Melissa Sweet.
Which books- that were your favorites when you were little- have had the greatest influence on your work?
The Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak were big favorites. Sendak's illustrations have so much the emotion. Those books were one of the reasons I wanted to become an illustrator. Golden Books were a staple in our home. I still have I Can Fly written and illustrated by Mary Blair. Her paintings and her color palette feel as fresh as ever.
Please share an instance in which the seed of an idea or experience, (though small at the start), took root, and grew to become one of your books...
A number of years ago an art director I work with casually mentioned the artist Tony Sarg to me. She described him as an illustrator, a puppeteer and the man who invented the Macy's parade balloons. In that moment, I felt someone had placed an uncut diamond in my lap. Very little had been written about him and as I pieced together the story of his life, Balloons Over Broadway took shape. The project was about five years in the making. It was such an honor to introduce kids to Sarg.
Do you ever tuck little personal homages or details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek at one of your favorites.
All the time! I grew up with a very funny scottish terrier named Angus. He's in a lot of books and you can find him one of the parade scenes in Balloons Over Broadway.
Could you describe your work-a-day routine, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without. (Besides caffeine ;)
My routine is pretty sacred.
I have tea, breakfast, check my email on my laptap or iphone. By 8am I gather the dogs to go to the studio, which is a separate building right next to my house.
There's no real preamble--I just sit down and start in.
I think it was Joyce Carol Oats who said she worked 4 good hours each day. I'd say four hours is about the most I work creatively, then I segue into email, research or fussing with setting things up for the next day.
I'm emphatic about leaving the studio cleaned up at the end of the day so the next morning is a fresh start.
Please describe your work as an author-illustrator in 5 words:
brainstorm research play design edit
It helps to be surrounded, not only by by useful items while you work, but by playful and inspirational things too… what knick-knacks, toys, chachkies, (in short… non-art-supply things) do you like to keep in and around your desk?
That's a long list! Maybe I can sum it up by saying objects are often more interesting to me in multiples. And I like them out of context.
I have a wall of paint-can lids that look like giant polka-dots, a lot of old brass plumb-bobs that feel like small sculptures to me, and above my desk I took old type drawers, cut them up and filled them will zillions of tiny objects from all over the map from little opium jars found on a beach in China to old wooden toys and bits of natural history--bones, feathers and nests. The studio is sort of a series of assemblages, (or maybe it is an assemblage!).
Would you like another helping of Melissa's work?
Maybe top this mini interview off with a dollop of whipped cream?
You can see more of Melissa's wonderful work on her website: