Posted by: Robin Koontz | September 25, 2010

Going back to my roots

I started out in children’s book publishing as an illustrator. I hadn’t painted anything but a wall since walking out of art school in 1974 when I began creating art again in 1980. In the interim I had learned a lot about production art so I started self-publishing greeting cards and gift tags featuring my cartoon animal characters. A friend saw them and suggested I look into the children’s book field. Long story short, I subsequently published 16 picture books and early readers, all of them using ink outline and watercolor.

This Old Man

Watercolor and ink illustration from This Old Man, published in 1988

My “cartoony” style was well-received back then, but that changed as trends changed. I was advised that my style was more suited to concept books, so I learned computer illustration to create two pop-up books. I also learned to paint using Corel Paint and created the six books for my Furlock and Muttson Mysteries, but otherwise have been focusing on writing, mostly nonfiction. I rattle cages once in a while for illustration assignments, but haven’t had any in a while.

So, it wasn’t a happy day last spring when another illustrator was chosen to create the spot illustrations for Amazing Animal Skills, my series about cool things animals do to survive. I thought this time my style would work! That was a wake-up call: it was time to reinvent the wheel. I decided to learn about collage, being a huge fan of Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle.

I watched Eric’s tutorials about how he creates his art, studied Lois’s amazing books like Feathers for Lunch, and started painting and cutting. I hung a clothesline in my studio, set up a table, found some paints that hadn’t dried up, and got to work. At this point I’m just using drafting vellum that I smear with acrylic and gouache.

Bats Inside, Bats Outside

This was my first attempt. It's from a concept book about opposites

As I play with colors, textures and shapes, I recall how my mom was always trying new creative endeavors for as long as she lived. I think it’s what kept her young. And now I’m off to the dump to see what papers have been tossed into the recycling bin!


Responses

  1. I’m still good for something. :>
    Can’t wait to see the reissue!!

  2. Good idea – I’m thinking of reissuing the backyard nature activity book and this style would be fun for it! Thanks.

  3. I think your collages are wonderful!

    It’d be interesting (maybe only to me) to see you recreate an illustration from one of your books, in collage. Just to see the difference.


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