Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Illustrator Spotlight: Consie Powell

Consie Powell is an illustrator who is participating in the Robert's Snow Auction for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. There are hundreds of illustrators participating, so please visit the auction sites to view and bid on the snowflakes! They are all beautiful, and the cause is great. The 2007 online auctions for bidding on these hand-painted snowflakes will take place in three separate auctions, open to everyone, from November 19 to 23, November 26-30, and December 3-7. You can read here for more information.

About Consie Powell:

What would you like to share about your snowflake?

I made my snowflake as a woodcut print, because I’ve illustrated a number of my books with woodcuts, and just love the whole process of cutting, printing and then painting the images. I love how the block feels and looks after it is cut, totally aside from the fact that the print is made from the woodblock. So I wanted to make a snowflake that could have the colored art be the front of the snowflake, and have the carved block be on the back. This way, the owner of the one single print made from the block is also the owner of the block from which the print was made.

How did you get involved in the Robert’s Snow project?

I don’t remember exactly when I stumbled upon Robert’s Snow, but I think it was shortly after the 2005 snowflakes were released onto the internet, but before the auction. I was smitten both by the beautiful snowflakes and by the whole project as a cancer research fundraiser. I thought to myself, “I would love to do a snowflake!” but a little sleuthing informed me that I couldn’t do one that year. But when the call for artists came out this year, I submitted my name and portfolio info, and I was so pleased to be asked to do a snowflake. As wife of a scientist, I understand the great need for funding for research, and because I’ve had friends and relatives who have suffered from cancer, as well as having had a couple of, fortunately, less aggressive kinds of cancer myself, Robert’s Snow is a cause I feel is definitely worth supporting.

What was your inspiration?

I wanted my snowflake to be an outside, wintery scene of some sort. I played around with several ideas, but finally came around to simply showing the loving bond between a girl and her big Newfy dog at a break in sledding time. And because Newfies are wonderful hauling dogs, as well as being fantastic dogs with kids, it seemed natural that my dog needed to have her harness on; after all, one of her favorite things to do would be to pull her favorite young human on that toboggan…

Have you always wanted to be a writer and an illustrator?

I think that drawing and writing has always just been a part of my life, and it’s not so much something I always wanted to do, as just something I did. And do. Kind of can’t not do it.

Who has been your biggest supporter?

It’s always been family, somehow or other. When I was a child, my parents supplied me with materials and always were supportive, without being gushy. Their attitude, all the time I was growing up, was that each of us kids (I’m the third of four) should do whatever it is we wanted to do in our lives, work hard at it, and do it well. Once I was married, my husband has been equally supportive, both from an intellectual standpoint, and from a financial standpoint (during those times as a new freelancer when most everything was not financially very sound, to put it mildly). He is a good editor and critic, has a great eye for composition, and I value his input (even though I do sometimes get irked at what he says… which is usually right…)

Growing up, whose work did you admire most? Was there a particular illustrator or writer that made you say “I want to grow up and do that!”?

I’ve had some favorite writers and illustrators; although I didn’t ever feel that they made me “want to do that”. They just did wonderful work that I loved (and still love). I think Wanda Gag’s Millions of Cats probably had a big influence on me. I loved that book as a small child – the words, the pictures, the repetitive text, and the way it made me question some things (like, where did all the cats go?) Another one of my all-time favorites is Robert McCloskey. I think his books come close to being perfect. I love the freshness of his drawings, the humor and wit of his writing and art, the gentleness towards family and the insights towards nature that all entwine themselves in his books.

Have you always loved animals?

Yep. I come from a long line of critter-loving people that have enjoyed having pets, and that have been open to other interesting critters that might share their lives. My 85 year old mother tells the true tale of an infant possum she kept in a shoebox overnight, who got out, knocked over a bottle of mercurochrome (a brilliant pink kind of disinfectant for cuts, that’s not used anymore, I think…), and left pink footprints all over the house. Her mother didn’t get mad; she just found it funny. My mother and father were the same tolerant way with me when I was growing up. And my daughter grew up with all kinds of various critters around.

Your work is very nature-friendly, what do you hope kids (and adults) will take away from reading your books?

I find the natural world to be a source of great beauty, wonder, and inspiration to me, and I’m constantly learning more about myself and the world by paying close attention to what is out there. Being married to a biologist, I’ve been able to be involved with a variety of research, and to learn an awful lot of science basically by osmosis – just being there and soaking it in. So I hope to be able to communicate some of my own sense of wonder and awe at the natural world through my writing and illustrating. I also feel that we humans have a great responsibility to fit in to the natural world as a part of the whole big complex picture and to acts as stewards, and perhaps through my work I can help others understand this big picture. If a person understands something, then it is easier for that person to love or care about it. And only when a person loves or cares about something will they then be willing to actually take care of it.

What do you love most about being an illustrator?

Hmmm. There are a number of things I love – some more than others, just depending on where I am in a project, and what kind of project it is. Or even when it’s not a project, but is just for me.
I love making something look beautiful – looking at something I find amazing and interesting, and capturing it in two dimensions, and kind of “immortalizing” it. I love playing around with making art – to try new things and push myself outside a comfort zone (though that sometimes feels agonizing at the time… but wonderful later on…). I love taking a story made with words, and going somewhere with it visually, learning new and exciting things about that story along the way; things I had no idea I would learn. I love looking at other people’s illustrations and finding that I love (or really don’t love!) them, and then figuring out why. I love being and illustrator and artist because, simply put, is makes me very happy.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Becky and Consie! Becky, what a great write-up, and thanks for the interview. And what an unusual snowflake. Well, of course, they all are . . . but the woodblock print . . . I think that process of illustrating is so fascinating.

I love that Rock You! thingy for showing her titles. Never seen that before. How'd you do that?

Anonymous said...

This is such a great, uplifting interview and the snowflake is totally, totally awesome. I mean, I really love this one...

Sara said...

Wow. I love woodcuts, and the thought of getting to own both the block and the print? Double wow.

I have a friend whose family has always owned Newfies, so I'm sending this to her, right away!

Anonymous said...

What a great range of styles here! The salt marsh book sounds like one we need. And I love the snowflake.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I love the way she incorporated the wood block into the snowflake. Very clever!

Helen/Spike and Drusilla OK Citizens said...

Thanks so much for the background on this snowflake. I love the idea of it being a woodcut. A friend of mine in college took a woodcutting class and I was fascinated with the process and wished I had the talent!

Charlotte said...

This is a lovely one! And her books look lovely too.

Mary Lee said...

Cool slideshow! Cool snowflake, too!