Monday, November 3, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Sherry Rogers

Today’s Art Day interview is with illustrator Sherry Rogers. Her images are fun and kid friendly. Read on to find out more about Sherry and how she makes her art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?

A: In my previous career I was a Graphic Designer/Technical Illustrator. When we moved to our new home three hours away the market for Graphic Design was fairly scarce and the house prices were half, so for the first year I didn’t work outside the home which I thoroughly enjoyed. Both of my kids were in High School and didn’t require much of my time. I had worked full time most of my life and after a year off, though I enjoyed it, I started feeling like I wanted to work outside the home again.

I’d always loved picture books and children so I decided to research what I needed to do to start a career in that field.

When my kids were really small I’d written and illustrated a picture book. It was done strictly for myself and obviously never published. Hmm … I should go back and visit that book and think about submitting it.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent picture books you illustrated, KERSPLATYPUS by Susan Mitchell and SORT IT OUT by Barbara Mariconda.
A: Both are published by Sylvan Dell, an incredible publisher to whom I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude for letting me fulfill a dream. All of their books start with a fun warm story with a math, science, or nature theme. In the back they add a 3-5 page “For Creative Minds” section that includes fun facts, crafts, vocabulary and games, to reinforce the educational value and to support National Science and Math Standards.

KERSPLATYPUS is a story which takes place in Australia. It is about a small lost creature (a platypus) that appears out of nowhere after a big rain.

He is befriended by animals who try to help him find where he belongs. His fur, feet, tail, and duck-like bill remind each of the animals of something they have in common with him. They set off on a journey to find what he is and where he belongs. Along the way they have him do the same sort of things they do, climb trees, fly, and hop. They all try very hard to help him find where he belongs … everyone, but the blue tongued skink. Each time the creature (platypus) is unable to perform the task the animals give him, the skink laughs.

KERSPLATYPUS is the story of one creature’s journey to find what he is and where his place in the world is and how he sometimes falls flat on the way there. It’s a great story that helps children understand that with a little determination (and some really good friends) you can pick yourself up when you fall and keep on going and find the place you belong.

SORT IT OUT is about Packy a packrat who loves to collect things. Packy’s mom is tired of the mess of his growing collection and tells him to sort his things and put them away. SORT IT OUT is a rhyming book that encourages the reader to participate in the sorting process by putting Packy’s things in categories such as characteristics and attributes. The illustrations include a subplot, not in the text, about Packy’s sister, who enjoys taking some of his things for her own enjoyment.

Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I just finished illustrating a book called PAWS, CLAWS, HANDS AND FEET, which is due out in Spring of 2009 and I am in the process of illustrating another one called MOOSE AND MAGPIE, which is due out fall of 2009. I also just completed a job for Humpty Dumpty magazine.

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: I don’t, but I have thought about it. I just haven’t had the time to explore the market and learn what I need to do enter that market.

Q: When someone else has written the text for a picture book or novel, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?

A: I usually get a pretty strong vision the first time I read through the manuscript. I never start illustrating the book right away though. I usually read through the manuscript several times and try to let the words really sink in. Once I get the idea of the story pretty solidified, I go through the manuscript and decide the pacing or page turns that might help create more drama. Although, the page turns can still change as I go into the sketch phase. I try to always let the story work its way out of me no matter how many times I have to start over from the beginning of my process. I have been known to add things even after the painting process has started. If it makes the story better I have learned I need to do it.

After I figure out the page turns I move on to rough sketches. That is the hardest time for me. I find it hard not thinking about the story/book all the time. I find it hard to shut my brain off enough to sleep. After I get the rough sketches done, I hang them on my corkboard wall in my studio and really study them. I try to let them hang for a couple of days and see how I feel about them. By doing this I usually see ways to make the story better or more interesting. When I first started illustrating books, I was too excited to get into the painting, so I didn’t let this waiting period happen. I just sent the roughs off to the publisher for approval. It felt like it would be too painful to change every page because I wanted to add something. Now I know that I need to wait and look and let the story unfold..

Q: When illustrating picture books do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: I either have something on an item that has the name of the city I live in (this time it’s a book the beaver is reading), my kids’ names or a secret mushy message (usually in very small print so no one can see it) to my husband or his name.

The last three books I have illustrated all had subplots in the illustrations and not in the text.

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: You can visit my website I have a place there that explains my process:

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: I have loved the color red since I can remember. It really makes me feel inspired and happy.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: My favorite medium for creating picture books has to be digital. I LOVE PHOTOSHOP!! I love that it is easy clean up. If I only have five minutes I can still work and then just go … no mess. Also there is no scanning the final art. I just send it off to the publisher.

I use acrylics for my personal projects. That is the medium I used for my snowflake for the Roberts’ Snow project. What a great opportunity that was for me and I had a great time doing it.

I would like to explore watercolor more. Not a detailed watercolor and simple washy watercolor. I loved watercolors as a kid.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?

A: Watercolors were wonderful for color books but ruined the back of the page. Crayons, markers, color pencils, tape, glue, paste, glitter, acrylics, felt, construction paper, beads, scissors, pipe cleaners. I loved it all. Just typing all that was very exhilarating . . .whew!

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?

A: I wish I’d had the vision, or maybe the ego, to think I could have been an artist and make a living. I never thought of art as a way to make a living, just a way to have fun. It wasn’t until my mid thirties when I went back to college that I got the vision.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?

A: I have never used models, but do use references photos from books and such. I usually collect lots of reference material (too much) for an animal and elements of my books. I try to study the reference material so that I have a better idea of how I’d like to draw the items.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?

A: Wow never really thought about that. . .hmm. . .maybe a Therapist of some kind.

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?

A: Looking at other illustrations I have already finished helps. Just knowing that I persevered and finished previous illustrations lets me know I can do these too. Also, knowing that creativity takes a lot of time and rarely does it just come without a lot of hard work . . .it evolves over time.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?

A: I had a doll I called Teddy when I was little. He had a thin type of rubber for skin and was stuffed with a cotton material so he was soft a pliable. How do I know he was stuffed with cotton? Well I was swinging him around by his arm and well his arm came off. I was so sad because he couldn’t be fixed. I can still see Teddy in the garbage can. . .

Q: What illustrated book do you remember from when you were a child?

A: Anything by Dr Suess
The Little Fish That Got Away, by Bernadine Cook, illustrated by Crockett Johnson
“I Can't,” Said the Ant, by Polly Cameron
The Beezus and Ramona Series, by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray
The Henry Huggins Series, by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: David Catrow, Brian Froud, Toni DiTerlizzi, Jim Harris, Barbara Upton, Chad Camero, Karen Stormer Brooks, Amy Wummer.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?

A: If I could be a kid for one day. . .I would want my sister and brother to be kids again too. After eating waffles for breakfast we would spend the morning watching cartoons (the old ones like when I was a kid.) We would eat toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch. Then go outside on the porch and play board games, like Life, Parcheesi, Old Maid, Go Fish, Poker and Clue. When we got tired of playing board games we would play all the great games we played on the lawn. Games like Red Rover, Simons Says, Red Light Green Light, Mother May I and maybe we’d have a water balloon fight if the weather was good. Maybe we would look for clover in the grass and then lie on our backs on the lawn, look up at the clouds and see what kind of animals and creatures we could see in the clouds. Then we would ride our bikes and roller-skate a bit and then we’d go in and eat Mom’s fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and corn for dinner. After dinner we would play more board games on the front room floor or go outside and play. When it got dark we watched tv or read books … then off to bed.

Bio: Sherry Rogers is a digital illustrator who lived in the San Francisco Bay area of California for over 17 years, where she attended Foothill College and studied Graphic Design/Graphic Arts. After completing college she worked for over a decade as a successful graphic designer and technical illustrator with three high-profile engineering companies. After relocating to Rocklin, California, where she currently lives, she was lucky enough to have the opportunity to make a career change and now illustrates for children, which is where her heart has always been. Sherry has illustrated six children’s books and is working on a seventh. For more information, visit her website - - or her blog -

Thanks for the interview Sherry!
All images in this post © Sherry Rogers