Monday, December 8, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Christina Wald

Today’s Art Day interview is with illustrator Christina Wald, who has illustrated several fun books, including a brand new pop-up book. Read on to find out more about Christina’s art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?
A: In my early career I did a lot of illustration got game books and collectable card games. This included more than 12 books for the Star Wars RPG for West End Games and many cards for Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG (A card game based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) and its expansions.

When that market went through a period of flux, I worked for a while at an advertising/marketing agency while I prepared samples for a new market.

I have also done a lot of work for toy companies throughout both for the product design and packaging departments. The transition seemed natural.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent pop-up book you illustrated, BIG CATS by Donna H. Bowman.
A: It was a great project with a lot of creative leeway. We started out with rough sketches, which they gave to a paper engineer to work out the dies. Once that was worked out I did all the paintings.

The designer sewed them all together in an amazing layout (most of the images were spots). The relationship with the designer involved a lot more back and forth than usual which was really enjoyable.

The book has some really interesting features including a big pop-up lion’s head.

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 recently finished illustrating Henry the Impatient Heron for Sylvan Dell. It comes out in spring 2009.

The story is wonderful and was a joy to illustrate. It featured such an interesting character and there was a lot of action.

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: Yes, I have done a big variety. I have done a lot of illustration for heat transfer flags, some advertising (including some Corona displays), editorial and product design. My degree is in Industrial design and I still design products (As a design student I co-oped at Kenner Toys and Huffy Bikes). In addition to toys, I have worked on designs for vases, wind chimes, figurines, candy dispensers, and so on. Once I had to do design concepts of a sump pump.

Making a living as a freelancer means that there is rarely a dull or routine day. All projects are interesting and involve problem solving.

For fun, I love doing comics. Occasionally I contribute to a friend’s comic anthology collections. Comics also heavily influence me as a children’s book illustrator. I constantly read them when I was younger. I still occasionally go to comic book conventions.

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: Sometimes there are art descriptions and sometimes it is totally left up to me. I usually get a gut feeling about the text and it is rarely difficult to come up with an overall vision.

Q: When illustrating picture books (or novels) do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: All the time! My cat Boris is in three books so far. My husband and friends are in many of my paintings too.

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: I start with a rough thumbnail, do a final sketch and scan it in. For final art, I transfer the sketch and paint the final many times in pieces and assemble them in Photoshop so I have a lot of layers (sometimes it is nice to be able to move things for type issues). That is especially handy for complex pieces.

Q: Do you do all the painting in acrylic and then assemble it in Photoshop? Or do you do some painting in Photoshop after you get it there too?
A: A lot of both… I do many paintings in pieces and then scan them in. Then I color correct and retouch in Photoshop. Sometimes I do alterations and enhancements in Photoshop too.

I do not work digitally exclusively because I like the spontaneity I get from painting. That being said, I have a Cintiq tablet which really facilitates the process of sewing everything together.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: Green and Orange-I cannot decide between them.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: Acrylic and Photoshop.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: Crayons and spin art.

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?
A: One of the funniest drawing memories I have is when I was in the fifth grade. We had to do portraits of each other in art class.

I drew my best friend.

She was horrified by my portrait of her and wrote me a note with bullet points describing why she hated it so much and how she would never talk to me again if I did not destroy the picture.

I think what really turned her off was that I drew her head on a marble column in a museum. I thought it was cool but taste is individual.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: I was interested in a variety of career paths. I always drew and made up stories, but I also loved theater, history and science.

Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: Both or either depending on what it is.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
A: An astronomer.

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?
A: I just muddle through it. If it is late at night, I will get some sleep so I can freshly approach the composition. I also have many friends that are illustrators that I can get a quick critique from is something is REALLY not working.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?
A: Probably my Princess Leia doll (and other Star Wars toys). I also liked fairy dolls.

Q: What illustrated book(s) do you remember from when you were a child?
A: My favorites were probably Bread and Jam for Francis and Madeline in London. I also liked Blueberries for Sal.

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: My current favorites are Adam Rex and Loren Long.

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?
A: Yes-quite a bit. One of my first characters was “The Ultimate Sinister”. He was a cat with a top hat and monocle with a bunch of slave mice. I drew him all over my folders in junior high.

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

Bio: Christina Wald lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and two old cats. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1991 with a degree in Industrial Design. Besides illustrating children’s books and other publications, she also designs toys, giftware and other products for a variety of clients. She also used to do a lot of illustration for role-playing games collectable card games in the 90s.

She is currently working on a book for Grosset and Dunlop coming out in late spring and “Henry the Impatient Heron” will be out in early spring 2009.

When not working, she enjoys movies, comics, reading and traveling to new places. For more information, visit

Thanks for the interview Christina!
All images in this post © Christina Wald.