Georgie is my real life cat, and Feta is my real life dog. They are sort of odd and hilarious and are best friends
Celeste: Hi Ruth, and welcome to my blog! Thanks so much for joining me and my readers today. I stumbled across your portfolio, while browsing the KidLit411’s website and loved your illustrations of your cat Georgie. Can you tell us a little him and his books?
Ruth: Hi Celeste! Thanks so much for having me.
Georgie is my real life cat, and Feta is my real life dog. They are sort of odd and hilarious and are best friends– they sleep together, clean each other, and get upset when one of them isn’t home. So, quite understandably, I knew I wanted to make them into characters in a picture book.
Where’s the party? Is the first book that features Georgie, Feta, and a few other friends. Just like in real life, Georgie and Feta are sweet, a little awkward, but apologetically themselves, We now have a series, called Georgie and friends, and the second book, Georgie’s best bad day is due out April, 2017.
Celeste: I understand that you didn’t come to illustration the conventional route (neither did I!) but discovered it and pursued it. Can you take us through your journey and how you found yourself making drawings for a living?
Ruth: I studied photography and education in school, so, you’re right, I don’t have a conventional, formal background in illustration. I’d always, however, loved picture books. They seamlessly encompass some of the most beautiful things in life: A good story, beautiful language, incredible art, humor, wit, tenderness, and truths. I’d amassed a huge collection of them, but never allowed myself to really consider making them. While I doodled here and there, in my mind, there was no way I had the chops to make it in such a competitive industry.
Then in 2012, a number of really difficult things happened at the same time and I found myself alone, jobless, and, quite honestly, depressed. I remember sitting down in the mornings and drawing because I didn’t really know what else to do, and then— as things sometimes unfold— that aimlessness led to more illustrations, which led to taking a few children’s book illustration classes, and then to attending an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference, where I was ‘discovered’ by my agent and a few editors.
Celeste: Your style is very delicate, with fine lines and a beautiful wash of colour. What is your process of creating your illustrations?
Ruth: Thanks! 90% of my illustration process is done by hand. I’ll sketch something out in pencil, ink it with paintbrush and waterproof ink, and then paint it with watercolors. I’ll scan the paintings in, and do a little bit of photoshop to clean up or tweak a color here and there. And that’s it!
Celeste: I know you are also keen to write your own stories – can you tell us a little about any personal projects you have coming on and share with us any characters?
Ruth: Since Georgie and friends is a series, I have a wonderful time thinking about and writing different story ideas for the cast of characters. Because I know the characters so well now, and how they might think or respond to things, it’s fun to imagine them in different scenarios. How Georgie might react to something is very different from how Sneakers (the bear), or Lester (the rat) might react.
I also illustrated a book written by Colleen AF Venable called Mervin the sloth is a about to do the best thing in the world, which comes out September 2016. I’m also working on a few other non-Georgie related ideas. Writing can be so frustrating, so sometimes I’ll start with sketches. I also get trusted friends to look through my work and give feedback.
Celeste: In the last few years you have a number of books now under your belt, as well as a number of illustrations and projects – can you tell us which one has been your favorite so far?
Ruth: They’ve all been so fun in their own way. I am partial to illustrating Georgie and his friends. Georgie is just so darn cute, and to know the real life Georgie only enhances what I see in the illustrated Georgie.
Writing and illustrating your own book can be great because you could do anything- the sky’s the limit! But at the same time, the fact that you can write and illustrate anything can also be difficult because you could potentially never stop! Illustrating someone else’s text is limiting, but those limits can be very helpful. You have boundaries within which you are allowed to be creative in, and that is a nice way to keep you on task and on time.
Celeste:You have a section on your website called “portraits” with whimsical animals and little descriptions for each one. Can you tell us about this?
Ruth: The Portraits of the Unsure started off as daily paintings I made during some pretty dark days. I made them to practice painting, and to get a few things I’d been thinking about out on paper. There is something so funny to me about how we all try to pretend like we are confident, strong, successful, etc. when really, none of us really have it all together. We are a bunch of broken, odd-ball people walking around. These portraits were my way of talking about some of the things we try to hide out of fear of being judged or what not, and saying, “Hey! You’re not alone! We all feel this way!”, while keeping them accessible and funny.
I love making these Portraits. They might be my favorite project, and I can’t stop making them!
Celeste: Thanks so much Ruth for chatting with us! Can you share an uncommon fact about yourself with us, and tell us where can people find you on the internet to see more?
Ruth: I often wake up in the middle of the night to write myself an email about a dream I’m having that I don’t want to forget. Only, in the morning, I find these emails I have no recollection of writing, and none of them ever make sense. For example, one says simply “Pickle jar, pickle song, pickle community”.
Thanks again for having me!