In our ongoing illustrator series, we had the awesome opportunity to interview the wonderful Stephanie Graegin. She has created beautiful cover art for book such as DON’T FEED THE BOY and THE ART OF FLYING.
Middle Grade Mafia: When you get hired to illustrate cover and/or interior art, do you read the book or skim to get an idea?
Stephanie Graegin: I read the entire book, first to see if it’s a book that I would enjoy illustrating. I then read it a second time to decide what scenes would be best to illustrate. Skimming may occur during the 3rd reading, when I am looking for details I may have missed.
MGM: How much direction do you get from the art director or editor?
SG: It varies with each book. Most of the time I’m not given much direction until I turn in the first round of sketches. For a novel, I usually pick the scenes I would like to illustrate for the interior. The cover usually involves the most direction and revisions from both the editor and art director and to me is the most difficult part of the process.
MGM: Have you also illustrated picture books and if so, how is that different from mid-grade novels?
SG: I’m currently working on my 7th picture book. Picture books are very different to illustrate than novels; the text is always less specific than a middle grade novel, so with a picture book there is more creative freedom to make the world of the book and the characters look any way I want them too. There is also room to add secondary story lines within the art of a picture book. With a middle grade novel, you have less room in interpreting the text. To be honest, a picture book is usually a lot more work! There is also the issue of color- a picture book being full color and a middle grade novel usually being black & white art. I do love it when I happen to be working on both a picture book and a middle grade novel at the same time- it’s very nice to be able to go back and forth between two different ways of working.
MGM: Do you have an agent or art rep? If so, where and how did you meet or did you connect online?
SG: I am represented by Steve Malk at Writer’s House. I am very fortunate that Steve saw my art work a few years ago on an Illustrationmundo blog posting and contacted me.
MGM: How would you describe your style?
SG: Classic, with a modern twist.
MGM: Where did you get your artistic training?
SG: I studied Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore MD. I later got an MFA in Printmaking from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.
MGM: How do you keep your illustrations fresh?
SG: I try to do a sketchbook drawing of something that is just for me (not a hired project) every day.
MGM: What is your favorite media to use?
SG: 2B .05 graphite mechanical pencil on a Moleskine sketchbook.
MGM: Please share a little about your process with us?
SG: I draw in pencil on paper, and scan those drawings into the computer. I then make lots and lots of texture layers on frosted mylar using crayon, watercolor, colored pencil and ink. I scan those in and then assemble and color everything in Photoshop. For black & white art, I work in pencil and sometimes ink on paper.
MGM: Where do you like to work or what is your studio space like?
SG: My favorite place to draw is my kitchen table, there’s great light and it’s easy to make tea. My apartment is pretty much all working studio space – I work out of both my living room and kitchen.
MGM: Fun Question: Do you have a favorite snack to nosh on while you illustrate?
SG: Back to Nature Peanut Butter Creme cookies. They are addictive, I always have a box at home.