Our guest: Ontario, Canada-based artists Elly MacKay makes some of the most beautiful illustrations imaginable, using paper, ink, paint and light. She wrote and illustrated If You Hold A Seed (2013), Shadow Chasers (2014) and Butterfly Park (2015, read our REVIEW), all published by Running Press. She’s scary-good, and –luckily– her work can be purchased on Etsy.
The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
I remember the cozy feeling of nodding off while my parents read to me, though I can’t recall many of my early books. I know Herman the Helper was one. It is about a helpful little octopus and his underwater neighbours. I love the details in this book. I read it to my kids now.
I just read this out loud and my husband chimed in “Rosie Revere.” I’ll take it. I love Rosie, and how she is always experimenting, creating all sorts of things. Yup, looking around the studio, at all the piles of cheese spray and broken flying machines, I’d say it is a good fit.
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
My favourite illustrator is E. H. Shepard and who would be a better fit here than A. A. Milne. The Winnie-The-Pooh stories are timeless and I love singing “The More It Snows (Tiddlely-Pom)” with my kids.
I think my kids would like to come, so instead of a dinner party where I could only invite 5 guests, I’d take my kids for a picnic at the park where all the puppies from Gaston play (right). Hopefully Sadie (from This is Sadie) would be there and would bring all of her fictitious friends too. Who knows what other characters might join us!
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Gosh, I think there are so many qualities that make a book rich. Sometimes it is the rhythm of the language. Sometimes it is what isn’t said but rather shown. Sometimes it is the illustrations that take a child to another world. Sometimes it is simply that the book makes a kid laugh or they relate to a certain character. I guess picking out a book is like picking friends. We admire all sorts of qualities and it takes all kinds!
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
Light. It is my favourite thing to work with. You can take the same image and change the mood so dramatically by altering the light.
7. IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A CHARACTER FROM CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?
I was going to say Alice… What a world she gets to explore! But then I started thinking about my family. I think being in the Barbapapa clan would be pretty great.
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I can think of too many… My work is so detailed that I rarely feel like I am totally happy with everything in an image. Sometimes I just need to move on though. I’m learning to simplify and really think about the mechanics of creating something three dimensionally before starting.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
I think I have been blessed with a lack of advice-givers. My family is more likely to offer support than advice and for this I am so thankful. I have a rather unconventional lifestyle and every step I’ve taken toward living the life I have wanted since I was little was always encouraged and made easier with love. They embraced my quirks, and my dreams, and offer help when times are rough. I was lucky enough to marry a man that does the same for me. And so, I will try to do this for my kids too. “You want to be a waterslide tester and live in a geodesic dome Lily? Excellent.”
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
I create my images in a light-box or miniature theatre. I paint all of the characters with ink on yupo paper, create the background, props, and set it all up with tape and wires. I then light the scene and play around with different camera lenses. I take about 50 or so shots, moving things around inside the theatre or altering the lighting. Then, I take the photos into the computer and find the image that I feel works best.
My studio is in the attic of our home. Here is a corner of it, the rest is too messy to show you. 🙂