Our guest: Rilla Alexander is an Australian-born, Portland, OR-based graphic designer, illustrator and artist. (Her CV is kind of insane…) Her picture books include the Flying Eye Books-published Her Idea (April 2015) and The Best Book in the World (July 2015, READ OUR REVIEW HERE).
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.
My mother passed on her love of books to me – so much so that even my name comes from the books she most loved as a child (L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Rilla of Ingleside etc). It probably goes without saying that my middle name is Anne with an e.
The other day I took the Moomin (left, with Tove Jannson) quiz to find out which Moomin character I was. I’d like to think I am Little My but apparently I am more Moomin Mamma. They’ve got it all wrong though – I don’t own a handbag and am definitely not calm!
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
Tove Jannson (left) is my biggest hero – her world is the perfect blend of reality, fantasy, naughtiness, boldness and cuteness. Sometimes I’ll say “That’s like the time…” and realise I am about to recount a Moomin anecdote as though it is a story from my own life. (Not that I’ve often flooded a hotel room so I can swim in it!)
Matilda and Madeline would have to be there to keep Little My (right) and Pippy Longstocking in check. We’d drink red cordial, get up to lots of mischief and say things we’d regret later. I’d invite Little Red Riding Hood too – though I imagine she’s the kind of person who’d promise she’d come but wouldn’t turn up.
That spark that sets you off on your own flight of imagination! I haven’t looked at A Big Ball of String (Marion Holland) for a very long time but I remember lying in my bed for hours imagining the machine I could build in my room using a big ball of string. I need to find that book again!
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
My work is bold and bright and revolves around the things I love – ideas, making things and reading. It’s also very likely red.
I’d like to be the magic pudding from Norman’s Lindsay’s book. No matter how much you eat him he just keeps regenerating. Actually, let me reconsider that! I don’t want to BE the magic pudding, I’d just like to be friends with him.
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The first iteration of Her Idea was a gift for my mother I wrote in my twenties which referenced books I made when I was two. It was about a mouse who called her mother to tell her about all the ideas she had instead of actually doing them. “Her mother said yes in all the right places”.
I could also remake The Best Book in the World ad infinitum and I’d still want to do it again.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
Editing is essential.
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
It might seem strange for a person who works primarily visually but I think of ideas in words. I spend a lot of time researching – drawing and writing pages of notes, thinking about it from lots of angles and determining the simplest most iconic way to communicate the idea. I cut the notes up and rearrange the words and pictures until they settle into pages and compositions. I love the adrenalin that comes along with everything falling together in this way, but I also look forward to the part of the project where the idea is settled, the drawings solved, I’ve passed beyond the point of no return and I just have to DO IT. That is when I listen to podcasts all day long – sitting at my lightbox inking the drawings before finally bringing them back to the computer to colour and finish.
11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AND WHY?
My favourite book to read with children is The Monster at the End of this Book. It doesn’t matter if you are reading it one on one or with a whole class, everyone screams and yells, it’s the perfect length and it is just so much fun!