Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Author/Illustrator - Brenda A. Harris

Each week this May and June (and possibly longer if I can catch these super busy artists), I will feature Author/Illustrators. In the genre of children's literature, there are authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators. This last group does it all and I want to know more about them and their creative process.

My name is Brenda A. Harris and I’m a writer/illustrator/artist.

How long have you been creating art for children?

Well, I’ve always been an artist .  When I was just a baby, my grandfather (an artist) used sit me on his lap, and teach me how to draw people.

How long have you been writing for children?

 I’ve always been a storyteller.  Being the oldest of four children, I liked making up stories for my siblings. Whenever my littlest sister was ill, I liked to help her feel better by telling her stories.  Later, when I had children of my own, I wrote and illustrated stories for them.  I’ve always believed children can fall in love writing, if they discover the magic and power writing gives it’s creator. With that thought in mind, I helped my four children fall in love with reading, writing and art.

Has your art or writing been published yet?

Hardly.  In 2006 I published my first book. It was mandatory.  I was in school getting my teaching degree and the prof gave us a project - produce a children’s book.  I enjoyed producing and self-publishing it. I wish I’d had more time to  work on it.  That was when the writing/illustrating bug bit me.

In 2007, I started teaching in an elementary school. I began to write and read out loud my stories to my students.  I desperately wanted them to see, that library books begin by writing down stories we create.  Another one of my goals was to have students co-write and produce children’s books.  They did. They wrote, illustrated, and even made the book covers for their stories.  The school staff stapled and laminated them.  Then, the books were placed in the school library for students and teachers to read. Even now, I am so happy to have been given the chance to work with my students in this way.

After four years of teaching, I decided to devote myself fulltime to writing and illustrating stories. My husband agreed, and we set a tight budget. I joined SCBWI ( Houston chapter) and learned to self-publish.  I now have an eBook on Amazon.  It’s an illustrated children’s chapter book.  The characters are animals whose habitats can be found in Texas.  I so enjoyed doing research on the animals.  Wildlife rocks!

Where do you like to do your artwork? 

I work wherever I feel most comfortable at that moment: sitting on the floor/table, standing, kneeling, etc.  For example, when I’m tracing my sketches onto my final drawing surface, I tape the sketch  to a window.  The sunlight helps me trace the images onto my art paper, as I stand.

Do you prefer digital or traditional media to create your artwork?

There is something so beautiful and organic about traditional media.  It just sings.  It’s like poetry to me.  Then, when I work with digital, it’s so e- a- s- y!  I just love it.  What can I do, but bounce back and force from traditional to digital.  Sometimes, I even combine them.

Can you describe your creative process for us?

First, I come up with an idea for an illustration. I research the plant, animal, location, etc.  If the illustration involves people, I go into DAZ Studio 4 and use a Poser like program to position and shape a digital mannequin.  I paint it and add lighting.  Once I’ve finished the digital figure, I trace it onto art paper.  Now, it’s no longer digital.   I sketch the background and any other characters.  I retrace in ink.

Second , if I choose, I can scan my sketch into the computer and bring up my scanned image using GIMP.  I play with the color palette in GIMP.  This helps establish  my color scheme.

 Last, I decide whether to use traditional (oil/pencil/ink) or digital media to complete the illustration.

Which comes first, the story or the illustrations?

I’m a visual person, so I think it’s the illustrations.

To learn more about Brenda go to:

My art portfolio is on the www.scbwi.org website.  Make sure you search for Brenda A. Harris. (There’s another illustrator named Brenda Harris!) 
My blog is www.drawacircle.net . 
I’m also on Twitter at @abrendita .