You may have noticed the wonderful profile pictures and the fabulous banner the blog has been sporting for a month or so now. Well, the artist is no other than Simini Blocker who also did the art for the special edition of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Today, we have an interview with her conducted by the fabulous Yash.
Simini Blocker is an illustrator based in New York City. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a BFA in illustration, she interned at Disney Interactive doing visual development for Disney Infinity. She loves living in the city, especially with its extensive library system. Her clients include Goodreads, The Friend magazine, Shine Publishing, and Simon & Schuster among others. (source). Find her on Twitter, Tumblr, her website.
1. Do you remember the first time you saw a piece of art and wished you had created it? Are there any artists who influenced you in your early years?
It’s a little silly, but the first time I remember, was while visiting the Animation exhibit/building as the California Adventure Disneyland park. They had these huge pencil sketches from Disney animators lining the walls. Some from Glen Keane- and I remember thinking how beautiful and full of life they seemed- and that I wanted to draw like that someday.
So Glen Keane, and then definitely Mary Grandpre with the cover of the original Harry Potter series- she made me want to be an illustrator specifically. And it seems cliche to say, but I also remember loving Van Gogh’s colors and paint from an early age (as he’s one of the few “artists” that everyone seems to learn about in grade school) and I still really love his work.
2. We think it’s odd (and somewhat unfortunate) that it is usually only books that are marketed to children that make use of some incredible art. Why do you think that is? Do you think that there is a chance of moving away from this trend of weaning readers from “reading” pictures? (Unless you agree with this trend, in which case, why?)
It is unfortunate. As to the why- I think that trend might have something to do with comics and animation rising as something, at least in America, as a children’s medium. If I’m remember correctly (and I could be completely wrong) I think those industries started growing around the same time as illustrated children’s book became more widespread and available. Photography became the trend and I think more economical, and books (aside from children’s books) became more consumable, instead of being seen as collector’s items with elaborate interiors.
The good news, though, is there does seem to be a shifting trend for more illustration. Graphic Novels are becoming a much more respected and popular medium, which I think is creating some room for more illustration in at least the Young Adult area. It seems like publishers are starting to use illustration as a way to promote and sell physical books, or encourage pre-orders. I also feel like I’m seeing more hand lettered typography in graphic design, and more illustration in editorial and advertising. So I’m optimistic.Trends change all the time, but I’m hopeful about what’s happening now.
3. There’s this stigma against fan created works, be it fiction or art. You do a good deal of fan art as well as original art. What, in your opinion, is the importance (if any) of fan created works in today’s culture of reading and consumption?
Well for me, I draw “fan art” because I want to spend more time in that world, and it’s also great illustration exercise. If you look at art history, what lots of artists were painting and drawing or the work they were commissioned to do was illustration of myths or legends or the Bible, ect. And lots of artists painted these subjects on their own, because it was the popular culture— what people were interested in seeing, the stories that were important to them. It was definitely illustration, and also much of it could probably be called “fan art’ though that’s a modern term. So I think it something that’s always been a part of our culture, and will continue as such. There’s a demand for it, and it’s a great way for artists or writers to practice their skills and get their work seen.
I don’t agree with the stigma at all. It’s important to tell your own stories and do personal work, but there’s also something great in participating in the community and building and being inspired by others.
4. What is your one most important tip for current and aspiring illustrators?
“Don’t be precious with your work”- a phrase I heard in college and am continuously struggling to implement. I have a tendency towards perfectionism to the point of over-working a piece. But I think it’s really important let yourself make mistakes. Draw, draw, draw. And then show your work. Every piece won’t be perfect, and that’s okay- the way to get better is to learn and move forward. Don’t be so scared or protective of your work that you never grow.
Also, “Someone else’s success is not your failure.” With social media this days, it’s really easy to start comparing and get stuck in a pit of jealousy or self-doubt and fear. And that’s really detrimental for any sort of creative work. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to be inspired rather than overwhelmed. And it’s helpful to remember that other illustrators doing well opens the market for even more illustration.
5. Is there any book you would do a lot for a chance to illustrate?
Well anything I’ve done fan art for really. I’d love to work with some of my favorite authors. Or some of my childhood favorites would be really fun to get to go back and do illustrations for- Robin Mckinley, Tamora Pierce, Harry Potter, ect. For the most part, I’m excited at any chance to illustrate for books.
A few quick bonus ones!
• Speaking of books, do you have any favourite book covers you would like to share with us?
I love love love all the covers for Stephanie Burgis’s Kat, Incorrigible series. The artist is Annette Marnat, one of my favorite illustrators working currently. Some other favorite cover artists- Carson Ellis (Wildwood), Brett Helquist, and John Hendrix.
• What was your favourite picturebook (or illustrated book) growing up?
I loved the Don and Audrey Wood picture books as a kid. And then a bit later, of course, Mary Grandpre’s Harry Potter covers and interiors.
• What are you currently reading?
An ARC of Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld and Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour.