Peep! Peep! A Lot to Say

Interview with Janie Bynum, author and illustrator of Chick Chat

Janie Bynum grew up Texas and graduated with a BFA in graphic design with an emphasis on illustration. As an author/illustrator, she has created many lovable characters and stories for younger children. Her work has been recognized as a Junior Library Guild Selection. She loves to travel and experience other cultures, drawing inspiration from the people, landscape, and cuisine. In this interview, she discusses how she was the “baby chick” of her family and how she created her curious, determined, and “not too sweet” protagonist for Chick Chat.

What kind of child were you? Are you Baby Chick?

Curious, creative, talkative, and determined. Baby Chick and I share all of those personality traits. I was always up for an adventure, whether real or imagined, and so is Baby Chick. Being the youngest child, and almost four years younger than my sister, I entertained myself quite a bit when not playing with neighbor friends. I was always making something out of something else. Who knew that I was “repurposing” or “upcycling?” I grew up in a suburb of Dallas, but spent quite a bit of time in East Texas on my grandparents’ farm or our own 80 acres. Poking around in creeks and back pastures, I was always bringing home some new non-human “friend.”

Curious, creative, talkative, and determined. Baby Chick and I share all of those personality traits.

Janie Bynum

Do you keep chickens?

I don’t, but wish I could. I grew up around chickens on relatives’ farms, and my parents kept a coop of “chicken-girls” that my sister and I bought for them after they retired to their own farm. I loved gathering eggs, especially the light aqua-colored Ameraucana eggs.

What medium did you use to create the illustrations in Chick Chat?

I used a combination of digital media and traditional watercolor, which is the way I generally work. For Chick Chat art, I worked on my iPad (in an app called Procreate) and in Photoshop on my Mac computer with large monitor. I used traditional watercolor for some areas, and added real paper and paint textures (with Photoshop layers) to give more depth to some of the digital color.

Where do you work, do you have a studio in your home?

Actually, I’m now living in an art studio. OK, not quite. I just mean that my art areas have taken over my house. I work in several different areas of my home, depending on which tools I’m using: big comfortable chair by the fireplace for iPad art-making, computer desk for the Mac work in my sunroom office or in a corner of my living room (in the winter because my sunroom office gets too cold), and a drawing table for watercolor in my guest room.

Chick Chat is such a sweet book. But not TOO sweet. As an author illustrator, did you make a conscious choice or have to discard any ideas that were just too cute?

That probably sums up how I see my picture book protagonists—sweet, but not TOO sweet. Baby Chick mirrors a young child, a healthy combination of sweet and salty. So, in that sense, I made a conscious choice. Also, Baby Chick’s situation is a realistic depiction from both the busy, talkative child’s perspective and that of the rest of the (exhausted) family. Of course they love Baby Chick and they DO talk to her MOST of the time—just not ALL of the time.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently writing and sketching rough art for a story about a very creative beetle.

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