Peep!! Peep! Meet Chick Chat Creator Janie Bynum.

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. Known to her friends as a bit of a nomad, Janie lives in a nearly-100-year-old storybook house in southwest Michigan—for now.

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.”

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.

Mixing Colors with Maja Kastelic

“Dober dan! (good day!)” Slovenian illustrator Maja Kastelic greets you at her door. Together with author Heinz Janisch, Kastelic has created a book that breaks boundaries of genre, past and present, reality and fantasy with Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life. The book is simply alive with her extraordinary illustrations.

“To me the story seemed very rich and also quite complex.

Zurich-based editor, Andrea, visited Maja in her studio to learn more about her work and creative process. Maja’s studio contains a lavishly designed wall, full of notes, sketches and curios. Her studio also includes a remarkable picture book library, filled with both samples of Slovenian illustration art and internationally known illustrators who are pushing creative boundaries, like Jon Klassen, Catarina Sobral, Isabelle Arsenault, Peter Sís, Kitty Crowther and many more.

Sometimes she cannot control the creative process, and finds herself carried away by it, submerged and unavailable for a while, even to her editor.

Next to meticulous research, studies and experiments with color and technology, a certain amount of “playing” is necessary for the illustrations to emerge. Figures and things come into the picture that were not planned, but which literally awaken a child’s joy when looking at them, such as the tiny eyes in the flowers pictured in the “Thumbelina” scenes or the traveling

Andersen who casts a shadow that looks like a pair of wings. It takes the viewer a second or third look to see these subtleties. Some others are more obvious with illustrations that are full of exuberant details, such as the scene from The Emperor’s New Clothes.

“This is a story about the courage to follow ones dream and a beautiful tribute to playfulness and imagination.”

The character of Maja’s illustrations is strong and delicate at the same time. Strong in the sense of a balanced composition, and delicate because the figures seem light as a feather in the picture. A truly extraordinary combination, which make this book so special. We wholeheartedly agree with Maja, when she says “I honestly hope you will find Andersen’s life as inspiring and moving as I did.”