Pictured here is Susan Gal’s Dog Gone, painted in 2009 (charcoal and digital collage). Some of you may remember this Poetry Friday post in which I shared two spreads from this debut illustrator’s first picture book, Night Lights (2009), which was met with more than one starred review. Susan—who began her illustration career as a poster and calendar artist, followed by animation work for Disney—is here this morning to say hello and tell us what’s next for her. Her second picture book with Random House will be released this May. It’s called Please Take Me for a Walk, and since I’ve got an early copy of it, I can vouch for its deep, deep charms. It’s a title about friendship and community, as seen through the eyes of a gregarious pup, and it’s cozy and fun. I said before, and I’ll say it again: Gal’s work to me is reminiscent of one of her idols, Ezra Jack Keats. (I also see online, as I compose this post, that Kirkus made the same comparison and also compared her work to Margaret Bloy Graham’s, though they add, “the images manage to be both fresh and familiar.” Graham, as you can see below, is another of Susan’s artistic idols.) Susan’s charcoal and digital collage spreads are warm and intimate. I love what I see in her two titles thus far and am eager to see where she goes from here.
Without further ado, here’s Susan to say hi and share a bit more art:
“What a thrill it is to be invited to share my work with y’all. My name is Susan Gal, and I live in Berkeley, CA. I’ve been illustrating for over twenty years and finally made my dream come true of becoming a children’s author and illustrator. I’ve worked as a poster and calendar artist in L.A. and as an ‘in-betweener’ (the person who draws the drawings between key frames in animation) in Florida. I grew up in Southern California and love living and working in the Bay Area. I’ve never stopped illustrating and am fortunate to also be represented by Morgan Gaynin, Inc. in New York.
I’ve wanted to create children’s books since I was in the second grade. An author came to speak at my elementary school. His name was Al Perkins, and he wrote The Digging-Est Dog and Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb. My teacher, Miss Bryan, had us students write and illustrate our own stories, and some of us were selected to show them to Mr. Perkins. Thanks for saving this news clipping, Mom! You can imagine my shock when I realized my publisher, Random House, was the same publisher as Mr. Perkins’!
I feel very fortunate to have my work published by Random House. I created two book dummies, and they offered me a contract for both books. My first book, Night Lights, was published November 10, 2009. While lying in bed one night, I noticed the street light outside my window and started thinking about other types of light one can see at night. I began writing down the names of lights and sketching how they might look. My friend, the painter Michael Tompkins, reminded me of the painter Georges de La Tour and the wonderful use of light in his paintings. I hoped to capture the luminosity of the different types of light.
The artwork for Night Lights was sketched in charcoal, then scanned on my computer. I layered with collage, working back and forth with the drawing. I tried to use my original sketches in the finish to keep the freshness and life of the initial drawing.
My second book is titled Please Take Me for a Walk. It will be published May 11, 2010. It was inspired by my best friend, my Boston Terrier Wanda Woo. She keeps me company in the studio during the long, lonely, laborious hours. Every day, with those big blue and brown eyes, she wills me to walk her. Those of you with dogs know the look!
I’ve also shared my studio with my beloved cats, Ivan and Otis. Sadly, both kitties have passed in the last year. Perhaps there is a story about my kitties, but I’ve been too sad to write about them for now.
One summer my studio was also home for the hissing cockroaches from my daughter’s science class. While fascinating to watch and hear their hisses, I could never quite bring myself to hold them. Despite the pleas from my daughter, they went back to the science room in the fall. Yikes. I think I’ll just stick with a dog for the time being, and share the studio with ‘imaginary’ friends.
To anyone out there that has a book inside of them …. just do it! I’m proof that with hard work and determination, you can make your dream career come true. When I get frustrated and creatively stuck, I turn to my favorite artists and illustrators, like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, Stuart Davis, David Hockney, Mary Blair, Margaret Bloy Graham, Miroslav Sasek, Roger Duvoisin, Ezra Jack Keats, Alice and Martin Provensen, and Eric Carle, just to name a few. Their work lifts me up and keeps me going.
A BIG thank-you to Jules for inviting me to share some of my work. Seven Impossible Things is a wonderful place to be inspired.“
NIGHT LIGHTS. Copyright © 2009 by Susan Gal. Published by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
All other images and sketches used with permission of Susan Gal. All rights reserved.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
1). I got my very own Blue Rose Doll, one of these gorgeous creations. Thanks, Farida! And I ordered two other dolls for my girls, and they’re beautiful. I’m eager to give them as gifts. But I must wait a bit on that…
2). I got a really random and very nice message from a Publisher’s Weekly ShelfTalker blogger, telling me how much she likes 7-Imp. Very kind.
3). I found this post quite moving. It was posted at the blog of someone I once worked with in Knoxville (whom I wish I had gotten to know way better while I was THERE. I’m a big goober like this sometimes). If I ruled the world, I’d make sure all the people in it read that blog and Adrienne Furness’ blog when all the people in the world wanted some really, really good personal essays. These two ladies write some of my favorite personal short (blog) essays: They are honest to the bone, sharp, insightful, genuine, and sometimes funny as hell — without being insufferably, psychobabbly confessional. (Sorry if I’m embarrassing you, Adrienne. But this is what happens when you’re talented.)
5). I also really liked this video of a Taylor Mali poem that John shared here this week (typography is by Ronnie Bruce) — and the resultant conversations about that elusive trait called self-confidence that I had with friends this week, after sharing the link with them.
6). My four-year-old did an inadvertent flip off the back of the couch, and her wee bouncy bones ensured she was okay. Since the distance from couch to floor is taller than she, this could have been ugly. Instead, it simply scared the bejeeeeebus out of her, and she’ll likely not sit on the futon in that manner again.
When I ran around to the back of the couch—just a few steps, really—to see if she had, say, landed on her neck or Some Such Terrible Thought We Won’t Linger On Thanks Very Much, it was like I was running in slow motion. Ah, parenthood.
7). A surprise Smiths CD from my thoughtful husband.
Sometimes, I’ll jot down kicks during the week. If I don’t do this, I will forget them. My notes this week include this: “Illusionist.” I have no memory of what this is, though. That’s my mystery kick. I wonder what it could be.
Note: 7-Imp contributor, Steven Withrow, is writing a science fiction novel in verse for young adults, called The Feather of Memory. It will launch officially on Monday, April 5, and will run in free, weekly installments at featherofmemory.blogspot.com. Each installment will be illustrated by a professional artist. Neat, huh?
What are YOUR kicks this week?