7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #359: Featuring Carin Berger

h1 December 1st, 2013 by jules

It’s the first Sunday of the month, when I typically feature student illustrators or those brand-new to illustration, but I’m breaking the rules today.

And that’s ’cause, earlier this week, I was chatting with author-illustrator Carin Berger about how she turned in the art for her upcoming book, Finding Spring (Greenwillow Books), which is about a bear who doesn’t want to hibernate and, instead, goes in search of Spring. The art is what Carin describes as “somewhat 3D”—like her most recent illustrated children’s book, Jack Prelutsky’s Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: And Other Poems (Greenwillow Books, February 2013)—but “more like tiny toy theaters or Victorian raree shows.”

I haven’t seen an early copy of this book, which won’t be on shelves for a while, but I always enjoy reading about Carin and how she creates her artwork. In fact, Carin and I did this back in January of last year, way before Stardines came out. She visited back then to share images of her dioramas, her three-dimensional art from that book. Hmm. Maybe I can just make it a 7-Imp tradition to check in with Carin at the first (or nearly first) of every year. I’m a fan of her artwork. That’d make me happy anyway.

So, without further ado, here’s Carin, and I thank her for sharing.

* * *

Carin: I have just completed and delivered my newest book, Finding Spring, which is the story about a little bear, Maurice, who goes on his own in search of Spring, rather than hibernating. The idea for the book grew around my own memories of childhood adventures, exploring my world without adult supervision. I was remembering just how magical and empowering those solo discoveries were.

When I started thinking about the illustrations, I wanted them to have an intimacy and to somehow capture that magical quality. I wanted to give the reader the sense of peeking in. I have always been captivated by toy theaters and Victorian optical toys, such as stereoscopes and raree shows.

(Source for the above two images:
“Early Visual Media” from Thomas Weynants)

Also, when I make my illustrations I first make all of the pieces, which—before being glued down—float around my desk, like paper toys, so the idea of toy theaters was rather intuitive.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

I suppose another reason that I wanted to do the illustrations in 3D (or, more precisely, like shadow boxes) is that I had such fun doing the illustrations for Jack Prelutsky’s book Stardines Swim High Across the Sky. The collaborative part of the project, where I worked with my friend and photographer, Porter Gillespie, to photograph the art and create the final images, was incredibly rich and rewarding.

The story is a rather simple one. It is about a little bear, who has never seen Spring and is a little obsessed with it. Rather than hibernate, he decides to adventure off on his own in search of Spring. He has a magical adventure but mistakes his first Winter for Spring. Still, it is a transformative experience, and his own private discovery still resonates for him even after he awakes to the splendor of his first Spring.

In order to make reading the book more intimate and engaging, I wanted to play with visual storytelling. I sometimes used multiple panels on a spread, rather like a comic book or graphic novel, allowing the reader to, step by step, join in Maurice’s journey.

(Click to enlarge)

Creating the art was a long process. To start, I needed to make all of the characters that were appearing on each page of the book — so that they would be consistent throughout. That meant gathering enough paper to use, which meant a trip to a fabulous magazine shop to choose magazines that had images with the perfect browns for the bears and other characters. There was then some marathon cutting, until I had a whole menagerie of bears and bunnies and birds and squirrels tumbling around on my desk.

It was only after all the animals were made that I went back and created each piece of final art, building up depth on the pages with foam core and balsa wood and even, sometimes, tiny pins. I wanted to allow for a feeling of artifice and make-believe, so snowflakes were attached with the pins, and painted shadows didn’t necessarily jibe with the actual shadows cast in the photographs. Porter and I had worked together shooting Stardines, and in some ways our process for that book, which we figured out very much on the fly, was the same. But for Finding Spring we did a combination of things to enhance the peeping quality. We cast shadows on the art as we were photographing it, and we also added digital vignettes to many of the images, working hard to keep things loose and organic and to mimic the darkened edges one gets when peeking into a stereoscope.

Line drawings
(Click to enlarge)

Shooting an illustration
(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

My next project is completely different. It is a book that I wrote, called Fabulously Fiona: A Self-Portrait, Told Alphabetically, From A to Z. In it, Fiona describes herself using adjectives in alphabetical order. Sometimes her self-descriptions are accurate; sometimes, not so much. The illustrations provide a fuller context and sometimes contradict the story that she is telling about herself.

And the illustrations are DRAWN!!! In pencil with light watercolor washes. A complete (and somewhat scary) departure for me. Gulp.

I am also in search of another manuscript to illustrate, because I find that collaborative process very rewarding in a different way.

All images are copyright © 2013 by Carin Berger and used with her permission.

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 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. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Speaking of Carin Berger, I bought a print from her this week, since she’s got several for sale now. It’s one of my favorite illustrations, and it’s from her 2008 book, The Little Yellow Leaf (named a 2008 Best Illustrated Book by the New York Times). I once posted the illustration at 7-Imp. It’s here. Isn’t it gorgeous?

2) I’ve got tickets to see Shovels & Rope in February in Nashville! And Hurray for the Riff Raff is opening for them. This is good, all-around. Very good.

3) My daughters sang back-up on a song on this CD from a local Nashville artist/storyteller/puppeteer. A good friend of mine served as co-producer and engineer (and also plays on it), and it’s neat to see the CD finally out.

4) We Danielsons just watched this movie, which was surprisingly funny. (Maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising, since Aardman Animations was involved.)

The movie’s very premise makes me think of my favorite holiday picture book (and one of the best picture books, no matter the time of year), John Burningham’s Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present.

5) Teaching my girls about saving money and seeing them get it.

6) I’m grateful for my warm, snug, scrappy house when the winds are cold.

7) Warm cocoa with steamed milk when the winds are cold.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

12 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #359: Featuring Carin Berger”

  1. Hi Jules- Thanks for showing/introducing to me Carin and her marvelous and meticulous work. There are so many processes to make illustrations, each one a delicious rabbit hole to tumble into.

    I’ll share a couple of kicks too:
    1) My daughter is home from college for Thanksgiving. It’s been a wonderful getting to know her again kind of time. We’re so proud.
    2) I’m working on a small project that is exciting: a carpet and mural for a new children’s library in East Hampton, NY. But this is a distraction from…
    3) a deeee-lightful new picture book for Schwartz & Wade by Caroline Starr Rose about the Louisiana bayou.(pub date March 2015?)
    4) Seeing in-law family by the Massachusetts shore for Thanksgiving.
    5) Having a series of five paintings accepted into an upcoming show at the Society of Illustrators in New York (opens Jan. 10th).
    6) Finally got the living room painted!
    7) 7-Imps! #359 and no sign of slowing down!

  2. Carin Berger’s new illustrations are magical indeed and invoke a sense of wonder. =)


    1. Diet and exercise update: I’ve lost 31 pounds so far!

    2. Typhoon relief update: Yesterday the local children’s lit community had a garage sale and raised Php 62,620!

  3. Carin, I admire your work. I can’t imagine the hours of recutting and such tiny cutting! It’s beautiful.
    Jules, the art print is absolutely gorgeous. How fun for your girls to sing back up.
    Rob, can’t wait for the new book by Caroline Starr Rose.
    Tarie, such good news on both your health goals and the typhoon relief.
    My kicks:
    1. Thanksgiving. I had oldest grandgirl spend the night to help out.
    2. Hanging out with daughter. Her work schedule makes it a challenge.
    3. I have been off since Wednesday. Such a gift.
    4. The CYBILS poetry books I am reading.
    5. Lunch with a college friend.
    6. A good conversation w/daughter who lives 5 hours away. Hopefully her family can make it up here for New Year’s.
    7. A wonderful email from a friend.
    Have a great week.

  4. Your artwork is stunning, Carin. I just want to reach out and touch it. I’ve marked my calendar to look for Finding Spring.
    Jules: I completely understand your gratitude for home and hot chocolate on windy days. We have so many of them here.
    Rob: Looking forward to the Caroline Starr Rose book. So glad you enjoyed your family this holiday.
    Tarie: Hooray for the diet and exercise news! Keep going!
    The poetry reading for the CYBILS must be amazing, Jone.

    My kicks:
    1. Outside decorations for Christmas are done; working on the inside now.
    2. Locked into a 50 day goal with other Nerdy Book Club members
    3. Reading wonderful picture books and middle grade books
    4. Rabbit tracks in new fallen snow
    5. The sound of chickadees
    6. Fires in the fireplace
    7. Walks with Xena

    Enjoy the week everyone.

  5. Good morning, Imps! Happy holidays! Happy new month!

    Carin: Oh, Finding Spring looks so neat. I am now envisioning Carin’s bear in Noises Off, saying, “Stardines?!” Good luck with the alphabetical adventures with Fiona, too!

    Jules: Give each of your daughters a high-five from me! That’s awesome! Kudos for teaching them how to save money, and kudos to you for sharing the cocoa. 😉 You are sharing it, right?

    Rob AND Jone: Enjoy your time with your family!

    Rob: What color did you paint the room?

    Tarie: Wow, Tarie! Both of those kicks. Stay healthy and stay safe!

    Margie: Sending my weekly hug to Xena.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Rehearsals. Such an honor to be a part of this show.
    2) Sleep. When I get it.
    3) Peppermints
    4) Time
    5) Focus
    6) Fine
    7) Go for it

  6. Really like: this celebration of venturing out alone; peeking into another world; Carin’s meticulous preparation, execution and collaboration; her color palette AND the very sweet bear. RE: that Great Hill snowflake collage. “Wow!” said Denise.

    Jules – just LOVE the idea of a ‘scrappy house’. Enjoyed your girls’ la-la-las.

    Rob – carpet, mural and picture book all sound delightful, as does daughter-time.

    Tarie – congrats on diet/exer. success. you go girl! What a fine garage-sale effort!

    Jone – sounds like you’ve used your time off well; lots of talking, visiting, reading!

    Margie – very cozy kicks. (don’t know what chickadees sound like, but wish I did.)

    LW – you always ‘go for it’. have yourself some merry rehearsals & performances.

    My Thanksgiving week gave me lots to be thankful for (and kick about):

    1. sons gathered back from college/other cities + cousins, grandfolk, new babies.

    2. listening to teachers in family talk: lessons, ideas, fighting for their students.

    3. See’s candy, yum! (totally off my diet, but I had to have just a piece or two.)

    4. Big movie weekend: Catching Fire, Book Thief, About Time. All very good.

    5. Read for most of 6 hr car ride to/from Phoenix. Finished: Divergent, Weds Wars.

    6. saw Chihuly glass art exhibit in desert botanical garden at sunset. Eerie lovely.


    7. looking forward to hanging with children’s writers at Big Sur Lodge next weekend (as faculty at Big Sur Writing Workshop). Great spot to write, teach, think, create.

    That’s it for me. Have a good week kickers et al.

  7. How is it already tomorrow? I’m up late, working on book stuff. And now I’m bleary-eyed. I’ll be back to read kicks tomorrow when I have a cup of coffee in hand and have already visited dream-land.

  8. magical!

  9. Hi, Rob! So glad to hear you’re working on a new picture book! And congrats on the SOI entries. Wish I could see that show. I’m so far away from the really fun stuff.

    Tarie, great kicks, both of ’em!

    Jone, I bet you enjoyed all that time off. My girls went back to school this morning and are already ready for the big long holiday break.

    Margie: Ooh, can’t wait to see the results of the secret Nerdy Book Club project! … I agree with Denise that your kicks are usually cozy.

    LW: Yes, sharing my cocoa! I love your last two kicks.

    Denise, good, rich kicks, too, from you. Glad you got to see your sons, and have fun next weekend.

    Hi, Lori!

  10. Love the scene with Maurice and his snowflake sky on the Great Hill. Fantastic work, Carin.
    Seeing musical of “James and The Giant Peach” yesterday with my son at Seattle Children’s Theatre;
    watching electric trains circle a winter village;
    dark chocolate peppermint bark;
    a kind note from a heretofore quiet neighbor; and
    a sunny, dry day in Seattle on Thanksgiving!

  11. Hi, Samantha. Oooh, I’d love to see that show!

  12. […] BUT she also visited 7-Imp over a year ago, while working on this book, to talk about it in detail waaaay before its publication. If you like Finding Spring and like Carin’s art and her books, I highly encourage you to check it out, if you haven’t seen it already. Lucky for us all, it is an art-filled post. It is here. […]

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