Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hadley Hooper

h1 September 30th, 2014 by jules


“Would it be a surprise that you grew up to be a fine painter
Who painted red rooms …”

Over at BookPage, I had the pleasure of reviewing Patricia MacLachlan’s newest picture book, The Iridescence of Birds (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, October 2014), illustrated by Hadley Hooper, pictured left. I fell hard for this book, you all. It’s probably my favorite from this year. It’s simply exquisite in every way. I won’t go on. If you want to know what the book is about and why I love it so, that BookPage review is here.

I’m happy that Hadley obliged when I asked if she’d like to visit 7-Imp for a cyber-breakfast and talk more about her illustration work, this book, and what’s next for her. Best of all, she sent lots of art. This is her second picture book (her first being Shana Corey’s Here Come the Girl Scouts!, published in 2012), though she’s hardly new to illustration. She’s spent years as an editorial illustrator for magazines and newspapers.

When I ask her about breakfast, Hadley says, “well, I’m in Denver where we have A LOT of choices for morning coffee, perhaps because the night before we had A LOT of choices for craft beers. So, there are many opportunities to frustrate a barista with orders like a triple dry cappuccino or shots of espresso over ice. We’ll wait to eat until later if that’s okay!” I’m good for an espresso, though I’ll take mine hot. Let’s get right to it so that we can see more of Hadley’s art.

I thank her for visiting.

* * * * * * *
Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Hadley: I’m an illustrator/painter. I’d love to write a book one day.


Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?

Hadley: I’ve done two picture books. The most recent is The Iridescence of Birds, a book about Henri Matisse (out in October of 2014!) by Patricia MacLachlan for Neal Porter. And Here Come the Girl Scouts by Shana Corey.


“And she let you mix the colors of paint …”
(Click to enlarge)


“And on the dirt parlor floor
So all the world looked red …”

(Click to enlarge)

Pictured above: Spreads from Patricia MacLachlan’s
The Iridescence of Birds

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Hadley: In the ’90’s when I started as an editorial illustrator, I was still working in oils. Early on I Fed-Exed a piece of final art that was still tacky but well packed to Ray Gun magazine. I waited until the magazine came out to find the art director had published it with the packing tissue stuck to the image. It actually looked okay, but after that I switched to water-based paints.

For most illustrations, I’ll cut and/or emboss foam and cardboard to make relief prints. I use different transfer techniques and old carbon paper to get interesting line qualities. I’ll scan all the parts in and assemble in Photoshop.


Hadley: “This is a photo of the relief print parts.
(Some of my Photoshop files had over 100 layers.)”

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Hadley: I live with Hugh and Maddie the dog in a now trendy part of Denver called Highland. My studio is ten minutes away in a now trendy part of north Denver called RiNo.



(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?

Hadley: I got out of art school with degrees in both illustration and painting and messed up my first assignment and got a kill fee. I put my portfolio away forever and started working odds jobs — as a scenic painter for theatre, painting murals in homes, painting traditional cells for an animation studio (that was GRRReat!), and waiting many, many tables. In the meantime, I did my own work, joined a co-op to exhibit, and after a time I felt I had something of my own, so I made cards of my paintings and sent them to art directors at magazines. I figured I might as well fail at the top, so I sent samples to the New Yorker and Harper’s and Rolling Stone and got jobs right away. After a year, I quit my waitressing job. My road into children’s books was through the editorial work.


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge and see text)


 


(Click to enlarge and see text)


 


Pictured above: Spreads from Shana Corey’s Here Come the Girl Scouts!,
published in 2012 by Scholastic. See more art here in this previous 7-Imp post.

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Hadley: www.hadleyhooper.com.


(Click to enlarge)



(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Hadley: I have three books on the boards right now with three wonderful publishers, including another for Neal Porter. (My agent of 12 years has great folks, like Serge Bloch, and is responsible for me meeting Neal.)





Illustrations for a workbook from Chronicle, called Back to Us
(Click each to enlarge)

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, I’ve got more espresso, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with six questions over breakfast. I thank Hadley again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?

Hadley: I love to do research. I will still go to the library, since there’s nothing like having real books sitting open around the studio. I like Pinterest for finding references online. Since the Matisse book is fresh in my mind, it’s easy to talk about in this context.

I looked at every painting of his I could find. What a great luxury! I tried to find fabrics that he may have seen in his hometown, which was a textile town. I looked at the era’s fashion, architecture, even thought about the music he might have listened to. I used Google Maps to knit together the street he grew up on, which really hadn’t changed much, architecturally.

Rough of the opening spread of The Iridescence of Birds


 


Final art: “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived
in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray …”

(Click to enlarge)


Final art: “And the days were cold
And you wanted color and light / And sun …”

(Click to enlarge)

I didn’t leave myself much time for the finals on Matisse, because four completed spreads in, I decided to start over. It was the right thing to do for sure, but it was sort of painful. I had been feeling uncertain about my direction but sent a spread to Neal and Jennifer Browne (the art director) for a look anyway and waited. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t hear back from them right away. It felt like they were letting me come to my own conclusion, something they knew, that it wasn’t quite working. After all their guidance through the roughs, it was something they were trusting me to find. In the next days, I did a totally new “market” spread, the scene of Matisse and his mom, and knew right away it was the way to go. I sent that one back, got approval, and was off and running.


“And let you arrange the fruit and flowers
She brought from the market …”

(Click to enlarge)

I do lots of drawings to get the characters to where I understand what they look like from different angles and poses. I use grease pencil on butcher paper, so I can’t get too detailed or too attached to my first drawings.

I typically like to have more time on roughs, so I’ll design each spread and decide what the color story will be for each. This way when I go to finals, I’ve got a good road map. But I always try to allow the final art to have its own say about where it’s going. I try and pay attention and not kill the energy. It’s a real challenge.


“And the iridescence of birds …”


 


Jacket art from The Iridescence of Birds
(Click to enlarge)

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.

Hadley: On a typical day, I’ll put Maddie in the car and drive about ten minutes to my studio. Ironton sits on three quarters of an acre and has 20 studios, including a couple wood shops, a metal fabricator, a one-man bronze foundry, painters, and a gallery. All these different people with their diverse approaches to making art and objects are really fun to be around. Plus, there’s a new artist and show in the gallery every six weeks! I’ve got a studio that looks out onto the garden which I care for. It’s a big room and often a chaotic one. As of this writing (mid September 2014), I’m painting for a gallery show in early November and, yes, the paintings will be wet. The room reflects the different hats I wear, as the gallery coordinator, the gardener, illustrator, and painter.


A photo of the view of the Ironton garden from Hadley’s studio
(Click to enlarge)


 



Studio photos
(Click each to enlarge)

3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?

Hadley: As a young reader, Are You My Mother? was my favorite. I had to Google the book and found that P. D. Eastman did Go, Dog. Go! too, another one in heavy rotation. And all the Seuss books and anything Peanuts. I had the whole Childcraft series, which was heavily illustrated. It’s the same one that’s part of the set dressing for Andy Cohen’s Clubhouse on Bravo! Later reading was Judy Blume and Tolkien.

Weirdly, the most visually memorable thing as a little kid was my favorite sheet set. It had a farm scene on it, and I would spend lots of time daydreaming, looking at all those drawings of hens and animals and a girl with a pail, sort of Roger Duvoisin-like in style.


4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Hadley: I’d invite Georganne Deen, Robert Andrew Parker, and Vivienne Flesher. And someone who’s a friend already, whom I don’t get to see but once a year, and he’ll make everyone laugh — John Cuneo. Let’s raise the dead and invite Saul Steinberg, Edward Gorey, Dorothy Parker, and Ben Shahn.

5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Hadley: I think that music is the number one perk of my job. I love music. I can’t draw a line or even type a letter without it. Recent purchases are the new Damon Albarn, the soundtrack to The Great Beauty (great movie, too), Sylvan Esso, Tindersticks, Sam Amidon, Arvo Pärt. I’m counting the days until Nick Cave’s movie 20,000 Days on Earth opens here.

6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Hadley: I was named after Hadley Hemingway, the wife he liked the best. According to my mom.

 

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *
Jules: What is your favorite word?

Hadley: “Ennui.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Hadley: “Panties.”

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Hadley: Generosity.

Jules: What turns you off?

Hadley: Self-confidence. I guess it’s more confusing than anything.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Hadley: “Fuck.” “Screwed the pooch” is a great and useful phrase.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Hadley: Cicadas.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Hadley: Those gas-powered leaf blowers.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Hadley: I’d love to be in a band, something truly collaborative. I’d be the drummer.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Hadley: Accountant.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Hadley: “Surprise!”

 

All artwork and images are used with permission of Hadley Hooper.

THE IRIDESCENCE OF BIRDS. Copyright © 2014 by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrations © 2014 by Hadley Hooper. Published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, New York.

Illustrations from Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey, illustrated by Hadley Cooper. Copyright 2012. Published by Scholastic Press.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, © 2009 Matt Phelan.

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10 comments to “Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hadley Hooper”

  1. Falling in love with Hadley’s work. Already a fan of Daisy when the book came out so I was thrilled! Hadley, if you don’t already know Work&Class in Rino, go check it out. As a gardener I suspect you appreciate good food too. Looking forward to reading your next!


  2. I absolutely adore Hadley’s work, and so enjoyed this interview. Can’t wait for The Iridescence of Birds!


  3. this is just heavenly! Thank you.


  4. Love love love Hadley’s work. The Iridescence of Birds is sublime.


  5. I just read the Iridescence of Birds- I got it from my library. How wonderful!!! I’m asking for it for Christmas. 🙂


  6. Love! Stunning work–how inspiring!


  7. […] loved this interview with Hadley Hooper on the blog Seven Impossible Things Before […]


  8. […] Hadley Hooper (The Iridescence of Birds) — I love the pattern, color, and the way Hooper composes her […]


  9. […] A Small Thing … but Big (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, October 2016), illustrated by Hadley Hooper. That review is here, and today I’ve got some illustrations from the […]


  10. […] book brings to my mind Patricia MacLachlan’s The Iridescence of Birds, illustrated by Hadley Hooper, one of my favorite picture books in recent memory. Both books serve as tributes to two incredible […]


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