Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Gareth Hinds

h1 March 29th, 2016 by jules


If you like the artwork of Gareth Hinds, pictured right, you’re in for a treat today. In this, his breakfast visit to 7-Imp, he shares a whole heapin’ lot of artwork, and it’s my pleasure to feature it.

You may have already heard a lot this year about Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. (Pictured above is an early sketch from the book.) It is the 256-page nonfiction account, written by Pamela S. Turner and illustrated by Gareth, of the life of 12th-century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune, and it has been met with a host of starred reviews. Booklist calls it “pure excitement”; Kirkus calls it a “well-researched narrative told with true grit”; and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books writes, “It’s not often that ‘biography’ and ‘page-turner’ come together in one thought, but Turner’s tale of the twelfth-century warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune is just the work to draw samurai fans from the manga and movie aisles into the nonfiction shelves.” It’s even a book getting early Newbery buzz. Gareth’s eloquent brush-and-ink drawings open each chapter of the book.

This is Gareth’s wheelhouse — traditional stories. As you can see in his bibliography listed below, Shakespeare and epic poems, in particular, are what fire him up. In the past decade, he’s brought readers beautifully and dramatically illustrated graphic novel adaptations of classic stories.

Let’s get the basics while we set the table for our cyber-breakfast. When I asked Gareth about the best meal of the day, he said, “This is kind of odd, but I used to be macrobiotic and, even after I eased up on that, I still loved these oatmeal waffles at a macro place in New York, called Souen. They came with soy cream and cooked fruit, and I would take that over any sugary buttery breakfast confection. I haven’t been there in years, so I don’t know if it would still live up to my memory of it.”

I’m all for that, as long as we have coffee too. … I thank him for visiting and, especially, for sharing his art.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Gareth: I used to say Illustrator, but now I say Author/Illustrator. (Basically, that changed when I re-wrote The Odyssey).


Early sketch and final art from The Odyssey (Candlewick, 2010)
(Click each piece of final art to enlarge and see in more detail)


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



Art from Romeo & Juliet (Candlewick, 2013)
(Click all but cover to enlarge)


Jules: What is your usual medium?

Gareth: Something that makes a line, combined with something water-based that makes nice colors, combined with digital. I’m always tweaking the details, because I think each story has its own needs.


Samples and art from King Lear (Candlewick Press, 2009)
(Click all but cover to enlarge)


Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Gareth: I mostly illustrate for “older” readers, meaning middle school and up. That’s just my natural sensibility, I think.

(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


Above: Beowulf images


Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Gareth: Washington, D.C. Before that, New York City, Boston, Vermont.


Cherry Blossoms
(Click each to enlarge)


Central Park (ink)
(Click to enlarge)



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

Gareth: Self-publishing led to finding my audience. Then a lucky interview in the Boston Globe led to a call from Liz Bicknell at Candlewick.


Art from the self-published Bearskin (1997)


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



Art from Lise Lunge-Larsen’s
Gifts From the Gods (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)
(Click all but cover to enlarge)


Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Gareth: I do a slideshow about how I got from “I do not oont to rieet atoll” to where I am now, a look at the work I did in video games, and a walk-through of my book-creation process, ending in a live drawing demo (digital) and then some Q&A.


Game and webcomic art
(Click last four to enlarge)


Jules: How does teaching influence your work?

Gareth: I don’t teach illustration on a regular basis, but I do comic workshops in schools, which has given me inspiration and insight about the many ways the language of comics functions. And I’ve also taught landscape painting, which has taught me a good bit about color and paint and letting go.


Art from Macbeth (Candlewick Press, 2014)
(Click all but cover to enlarge)


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

Gareth: First, there’s the brand-new, super-cool nonfiction book I illustrated for Charlesbridge, Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune [pictured below], written by the wonderful Pamela Turner. Then, in 2017, my super-creepy Edgar Allan Poe collection is coming. And in 2018, if all goes well, The Iliad.

[Ed. Note: For more on Samurai Rising, you can read this or this page at Gareth’s site or this page at Pamela S. Turner’s site.]


Title page
(Click to enlarge)


Map of Japan
(Click to enlarge)


Illustration opening Chapter Two,
“Headless Ghosts”


Illustration opening Chapter Four,


Illustration opening Chapter Five,
“Perilous River”


Illustration opening Chapter Six,
“Midnight Strike”


Illustration opening Chapter Nine,
“The Dropped Bow”


Cover finish
(Click to enlarge)



Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got our coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Gareth 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?


A process GIF (from Macbeth)


Gareth: I’ve written a pretty specific piece about my process here — and a more general one here.

I’m often asked what is my favorite part of the process. Writing is very satisfying in a certain way, but then you realize what you wrote is awful and you have to fix it — and that can be quite difficult and time-consuming and is something that continues to give me a hard time. Hence my lack of original projects. Adapting a text is easy for me and also exciting, because I can’t wait to illustrate it. Designing the characters and settings is very creative, but somehow it always seems to take too long, so it becomes a drag when I start falling behind on my schedule. (Having a schedule is crucial.) Sketching the rough layouts is hard work but really intellectually stimulating. Drawing the final art is fun but can sometimes get tedious when drawing a really detailed page. Coloring/painting is super relaxing and satisfying — which is why I almost never hand it off to anyone else even though it takes a lot of time.

[Ed. Note: You can read more about Gareth’s process at his blog.]

Pictured above: Sketches


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

Gareth: I have a studio in my home. My wife Alison and I live in a two-bedroom apartment, the second bedroom being my studio. (She also has a desk in there.) At the moment, I have it set up with my drawing board and computer facing each other, which is a little cramped but makes the best use of the natural light. I do most of my work there, though occasionally I’ll feel the need to get out of the house and work at a local coffee shop for a few hours.


Art from Macbeth (Candlewick Press, 2014)
(Click all but cover to enlarge)


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

Gareth: Tintin, Asterix, Tarzan, Iron Fist, Maurice Sendak, Mercer Mayer, J. R. R Tolkien, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Cerebus, Masamune Shirow, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mœbius, The Brothers Hildebrandt, Bill Sienckiewicz, and then all of art history.


(Click last one to enlarge)


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.)

Gareth: This is kind of a cruel question — even though I’ve met a lot of my idols, picking just three of those I haven’t met feels terrible! How about Isabelle Arsenault, Chris Ridell, Hayao Miyazaki, Tina Berning, Stéphane Jorische, Christophe Blain. Oops, was that six? Can I draw a jam comic with all of them please?


Travel and nature sketches


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?

Gareth: I listen to instrumental music while working on the text, then all kinds of music while doing the layouts, then audiobooks while drawing and coloring the final art. Right now I’m particularly enjoying Caro Emerald, Josh Ritter, Noah and the Whale, Franz Ferdinand, and Pink Martini.

(Click last image to enlarge)


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

Gareth: I was just thinking about this the other day: I have flown an airplane upside down. That was a pretty unusual opportunity, I think. More generally, I’d like people to know that I am aware of, and usually remember to be very grateful for, my incredible luck in this life.


Gareth’s wedding sketches and paintings
(Click last one to enlarge)


7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Gareth: Who were your best teachers?

My dad was my first teacher; he was untrained and not a professional but had well above-average drawing skills, and he would sit and draw with me a lot. In my first year of college, I had some excellent “foundation” teachers, including an incredibly tough 3D Design teacher, named Keener Bond, who flunked the whole class on the first project. After that, we understood something important about taking an assignment seriously.

In my junior and senior year, I had two amazing drawing teachers, Warren Linn and Dave Passalacqua. They were both incredible, and totally different from each other, which was quite profound for me. Basically, I re-learned drawing under those guys. Dave passed away years ago. He had a very dramatic and unique personality, and I still hear his voice in my head pushing me to do better.


Author sketches


* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Gareth: “Petal.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Gareth: “Mortgage.”

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

Gareth: Drawing from life. Dancing. Aikido. Beginning stories (finishing them is another matter!)

Jules: What turns you off?

Gareth: The Inbox.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Gareth: My wife’s singing voice.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Gareth: Something metal in the garbage disposal.

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

Gareth: Sculpture. If that’s too similar to my own, then Robotics (which I almost tried to go into).

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Gareth: I worked retail once, very briefly. Never again.

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

Gareth: “Congratulations! Your balance sheet is in the black.”



* * *

All artwork © Gareth Hinds. All rights reserved.

BEOWULF. Copyright © 2007 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

KING LEAR. Copyright © 2009 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

MACBETH. Copyright © 2015 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Copyright © 2008 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

THE ODYSSEY. Copyright © 2010 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

POE: A GRAPHIC COLLECTION. Copyright © 2017 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

ROMEO AND JULIET. Copyright © 2013 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

SAMURAI RISING. Text copyright © 2016 Pamela S. Turner. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Gareth Hinds. Published by Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA.

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

6 comments to “Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Gareth Hinds”

  1. Well, this post caused me to get significantly poorer after a visit to the bookstore! Can’t wait to read the graphic novels. Beautiful work and great post!

  2. What a great interview–and how generous of Gareth and you to highlight so much of his artwork! In the days of my youth, I played in a contra dance band with Gareth’s father, Steve, who is also a pretty amazing fellow. Runs in the family.

  3. …probably of ALL of the images, my favorite – and there are so many – is of the veiled woman with the snakey hair – maybe Medusa, maybe a well-dressed sibling – and all of the wedding sketches. How lovely a gift to receive! I always am amazed by people who can do well with watercolor, and that he brings all of THIS strength to illustration is just gobsmacking. Some beautiful, beautiful stuff. I’d seen Romeo & Juliet, but the cover of The Odyssey, which I just happen to be reading to fall asleep currently, is just striking!

  4. […] Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Gareth Hinds by Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: “…you realize what you wrote is awful and you have to fix it — and that can be quite difficult and time-consuming and is something that continues to give me a hard time. Hence my lack of original projects. Adapting a text is easy for me and also exciting, because I can’t wait to illustrate it.” […]

  5. I loved the part where the literature from Shakespeare and epic poems are cited, and liked too the novel adaptations of classic stories.

  6. The delicious interview from Larry perceptive, I loved it!

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