Joint Interview: Illustrator Morgan Taylor & Editor Alayne Kay Christian
I’m delighted to interview Morgan Taylor, whose illustrations brought author Janie Reinart’s characters to life. Plus, I have the pleasure of welcoming back Alayne Kay Christian, past acquisitions editor and creative director for Blue Whale Press. (This is the second part of a two-part interview.) They teamed up to create WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN. Their picture book will be released on June 1st.
For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win an illustrated postcard by Morgan. To WIN this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.
Once again, I want to share Morgan Taylor’s cover art!
Hi Alayne! As Art Director for Blue Whale Press, how did you select and work with Morgan on the illustrations?
Our path to Morgan included a very involved and intensive search. We felt that a black artist would make the most sense for this project, but finding an artist of color with a picture-book-appropriate art style proved to be challenging. Of course, many famous artists came to mind, but Blue Whale Press was determined to give the opportunity to illustrate this book to an emerging artist. I was so excited when I found Morgan’s portfolio and Instagram page. I loved her expressive images and lovely soft pastel work. Even with the struggle to find the right match, Morgan and I were speaking on the phone within about three weeks from the time Janie signed on with Blue Whale Press. Morgan was amazing. She joined the Blue Whale team on March 5, 2019, and she was already sending sketches on March 8!
As art director, I worked closely with Morgan. The concept of the dreary moments vs the bright happy moments with a bit of a magical feel took us some time to come up with, and narrowing down the characters took more time. Morgan did a lot of research, and she worked so hard to get the landscape right to get just the right skin tone, hair, and clothing for the girls. How could I not love these two beautiful little girls that Morgan created? I also fell in love with Morgan's soft tones and images of the refugee camp. I enjoy the way she worked other people into the background and the fun way she included the animals mentioned in the story. My heart still melts when I open the book to the first spread of the girls coming to the camp with nothing but their dreams. When I look at the last two spreads, my heart soars with happiness for the girls in their moment of joy and it fills with hope as they make something from nothing and dream of the future.
Janie’s words and Morgan’s art have created the magic that I always believed would happen. Morgan was an absolute pleasure to work with. She worked super hard and put a lot of herself into this book, and I'm very proud of her. My hope for Morgan is she will find herself in that group of "famous" illustrators in the very near future.
Hi Morgan! Congratulations on your debut picture book! Please share your process for creating illustrations filled with hope and empathy.
When I first read the manuscript, I felt an instant connection to Janie’s story, and to the characters as well. I really did feel for the girls, and while illustrating, I tried my best to remember what it was like as a child to be in a new place where I didn’t know anyone for the first time. I am aware that my childhood experiences of being in a new place are not comparable to being in a refugee camp, but I did try to put myself in the character’s shoes. As Alayne mentioned, I did do a lot of research to get an idea of what life is like at Bidibidi. My goal was to focus on emotion and mood with each spread. From spread to spread, the weather or the background helps to convey when the characters are feeling hopeful, or down along with their expressions.
Thanks very much, Janie, Morgan and Alayne!
Morgan Taylor is a Philadelphia area native who graduated from Arcadia University’s Bachelor of Arts Program for Illustration. She enjoys working mainly in oil paint and in digital 2-D mediums. Morgan’s main focus is portraiture, nature, and things from everyday life. Morgan draws upon various influences, one of the earliest being her mother’s wide use of color in quilting. Her father would take her to book stores weekly as a child, and she would pick books based on the illustrations. Today, she is usually curled up with a good book while caring for her succulents and cacti. Her intent is to interpret and tell stories through art, to promote an interest in what makes the seemingly ordinary, beautiful.
Alayne Kay Christian was the acquisitions editor and creative director for Blue Whale Press, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing, from 2017 to 2021. She’s an award-winning children’s book author and the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. She has been a professional critique writer since 2014 and was a 12 X 12 critique ninja for three years. Her published works include the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series, and picture books Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa, An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin, and The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed. Her fourth picture book, Faith Beneath the Bridge is planned to release in the fall of 2021. Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing shares her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart. To learn more about Alayne visit https://alaynekaychristianauthor.com/
To learn more about Alayne stepping down from her position with Blue Whale and Jackie stepping in, go here https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/post/jackie-and-me-thoughts-and-reflections-on-blue-whale-press.
Prize offer: For a chance to win an illustrated postcard by Morgan, leave a comment on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and share this interview on your Twitter or Facebook. Deadline to enter is Friday, May 21.
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