Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mr. Pig Visits: Mary Jane Begin

Oh dear, I'm very late, and I never want to be a bother. So we better step lively, or else my very lovely host Mary Jane Begin might think some tragedy has befallen me. What, with that Big Bad Wolf sniffing around these woods, you can't be too careful.

Do you know MJ? (She lets me call her that.) She's the amazingly talented author and illustrator of many of books including the Willow Buds series. I've looked after those little buds a few times. . . delightful children, but a little too fond of wandering if you ask me. . . always running off on wild rides, hopping into boats and whatnot. . .

Ah, here we are. I hope she's in.
Mr. Pig! So nice to see you!

Good heavens! Either you've gotten taller or I'm shrinking!

You look very dapper, as always, Mr. Pig. Please come in... and excuse the clutter! I am indeed a clutter bug in the studio, and am hard pressed to find an area with a single object sitting alone.  

You call it clutter, but I call it: a menagerie of magnificence!
Ha! It’s a layer cake of thingies here and there. I’ll do my best to tell you about just some of the things that I love to look at. 

Marvelous! Let's start here... who are these colorful little equestrian friends?

I’ve had the pony characters on my desk ever since I started the first book I did for Hasbro + Little Brown: My Little Pony Under the Sparkling Sea. I decided to have Black Canary keep an eye on the ponies...she’s sculpted by my friend Jack Matthews who lives in Barrington and does a ton of work for DC Comics. He’s incredibly humble as well as amazingly talented!!

People often describe me that way, too.
I'm sure they do, dear friend.

These look useful.  For... um, a shoe shine?

Not quite... but good guess. Actually, these are old fashioned ink wells that were given to me by a fellow artist. They allow a pen nib to be dipped in them, and pull out exactly the right amount of ink for the pens. I’ve never used them, but think they look really cool...I plan on using them this year -- I’m on sabbatical from RISD -- so I’ll have more time than ever to play with stuff...the sky’s the limit!

You paint lovely skies by the way, MJ.
Why, thank you, Mr. Pig.

Willow Buds When Toady Met Ratty. Copyright © 2008 by Mary Jane Begin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers,
And who is this horned creature? Friend of yours?

This Jack-a-lope was made by a former RISD student, Bronwyn Lewis. I love combo animals! I invented a bunch of them for My Little Pony, Under the Sparkling Sea, and I’d bet that I was inspired by the Jack-a-Lope- who sits on the window by my desk, looking over my shoulder every day.

Like this character, here?
Yes! This is a manta hawk.

And we've glimpsed her in the wild! Can we see more?
Sure! Here's a finished sketch from a piece in the book. That's Electra with the ponies. 

And here she is again, racing Rainbow Dash.

My Little Pony Under The Sparkling Sea Copyright © 2013 by Mary Jane Begin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher,
 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

And who made these drawings, here?

Here you see some artwork made by my son Liam, who’s now almost 17- but showed great promise even at the tender age of 9. I’m a huge fan of Vincent Van Gogh...and I think he captured his likeness perfectly in painting and drawing. The bottom one is a little warped...but that’s to be expected after 8 or so years.

My, there are treasures at every turn!

I warned you Mr. Pig...stuff EVERYWHERE. Here I keep more heart shaped rocks and shells, pics of my kids when they were bitty and lots of thank you notes from my wonderful RISD students. My daughter, Gates, who made that bitty little beagle in the shell - is now one of them!  She studies animation, and like me, loves critters. (She’d adore you Mr. Pig.) studio is a layer cake as I mentioned... you might wonder how all of this stuff inspires me (yes- I know you’re wondering about the rock’s especially...)  I’m looking around and trying to figure out the same thing, and the best answer I can give you is that these things make me feel good!  I remember something that makes me happy, or think that something is beautiful, or enjoy how something feels good in my hand (like a heart shaped rock). 

You know what makes me happy, MJ?
What's that, Mr. Pig?

Ditto, Mr. P. Please come back anytime.


Mary Jane Begin is an award-winning illustrator and author known in particular for her acclaimed picture books, Little Mouse's Painting, Before I Go to Sleep, A Mouse Told His Mother, retellings of the Sorcerer's Apprentice and Willow Buds, and tales inspired by Wind in the Willows. Mary Jane's latest picture book is My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea, published by Little Brown Books. She also a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she has taught for twenty-one years, and also serves as the Internship + Professional Development Advisor for the Illustration department. 

She is the recipient of many awards, including the Steven Donahos Award and multiple Certificates of Merit from the Society of Illustrators, multiple Awards of Excellence from Communications Arts, the Irma Black Award, and the Critici Erba Prize at the Bologna Book Fair. Her work has been exhibited throughout the country, with one-woman shows at Books of Wonder Gallery in New York and Beverly Hills and the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport. She has also exhibited at the RISD Museum, Society of Illustrators (NY), the deCordova Museum, and Storyopolis in LA. For more about her work, be found at

Mary Jane is also an instructor at where she teaches Foundations in Color. 

Find them here:

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