Friday, February 7, 2014

Mr. Pig Visits. . . Brian Lies!

Cheerio! I'm braving the snow and chilly temps this morning to pay a visit to my dear friend Brian Lies. He's the New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of all those glorious BATS books (Bats at the Ballgame, Bats at the Library, Bats at the Beach, and the forthcoming Bats in the Band) along with many other wonderful books for young readers. 

Oh! And he has a bats mobile! A BATS MOBILE!!!! Do you think he'll let me drive it?

We're here! Greetings, Brian!
Welcome to my studio, Mr. Pig!

Thank you for having me. It's so warm and cozy. Lovely little nook you have here. 

That's my writing and computer desk, with a wall of built-in bookshelves and cabinets, which I built when we moved into this house. I thought a window seat was a nice touch, but it seems like it’s usually piled high with junk, so it’s not very good for sitting. At least the junk gets a good view! The door to the left of my desk leads to the upper hallway of our house.

I like to write facing a solid wall, so that I can’t see moving things which might distract me. Writing takes so much concentration that I can only write for a few hours at a time.

It's quite tidy.
Well, Mr. Pig, I have a confession: I cleaned my studio. I finished Bats in the Band a few months ago, and have been gearing up for my next projects and for book promotions, and piles of papers had built up everywhere. I feel better when I’ve got some uncluttered spaces, so what you’ve seen is a slightly idealized version of what it’s usually like here. Maybe it’ll inspire me to keep this place neater! 

I always say, there's a time for a messy and there's a time for neat. (Trust me, I'm a pig, I know about these things.)
I agree. Here's a photo of is what it really looks like when I’m working on a book (these are most of the paintings for my next book taped on the wall in order, so I can see how the images / colors progress).

Out of chaos... comes creativity. I forget who said that. Oh, wait, it was me. I'm quite clever. Um... you were saying? 

I was just about to point out a few items on my writing desk. I used to do stained glass, and the lamp is one I made while I was in college. The Egyptian cat is a muse, reminding me of a story idea I’d like to work on, and the pen holder was made for me by my daughter. 

And what's that saying you have hung up on the wall, there?
One day, I heard a hymn and thought its lyrics described the effect of words and pictures in a picture book perfectly. I posted it on my wall:
For the joy of ear and eye
for the heart and mind’s delight
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight.

That is lovely. And inspiring! What's this hat over here on the bookshelf? Is it pig-sized?

Ha, sadly, no. That's the felt fishing hat that sits on top of my “cool old books.” It belonged to my late father-in-law, Sam Keith, who wrote a bestselling nonfiction book, One Man’s Wilderness. If you’ve ever seen the PBS documentary "Alone in the Wilderness," about a man named Dick Proenneke, who built a cabin in Alaska with hand-tools and lived there alone for many years, you’ve heard Sam Keith’s words. 

Fascinating! I know a little something about remote cabins, myself. And those are very cool books. Jules Verne, Howard Pyle... classics. 
I have quite a few books in the studio as you can see...

And over here is where you draw?

That's right. This is my drawing table. It looks out onto the road. When I’m painting, I usually spend so many hours at work that it’s nice to know that life is going on outside. It makes me feel as though I’m a part of the world. 

On the right there are two pieces of children’s book art—at top is an original pen-and-ink by Kurt Wiese (illustrator of Ping and the Freddy the Pig books), and the lower one is a woodblock print from Drummer Hoff (one of my favorite books growing up, and winner of the 1970 Caldecott Medal), which Ed Emberley sent me after I met him and his wife Barbara at a Cricket Magazine party.

We're big fans of Ed Emberley's in the Cottage. What treasures! And I really respect an artist who keeps a stack of crayon boxes in his studio. Harkens back to your roots, no doubt.

Yes, and I also use them  for drawing demonstrations during my school visits. I buy dozens of boxes of Crayons at a time. The internet is a great place.

Here’s a sneak pig—er, peek—at an illustration from my upcoming book, Bats in the Band. Here’s a rough sketch from one page of the book, of a one-bat band...

Copyright © 2014 Brian Lies, sketch from "Bats in the Band" (HMH Books, August, 2014)

And here’s the finished illustration...

Copyright © 2014 Brian Lies; illustration from "Bats in the Band" (HMH Books, August, 2014)

The book is coming out in August, 2014, and I’m looking forward to hitting the road in a new BATSmobile to do book readings and signings across the country!

Wait, did you say, BATSmobile?
Yes, why?

I was just wondering, is it pig-sized?
I'll tell you what, Mr. Pig, I'll take you for a spin. But, um... I'll drive. 

It was worth a shot.  

Brian Lies has created more than two dozen books, including his New York Times bestselling bat books, Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library and Bats at the Ballgame (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His most recent illustrated books are Bats in the Band, coming in August, 2014,  More (text by I.C. Springman) and a middle-grade novel, Malcolm at Midnight (written by W.H. Beck).  Brian’s books have been nominated for numerous state awards and have won several, including the Bill Martin, Jr. Award (Kansas). They have been translated into eight languages. He has also won many awards for his political illustrations in newspapers and magazines.  His work has been featured on The Martha Stewart Show, and shown in galleries around the country.

Brian nearly stopped reading in the third grade, but was encouraged by his local librarians and rebounded, becoming an avid, lifelong reader. A 1985 graduate of Brown University with a degree in British and American Literature, he feels very strongly about the importance of getting young people reading. Brian spends part of the school year traveling throughout the United States to work with students and encourage them in their goals. He lives with his family in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

He posts sketches and finished illustrations on his new blog: Getting Into Character at

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