Monday, August 25, 2014

Mr. Pig Visits . . . Matt Tavares!

Greetings, folks! I'm heading up to the beautiful state of Maine for a seaside studio tour with author-illustrator Matt Tavares (Zachary's Ball, Becoming Babe Ruth, Jubilee, Growing Up Pedro, and many others!)

Wow, sure is pretty up here. Aha, here we are!

Hey, Mr. Pig! Come on in! The studio is right through here. . . .

As you already know (since you were just standing in my living room) my studio is right here in my house. I live with my wife and our two daughters in an old house by the ocean in Maine. My studio takes up two rooms. This room is where I do pretty much all of my work—writing, drawing, painting, research. Here you can see my drawing table, bookcase, a bunch of artwork by my kids, some baseballs, a sculpture I did in college, and an old typewriter.

This is the back corner of our house. Two of the walls have great big windows, as you can see, which make this area nice and bright for painting. On summer days (like today) it's great to have the windows open. Even if I'm inside working all day, it's pretty awesome to be able to open the windows and smell the ocean. The only downside to this room is that it was originally designed to be a "three-season room," and gets pretty chilly in the winter. No problem though. I just bundle up and get to work!

Oh, yes, I know how that is—it can get pretty chilly in the Cottage, too. 

Over here is my drawing table, where I do all the artwork that ends up in my books. I've had that table since I was a kid, and it's still my favorite place to draw and paint.

By the window, you can see the relatively new part of my studio—I've started learning how to draw on my computer. Here, let's take a closer look. . . .

I do all my preliminary sketches on the computer, using a digital drawing tablet (it's a Wacom Intuos 4, if you're wondering). 

Oh, yes, I was going to ask. I believe I was created on a Wacom—in case you were wondering.

Ha. I thought so, Mr. Pig. I like using the computer for the early stages of my illustrations, because it allows me to move things around, try different ideas, and I can place the text right where it belongs to get a better sense of how the words and pictures will fit together.

I draw on the tablet, and it shows up on the screen. It took a little getting used to, and I'm still most comfortable drawing with traditional materials. But for this part of the process, I really love being able to work digitally.


Once I get to the final art, the real paintings that you see in my books, I go back to the old drawing table and use real paint, pencils, brushes, and paper. Here's a picture I took as I was just starting the cover art for Growing Up Pedro, which comes out in February.

Oh, I love that one. I see you keep lots of photos around for reference. Our young readers (and baseball fans) will enjoy seeing this. Speaking of young readers, here's one now!

As you can see, sometimes my kids work with me. That's my daughter, who seems to be drawing some kind of sea monster attacking people on a beach (or maybe he's just chatting with them, I can't tell) while I paint a picture of Ramon and Pedro Martinez.

One of the best things about working at home is when my kids come hang out in my studio and work with me. Sometimes it can be a little bit distracting though!

Ha! Well, I always say, there's a fine line between distracting and inspirational. Maybe you ought to do a book about a sea monster. 

There's an idea! Feel free to take a closer look at the art supplies on the table next to my drawing table. I use mostly watercolor and pencil, and sometimes gouache and ink.

Ah, I love the smell of gouache in the morning.

The original owners of the house called this room "the library" and it has great built-in wooden bookcases on two of the walls. So it's perfect for an art studio -- lots of places to store art supplies, and I can spend my days making books while being surrounded by books!

The built-in bookcase on this wall goes from the floor right up to the ceiling.

Lovely! Reminds me of my Little Crooked Bookshelf back home. (I have to use a ladder to get to the top, though.)

Probably the coolest thing about my studio are these old double doors between the two rooms. A previous owner of our house was the postmaster in town. And when they built the new post office in 1963, he took these old doors out of the old post office and installed them here.They lead to the other room in my studio, which is mostly just boxes of books, flat files filled with artwork . . .

. . . and a blank white wall where I keep all the illustrations whenever I'm working on a book. It's very helpful to be able to put all the artwork up on the wall, so I can see what's working, what's not, and how all the pictures fit together (or don't).

Oh, I just remembered a couple more things I want to show you in the other room!

Sometimes I make turtles out of papier mache. Just kidding, my daughters made these. Aren't they awesome?

Awesome with awesome sauce! I dabble in a little paper mache myself, you know. (Mostly pigs.)

The other coolest things in my studio are these two color photographs of Ted Williams, from his rookie season, 1939. They're both signed by Ted Williams and by the photographer, Arthur Griffin. I wrote about these pictures on my blog once. Check them out if you're curious:

Cool is right! Your studio may be one of the coolest I've visited as a matter of fact. 

Thanks, Mr. Pig! Well, I wish you could stay all day, but I've got a deadline. Thanks for visiting! Stop by any time!

Thanks for having me, Matt! Good luck with that deadline!

Isn't he just the nicest fellow? And so talented. Check out this video of Matt drawing!

Matt Tavares was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1975. He grew up in Winchester, a suburb just outside of Boston.

Matt wrote and illustrated his first picture book, Sebastian's Ball, as his senior thesis at Bates College. Three years later, after much revision, Sebastian's Ball became Zachary's Ball, his first published picture book. Zachary's Ball went on to win an Oppenheim Gold Seal Award, a Massachusetts Book Award Honor, and was named one of Yankee Magazine's 40 Classic New England Children's Books.
Since then, Matt has published fifteen more books. He is the author-illustrator of Growing Up Pedro; Becoming Babe Ruth; There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived; Henry Aaron's Dream; Mudball; and Oliver's Game. He is the illustrator of Jubilee! by Alicia Potter; Over the River and Through the Wood by L. Maria Child; Helen's Big World, by Doreen Rappaport; Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy, written by Doreen Rappaport; The Gingerbread Pirates, by Kristin Kladstrup; 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, attributed to Anonymous; Jack and the Beanstalk, by E. Nesbit; Iron Hans: A Grimms' Fairy Tale, retold by Stephen Mitchell; and Lady Liberty: A Biography, by Doreen Rappaport.

Matt's books have won numerous awards, including three Parents' Choice Gold Awards, six Oppenheim Gold Seal Awards, an Oppenheim Paltinum Award, an International Reading Association Children's Book Award, and an Orbis Pictus Award for Oustanding Nonfiction for Children. His books have also garnered starred reviews in Publisher's WeeklyThe Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews. His artwork has been exhibited at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, the Brandywine River Museum, and the Mazza Museum of Picture Book Art.

Matt lives in Maine with his wife, Sarah, and their two daughters.

Visit him at

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