Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mr. Pig Visits . . . ROSEMARY WELLS!

Greetings, dear readers!

How do I look? I'm dressed in my very best because today I'm headed to the studio of award-winning author-illustrator Rosemary Wells! That's right, 
ROSEMARY WELLS . . . creator of some of the most memorable characters in children's literature, including perennial favorites Max & Ruby, Noisy Nora, Yoko, two treasured (and definitive) collections of Mother Goose, several acclaimed novels, and many more beloved titles for young readers.

I'm nervous. And excited. I'm nervously excited!!!

<<Knock, knock>>

Ahem. Hello, Ms. Wells, thank you for inviting me. These flowers are for you.  

Thank you, Mr. Pig. And please, call me Rosemary. Come in.

I know you're very busy, so we can get right to the tour if you'd like.

Alright. Here is the window where I work.

(Um, Rosemary? There's someone in your chair. Never mind . . . please proceed.) 

When I create a book, I always tack my artwork on the wall where I can see the whole book at once and see that the narrative works from page to page. 

As you can see, I have many different materials in my arsenal. I work with pencils, pastels, and watercolor.

Here is my paint box filled by me with individual pans of certain colors I like to use. I love their names: Alizerin crimson, cerulean blue, Prussian green, gamboge, Indian yellow. . .  I could go on forever.

I use sable brushes. They are expensive but they last forever if you take care of them. I condition them and make sure I use clean water and never leave a brush in a jar of water for even three seconds or the brush will curve and be useless next time around.

Pastels are another way of expressing color. They are beautiful but a pain to use. They create dust, which I try not to breathe in or get all over the white dog. I do love them however and use them on dark sanded paper from the art store.

Pastels are kept in beds of rice in order that the colors don’t pollute each other with chalk dust.

Here is an example of how a red pastel looks when on white paper and how much more brightly it resounds on a dark background.

Here are several pastel background color paintings that the publisher will insert around the central artwork to give the page a beautiful tone.

I use the pencils, both watercolor and pigment, for many other textures and reasons. I sharpen them often with an industrial-size electric pencil sharpener.

Spatter is a nice technique. I mask the painting subject with masking frisket--a clear, plastic, stick-on medium. Then spatter away.

I also use rubber stamps. I make them from any number of different textures. Here is brown rice. I also use tapioca and other ingredients like gravel. I place the rice or other material in a large rectangle on the copy machine and send the paper copy of the texture out to the stamp-making company.

Oh, yes. I use rice and tapioca all the time too. (Mainly for pudding.) 

Here is the tapioca stamp along with the illustration fully stamped in. It makes a nice snowstorm. 

Once again I mask a central part of an illustration and then stamp the whole, lifting the masking film up when the stamp is finished. These are huge stamps. I love to use them for background texture of all kinds and colors.

Look closely at these two illustrations. You’ll see stamps all over!

I also use fabrics in my art.

These unusual and friendly patterns come from “feed sack” materials which used to abound in the America of the mid-twentieth century. Farmers ordered all their dry goods, coffee, chicken feed, sugar, and flour in these sacks. When they were empty, the farmers’ wives took the material and made clothing and other household goods from it. The patterns are charming and available now remanufactured. They are to be found all over my books.

I also use Origami papers in the Yoko books. These are the apogee of amazing Japanese design.

Here is a picture of Yoko, reading with her mother using watercolor, gouache, origami paper, pastel, and pencil.

Here are some of my most recent books. They are accompanied by Max and Ruby plush created years ago by Eden Toys. Now collectors’ items!

Picture books begin with a story first. When that story has a good beginning, middle, and end, I type it out and fashion what’s called a “dummy book” out of it, watching for page turns, length, and structure. Here are pictures of the original idea of Max and Ruby at the Warthogs’ Wedding. You can see the sketch early illustrations glued to the pages. You can see my editor’s comments and suggestions on post-it notes. I generally follow my editor’s suggestions as she is my third eye and ear on each book I do.

Sometimes I have a co-worker in my studio!

Part of my work which I truly love is school appearances and foreign travel at International schools. These are pictures from my album of travel to Singapore, Bangkok, and Japan.

In addition to all the rest of my work, I try to sponsor a Read to Your Bunny national campaign aimed at those invaluable professionals who work with parents to encourage them to read aloud to their children. Here is the best image “worth a thousand words” that I know to show that even a five-month-old loves her books!

In emergencies, my friends on the bed are always available for opinions from the kibble gallery!

Thank you, Rosemary, for your gracious hospitality. This has been such a fascinating peek into your studio and process! Will you please sign my copy of Max and Ruby at the Warthogs' Wedding?

Of course, Mr. Pig!

About Rosemary Wells
Rosemary Wells’ career as an author and illustrator spans more than 30 years and 60 books. She has won numerous awards, and has given readers such unforgettable characters as Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, and Yoko. She has also given Mother Goose new life in two enormous, definitive editions, published by Candlewick. Wells wrote and illustrated Unfortunately Harriet, her first book with Dial, in 1972. One year later she wrote the popular Noisy Nora. “The children and our home life have inspired, in part, many of my books. Our West Highland white terrier, Angus, had the shape and expressions to become Benjamin and Tulip, Timothy, and all the other animals I have made up for my stories.” Her daughters Victoria and Beezoo were constant inspirations, especially for the now famous “Max” board book series. “Simple incidents from childhood are universal,” Wells says. “The dynamics between older and younger siblings are common to all families.”

About Rosemary's new book

by Rosemary Wells
Viking, September 2, 2014
ISBN 978-0-6707-8461-5 

Oh, no! Max has lost the wedding ring! How can the Warthogs’ wedding go on without the ring? Max and Ruby lead the search through the grand hotel. Down to the laundry, up to the towers, back to the conservatory they run, following the map in Grandmother’s Bunnyphone, which, School Library Journal noted, is “cleverly adorned with a sparkly carrot and iBunny logo.” Children will delight in lifting the flaps to see where Max and Ruby are headed next in this ingenious use of up-to-the- minute technology in telling another hilarious story featuring the beloved bunny siblings. Booklist cheered, “The siblings’ antics are as hilarious as always...this interactive title should be a hit with the pair’s many fans.”


  1. Fantastic! Thank you Rosemary! Thank you Mr. Pig!

  2. It is so great to see real art supplies used to create Rosemary's images. Nothing is as yummy as watercolors, pencils, great paper, etc. I've long been a big fan!