Monday, March 5, 2012

Peter H. Reynolds In Conversation

Peter H. Reynolds
by Catherine Lee

The first book of illustrations that I ran into at Barnes and Noble was "Someday" by Alison McGhee and indeed it was profound and powerful. I admired the works so much that I purchased the book. Can you tell me how you make the impact in your illustrations so powerful?
Alison's text was a poem with a mission. As soon as I read it, I could hear the sighs, the tears splashing around the world. The same emotion people feel reading Someday is what I felt as I illustrated the book. I have experienced loss and channeled that into my art. 

Your style is very mild and soft, and the images are lined very non-textual, yet they have such a unique embrace. 
I subscribe to the "less is more" philosophy. Only the lines needed to convey the essence of the story are needed. 

Did this take long to develop? 
When I was about 25 I found a mentor, Aldo Servino. He was twice my age and pushed me to be less careful. At first it was a shock. All these years of art school trying to "perfect" my technique and here comes a guys who tells me to be less perfect. We had to paint 17 murals together on a very tight schedule. Through that experience, I was jolted into a much freer space. I plan on writing a book about some of the specific things he said and did to help relax and allow loose lines to spring out without worry.

Your work is watercolor-based? Do you blend other mediums?
Watercolor is a great medium for me. It is always at the ready no matter where I go. However, I am not averse to using technology. My recent collaboration with Amy Krouse Rosenthal "PLANT A KISS" was all done on my Mac using Adobe Flash. I'd like to do some books with NO color - just done with my Sharpie extra-fine. I also love the "China Marker." Would love to do a book with that someday.

You said that you had been doodling and drawing since you were a little child. Did you know already then that that is what you wanted to be doing? Do you have an art educational background? 
I have indeed been drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon. I fell in love with making markers and never stopped. My art education has happened over the last fifty years. While I have taken courses, my best research and learning comes from working with children directly.

Can you tell us a little more about, a company that you created with your twin brother, Paul? 
FableVision is an amazing studio perched above the Boston Children's Museum overlooking the beautiful harbor. FableVision is a trans-media studio meaning that we develop everything from no-tech to high-tech - from books to mobile apps for organizations needing their message, story, content to be shared. Jim Henson Productions, The National Archives, The National Fire Protection Agency are just a few of our clients. The bulk of what we do now is web and mobile app development. We love technology, but we know that learning is blended. It might be a combination of a book, a game, a mobile app - and the element so may forget in this day of hi-tech blur - the human element. We actively design with that in mind.

When was it created, and why did you feel the need to create the company, or was it something that you just wanted to do? 
FableVision was created in 1996 with my twin brother. We had a particular vision of what we wanted to do - as we say "stories that matter, stories that move." We wanted to focus on non-violent, meaningful media for all ages - not just children. Most other companies seemed to have a narrow focus. We felt that FableVision was a company that had to be created.

Is you twin brother a writer or illustrator too? 
Paul is a great writer and artist, although he has been busy building our studio and not doing as much as I think he should in the creative writing and art arena. I have been nudging him along!

Does he have anything published as well?
Paul soon will be published. Simon & Schuster will be publishing a book called "Above & Beyond" which encourages us all to go beyond just what is expected. He also wrote a book called "Sydney & Symon" about twins who are aspiring scientists, but also artists and creative thinkers. I have the honor of illustrating both books. 

Are you repped by anyone right now? If not, would you like to be repped?
I have the best agency in the world: Pippin Properties. I am biased, but Holly McGhee, founder of Pippin, happens to have done amazing things for me in the past decade, as well as my fellow "Pips" - David Small, Kate DiCamillo, Jef Kaminsky, Harry Bliss, Doreen Cronin, George Booth among others. 

Can you tell us a little more about the school visits that you do? 
I don't do many school visits these days as I am always busy with new book and film projects, but when I DO - I adore the whole process. Typically I'll read The Dot and have students help me act it out with a big blank pad of paper. It is the after-talk chatting that really is wonderful though. Hearing what part of what I said, or drew, or read - sparked ideas, questions and creative thinking - THAT is magic. I leave wishing that I was able to return as a full-time teacher.

And do would you want to do educational books in the future? Or do you do them now?
Well, I like to think my books are educational -or at the very least, a very welcome addition to any classroom bookshelf. I have lent my art to more content focused books, such as, Charlie and the Kiwi (Simon & Schuster) and to books for educators, such as the upcoming "Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8" by Debbie Silver.

There's a wonderful world of educational books that would love illustrators that have a subtle, gentle childish view, yet have is powerful in delivering and teaching an ideas or formulas and also stories in text books. 
I agree. The world of learning is aching for creative ways to share ideas and knowledge.

Another book that I purchased of yours was The North Star, one of the first books that you written and illustrated. Was this fun for you? Did this story have a spiritual quality?
Do we have a few days to chat about this book? There is so much to share about this special story. It was really inspired by my mission to remind all of us to listen to our own "inner compass." I am a big fan of self-directed learning -of course, with caring guides along the way, but too often kids' real instincts and interests are missed by the current educational system that seems to value memorization over life-long skills. I wrote it to inspire and to help recharge the readers spirits and in that sense, it is spiritual book. The North Star is an allegory which allows the reader to interpret the story in their own way.

Can you tell us the process of picture-booking? 
That's another big question. Whew. There are a lot of ways to do -especially now with e-books.

How long does it take? 
On average - it takes me 4 months from start to finish, but those four months of work might be sprinkled over a year or so.

And you still have editors or directors that refine or critique you before the final published book? Seems wonderful.  
My art directors and editors are still a big part of crafting my books. Sometimes though, it is just a nod of "that's it" from them when the story and art just flows out. Great editors know when to tweak and when to just leave it alone.

Revisions: I'd love to ask you about it. Do you like revising? And does polished work seem better than originals? 
I am not a huge fan of revising. It suddenly turns art into work. I prefer my art that flows out without any pencil sketching. Having said that, I don't mind the revision if it ends up helping my reader understand the ideas I am trying to convey. I often will create four or five pieces of the same art so that I can then sift through to find the one with that spark that just makes it stand out.

What is your favorite line that you would love to tell the adult world of writers and illustrators that have entered the children's market? Well, the line from my book, The Dot "Make your mark and see where it takes you" really sums it up. Just start. Get something down and start sharing. I also suggest to make your story matter - to you. Convey some wisdom you can swear by.

What future endeavors would you like to journey on? 
I'd very much love to explore the world. India, Japan, Africa are just a few places that are rich in human experience and culture. I want to soak it all in and have it inspire my work.

I am working on a musical version of The Dot at the moment. I'd love to co-write more songs, such as "I Want to Dream" (by Nathan Meckel, Burton Collins and myself). There are a lot of ways to share ideas and stories.

Thank you so much for this interview. 
My pleasure!

Please let me know about recent published or publishing works that are coming out soon. 
Sky Color, the third book in my "Creatrilogy" which includes The Dot and Ish, will be released this September. My recent collaboration with Amy Krouse Rosenthal, "PLANT A KISS" has just hit the top ten on the New York Times bestseller list. I am working on a Christmas story and of course, a few new Judy Moody books. Always something on my desk in my studio!

For more info, go to and
Twitter: peterhreynolds


  1. LOVELY lovely info rich inspiring interview!!!

  2. This was extremely fun for me, only because I admire his illustrations so much. And can't believe that I had the chance to contact him, and get a response from someone doing amazing work!

  3. Great interview and totally inspiring! Thanks P &I and Peter!

  4. Catherine--I really enjoyed this interview. Peter's art is a joy to behold and it was fascinating to find out about him. Thanks for bringing us another inspirational illustrator.

  5. Peter Reynolds is one of my favorite writer-illustrators. I own The Dot, which was given to me as a gift, and I've given it to others. I really enjoyed reading here about his process and his professional experiences (re: editing, revising, etc.) Thanks for the interview!

    1. Kathy,
      We're glad you liked the interview and wish you the best on your continued success with Don't Expect Magic.
      The Management

  6. Delightful illustrations! I really enjoyed learning about Peter. Thank you!


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