We recently reviewed the Children’s Book Autumn is for Apple Pie, and we are so excited to share with you our Illustrator Spotlight, which is shining brightly on Michal Sparks today!
Let me introduce you to the Illustrator of the Buttercup Grove Series + Autumn is for Apple Pie…
Illustrator Spotlight: Michal Sparks
Michal Sparks was born in Binghamton, NY but grew up mainly in Texas. She now lives in New Jersey and she went to the Kansas City Art Institute and has a BFA in Fibers & Textiles.
Michal shares that her ‘journey to illustration has not been a straight line by any means.’ It was not her intention to become an illustrator, but she says that ‘looking backing, it makes sense.’ She began working straight out of college in New York City, working as a fashion designer for Alexander Julian, in the Men’s division.
This led her to enjoy an ‘art director position at an NYC apparel print design studio’. She then opened her own textile design company for home textiles and after about four years, she took the company into art licensing. It was then, ‘at the licensing show, 20+ years ago, I was approached by an acquisitions editor to illustrate children’s books.’ She has now illustrated over ’50+ books and still illustrating…Pure happenstance!’ Michal mainly illustrates children’s books but has also done some gift books, and gardening books, as well as DIY books for adults and kids.
The last book she illustrated was Winter Snow Fun, from the Buttercup Grove Series. She is currently working on a second book in another series, of which she can only share that ‘they are about a very public dog and his little boy!’ How exciting, we are very curious about this next series she is working on.
How she finds her inspiration
Michal found the Inspiration for Autumn is for Apple Pie and the other books in the Buttercup Grove Series by researching her subject. ‘I looked at tons of animal photographs and since I used to have a farm, animal personalities were easy to draw from.’
What Michal’s creative process is like + behind the scenes
When Michal first begins a project, she gets a feel for the characters ‘by sketching tons of views.’ When she was starting work for the first Buttercup Grove book, A Windy Spring Day, she recalls that she ‘sketched pages and pages of raccoons and skunks in all sorts of positions’ so she could get a feel for how they stand, sit, and move. She would then add in the human gestures.
Michal says that the next step is to ‘mock up the book in a notebook; taping the text on each page.’ She then goes through and writes down notes of what she thinks the pictures should be, and sketches more. ‘When all the sketches are done I trace them on heavy paper.’
I loved learning more about how she mocks up her books because as a homeschool mom, I am always searching for ways to teach my kids how to do things and her method of mocking up books is a great one.
When it is time to paint, she says that she ‘paints all of a particular color on each page. So all of the raccoon’s fur gets painted on every page where he is. Then the next color gets painted and so on.’ She touches up, and then the ‘last part is adding the black line.’ Michal says that ‘the reason I paint the colors in an assembly line is to keep them consistent. If I did one page, start to finish at a time it would be very difficult if not impossible to keep the colors exact for each piece.’
What a great method she has, it is so inspiring, and she finds that this way helps ‘the end product’ look the most consistent. It was so wonderful learning her creative process, and I hope you all found something from it. I know my children love telling stories, and drawing illustrations for them and these are some wonderful tips!
Michal says that as an Illustrator she loves ’giving characters a personality.’ She always loved to read books, and feels so fortunate to be in this field of work. How happy I am for her, and her artwork in these books. They really bring the life lessons home for my children while we read the book, Autumn is for Apple Pie. My children and I love the animals’ expressions, the small details, the autumn colors, and watercolor artwork. My youngest loves to associate each ingredient brought with what animal. Reading this book is a pleasure, and with the combination of words and art, you can see how a brilliant book is born.
Find more from Michal Sparks
You can check out more from Michal Sparks on her Instagram, her blog, and her facebook page. She sells her artwork on her blog and has some lovely handmade Sachets of French Lavender for sale, as well as some unique and beautiful reclaimed object art, fall decor craft kits, hand-painted cards and digital happy quotes, and some beautiful free printables! Go check it out, and sign up for her newsletter!
Michal’s advice to young artists:
“Really the basis for all art, illustration or any other kind, is drawing. Discipline yourself to draw every day. Keep a sketchbook. Challenge yourself with hard projects. Practice makes consistency!”
Because this book inspired me so much and getting to know these brilliant creators, I have created two bookmarks that you and your children can enjoy while they work in their writing journals and sketchbooks. These two bookmarks have the author and illustrators inspirational quotes on them, and my daughter is already loving them! Download yours today, when you subscribe to our mailing list.
Thank you for reading our Illustrator Spotlight, for the Buttercup Grove Series and Autumn is for Apple Pie, stay tuned for more inspiring activities you can do with your kids involving this lovely book!
Till next time,
Breathe deeply and enjoy building your masterpiece with scissors and glue and illustrations too!
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