Children's Book Author and Illustrator Catherine Dawgert Shares the Stories Behind her Picture Books
If you are willing to look at the world a little off-center, sometimes as children will, and discover the humor and wonder that is in it, you’ll be drawn to Catherine Dawgert’s pictures books and her illustrations. Catherine Dawgert is the author-illustrator of A,B,C, Disgusting (a unique alphabet book that seeks to introduce the alphabet with a bit of gross humor from Ape Armpits to Flamingo Farts to Zebra Zits), Even in My Monster Hat (a shy little girl who finds her roar under her monster hat) and The Dinglebeast Needs to Sleep (well, about a tired Dinglebeast searching for a place to sleep).
A number of her stories comes from her playing with her nephews and nieces, she tells us. They are stories that have a deep resonance with that world inhabited by little ones and seek to tell us a little about the humor, kindness and quirky brightness that emanates from children’s play.
Catherine Dawgert is the winner of the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Best Illustrator for her book A,B,C, Disgusting. Her book, The Dinglebeast Needs to Sleep, has also received the Inkspokes Select Book Award. She shares with us today some of the inspiration behind her books and her creative process. She also brings with her several illustrations from A,B,C, Disgusting and a forthcoming book, The People on the Bus (inspired by beautiful strangers she meets on the bus). The illustrations for The People on the Bus are created using pen and ink, acrylics, marbled paper, an atlas, collage.
Welcome to Inkspokes, Catherine! Thank you for taking a few minutes to talk with us.
NS: Where does the inspiration come from for your books? In particular, where did you find the Dinglebeast?
CD: Most of my ideas have seeds in interactions with the kids in my world. The girl in Even in My Monster Hat is a character based on my niece who is introverted, strong and had a monster hat. A,B,C, Disgusting developed from talking or telling jokes about silly and gross thing with kids.
The sleepy Dinglebeast she-monster character developed from a game in which I pretended to sleep and my nieces and nephews snuck around trying not to wake me. I began experimenting with paper marbling around the time I began imagining a story for the Dinglebeast. The character and the art form seemed such a good marriage as marbled paper often reminds me of landscapes awaiting travelers.
NS: You are an amazing illustrator as well as children’s book author. Have you always liked art? How has your interest in art and illustration evolved?
CD: I have always loved to draw and write stories and was a big doodler through my school years. In college I tried to take a studio arts class every semester and had a 2 dimensional design instructor that mentioned that I had a real knack for illustration. Over the next few years drawing was always a hobby for me, but it was not until my nieces and nephews were born and I began drawing books for them as presents, that I came back to this idea of illustrating. I am novice with much to learn, but I really enjoy creating characters and building worlds through collage and line drawings. I am always looking for new techniques and classes to explore new ways working with various media to develop my illustration style.
NS: Can you tell us a little bit about the marbling technique that you use in your illustrations?
CD: I create marbled papers through a process that has roots in two ancient techniques, the Japanese art of sumanigashi and the Turkish art of ebru . Using eye droppers or a splatter brush, I drip paints on water thickened with methylcellulose and manipulate the colors with a variety of tools including sticks, combs and breath. Then I lay a paper on the surface of the water to print the marbled design. What prints is always a bit of a surprise and I find the process and spontaneity of marbling very satisfying.
NS: What is your process for writing and illustration? Do you do one first and then the other or is there some back and forth where the story influences the illustration but an illustration or sketch you do might influence the storyline?
CD: The process seems quite circular and winding to me. Sometimes a morning doodle inspires an idea, sometimes a walk or long car ride gets me daydreaming up a concept that I start to write out. As I draw, the writing changes, and as I write, images and layouts begin to play through my head. Picture books are particularly interesting to me because of the multiple stories and bits of information pictures and words can tell together on a page. As I draw the writing changes, and vice versa. Overall I think I am more likely to write out a story first then play with the images and adjust the story as those evolve.
NS: Favorite children’s book?
CD: It’s so hard to choose a favorite. Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie are old favorites, but more recent favorites include If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Figliano and Erin Stead and The Treehouse by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman.
NS: Favorite ice cream flavor?
CD: Burgundy Cherry!
(This interview was conducted for Inkspokes by Nelson Suit. Illustrations in this post are copyrighted by Catherine Dawgert or Woodland Way, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)
More information about Catherine Dawgert’s books and illustrative work may be found at:
Woodland Way’s Website (Publisher’s website)