"Hold This!" is one of our newest children's titles, and there is no denying that Priscilla Alpaugh's charming illustrations are a perfect compliment to Carolyn Cory Scoppettone's story. In the book, a young girl named Mika goes on a nature walk with her father, collecting small treasures along the way. Children and parents will relate to the story, as the words and pictures showcase quiet moments that become the sweetest memories.
In celebration of "Hold This!", we chatted with Priscilla Alpaugh on her original ideas for the book, her creative process, and the illustrators who inspire her most.
IP: How did you come up with the idea of the woodland animals for this book?
PA: In the story, Mika and her Dad wander through the woods. I wanted something else going on along with the story and the idea of animals frolicking seemed like fun. Since it needed to have a beginning and an end, a race made for lots of fun drawings and a great thing to see in progress along with Mika and her discoveries.
IP: For the people (and animals) that you draw, do you use real-life models or photographs?
PA: Most of what I draw comes from a combination of imagining the character in the situation and drawing them over and over (and over) again. Now and then I will either take a photo of myself in the position or look at photographs. That's usually just to get hands or gestures right. I refer to photos with the animals only to practice drawing the animal somewhat accurately. Once I feel like I know what a raccoon really looks like, I just draw them doing whatever they need to do.
IP: What are some artists, illustrators or children's books that you find inspiring?
PA: I've always wanted to draw like E.H.Shepherd or Robert McCloskey. I also love Robert Lawson of "Ferdinand" fame, Bill Peet, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Maurice Sendak and Maxfield Parrish. I love so many contemporary illustrators it's impossible to list them all. I think that Holly Hobbie's Toot and Puddle books contain the most wonderful illustrations I will ever see. I keep a lovely, encouraging letter from Holly right next to me in the studio.
IP: When you have the artist equivalent of writer's block, what do you do?
PA: Draw, draw and draw some more. I can only think when I have pencil on paper.
IP: What's your favorite medium?
PA: Colored pencil or pen and ink with watercolor. I love paper with some texture because it not only feels great to draw on but makes for a varied, interesting line (if I'm lucky).
IP: What is your studio like?
PA: I am incredibly lucky to have had a studio for 14 years in an old school building a mile from my house. There are 80 artists in the building. The rooms are big with huge windows and great light. I work at two antique standing desks, one of which belonged to my great uncle who was a watercolorist at the turn of the century.
IP: What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were young?
- Don't believe everything you think.
- You might really be as good as people tell you you are.
- Don't treasure what you draw, the next one can always be better.
- Sketchbooks should have lots of awful drawings in them. That's how you get to the good ones.
If you'd like to pick up your copy of "Hold This!", you can find it at your local bookstore, or on our website here.
If you're in the Montpelier, Vermont area this weekend, stop by the North Branch Café to get your copy signed by author Carolyn Scoppettone! The event will be held Friday, October 16th at 7 p.m. Both Carolyn and Priscilla will be at Jeff Kinney's (think "Wimpy Kid") hot new bookstore, An Unlikely Story, in Plainville, MA, on Saturday, October 24th at 10 a.m. for a fun-filled reading and signing.