Welcome to Creative Conversations: discussions about the creative process. Today I’m welcoming back the multi-talented author/illustrator Molly Blaisdell.
photo credit: Alan Bryant
Molly and I decided to talk about Synchronicity today in celebration of our first picture book together! (CC readers can pop down to the bottom of this conversation and enter to win our picture book and Chickens swag.)
Janet: Before the picture book cover reveal, I have some questions for Molly B. When did you start drawing chickens?
Molly: I have no idea when I started drawing chickens. Maybe I was 5 or so. I learned to draw from my family of folk artists and knew how to draw a chicken before I could write my name. I was also a bantam fancier in school and raised show chickens for county fair competitions in Texas. The best part of showing a chicken was washing it in the bathtub and then styling its feathers with a blow dryer.
Janet: Unlike you, Molly. I have no chicken experience. I can picture the feathers fluffing in that blow dryer. And your chicken drawings kept evolving. Do you have an early chicken drawing to show us?
Molly: I will have to go digging in my files.
Molly: The chickens that we see in the Chicken books started around 1995. I drew single panel cartoons for fun.
Janet: I follow your the Chickens page on Facebook. They make me chuckle. One of my favorites is this one
Molly: Haha! I like that one too!
Janet: By the way, our gray cat is named Gandalf the Grey. Your Gandalf looks like a very wise rooster. Once I met your Chickens, I had to have more. This was not a Colonel Sanders type craving! I bought your CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN last year and cracked up at all the pages and the fowl costumes!!
More about the book
I think seeing all those costumed chickens planted the seed for what happened next. Should I tell the synchronicity story now, Molly?
Molly: Sure. Cluck away. 🙂
Janet: Last year on December 20th I sent Molly this email:
I woke up this morning with 12 days of Christmas in my head only I heard and saw it with your chickens.
Here’s a first draft of what came to me 🙂 do you want to play with the idea at all????
Molly wrote back, “Take a look at today’s blog post.” I opened it to discover Molly had just written a thoughtful Post about my newest book IN THE TIME OF DRAGON MOON. I had no idea Molly had just posted that online when I woke up with her chickens singing a chicken-centric rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas as they danced around in my head.
Molly: We were certainly flowing together.
Janet: Yeah. Synchronicity! And that flow kept going as we worked on THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: STARRING THE CHICKENS. Time for the cover reveal.
Chickens hatch holiday hilarity. After the hype and busyness, true love triumphs in this updated version of a classic Christmas carol. In THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: STARRING THE CHICKENS, a flock of chickens and a penguin in a pine tree bring new twists to the cumulative series song. Grand gifts given on each day of Christmas will delight all chicken lovers. Gentle warmth and humor will wrap families and friends in the joy of Christmas.
Caney Creek Books
Janet: So fun to have this out this year! Since CC is all about creative process, here’s my chance to ask you about your art process, Molly. Can you share it with us?
Molly: Sure. I can only draw things I have seen and touched. I spent much of my childhood with one chicken or another. I raised and showed fancy bantams. I also have lots of curves in my head and meaningful dots. These come from doodling regularly. Next, I sew. I have made outfits for people and stuffed animals.
costume for a teddy bear
My dressmaking sense helps me design the clothes the chickens wear. (It is a little odd writing this down.) Once I have an idea for the chicken characters, I make a rough pencil sketch. I work with the curves until the make me happy. I have models. Then I use a lightbox and copy the curves that I like the most. Then I trace the curves with a pen and fill in color with art markers. I only use spot color. This is for the books. The online doodles are sometimes sketched in Fresh Paint.
Janet: Wow. It’s great to hear about your creative process. Very three dimensional. I didn’t know until this moment that you also sew costumes, Molly B.
Molly: Like any clothing designer, I sketch what I want my final piece to look like.
Janet: In the early draft, I asked for Chickens on motorcycles, and that didn’t ride well with you. I saw your point, and, of course, you came up with something much better! On your end were there any surprises as you worked on the book?
Molly: Well, the penguin was the brainchild of my son’s friend Cory Howell who is just around the house a lot. He was sitting at the kitchen table with my son playing Magic the Gathering. I was drawing the penguin. He would say things like: “That’s stupid, that’s better, that’s almost it.” Then he shouted, “That penguin needs a fez.”
Janet: Ha! A dude muse! So I finally learn the secret behind the Fez, Molly. I’m learning some fun background stuff here about our book. Talking together about the process of making art does that. Do you want to say more about synchronicity or about working together on this project?
Molly: Synchronicity, for me, isn’t about just a moment in time with a coincidence. It’s the bigger picture of our mutual respect for each other’s art and wanting a chance to work together. I love to collaborate, but it’s tough. A good relationship can unravel in collaborative work, yet we take the risk for the work.
I know this is all chickens and penguins and stuff–but it’s important to me, and it’s important to you. I see that class of school kids giggling over the Chickens. I see the creative play the springs from the Chickens. I see a parent and child snuggled together reading the Chickens. You and I have that connection and that drive. I also think we both feel the commercialism of the season and wanted to dial it back to love of family and friends and good times together. This meeting of the minds is what makes synchronicity possible.
Janet: I love your vision of the book. Parents snuggling with kids and reading. Kids doing creative play. You gave me a gift. This year I needed to learn how to laugh again. Your Chickens did that. Every time you sent a new page, I opened it and cracked up! I really needed that. Maybe we can put some laughter back in the holidays. Laughter is free.
Miss Janet Chicken and Miss Molly Chicken wish you all a Merry Christmas!
Molly and I are offering a lucky Dreamwalks reader a signed copy of
And Chickens swag — a bookmark and some special Molly doodles!
We’ll mail the prizes out in time for Christmas.
Note: To those of you who are new to raffle copter, the only thing you have to do is tweet. The tweet is written for you ahead of time. You just need to click. Also, you need to click “I Tweeted” to confirm the entry. Good Luck All!