Tuesday, May 7, 2013

1st Interview on this New Blog: Michaele Razi!

I am pleased to share today, an interview with my friend Michaele Razi, a Seattle based illustrator whom I very much admire. Her work is beautiful and fun. I am always amazed at the clean balanced look of her illustrations, among many other things.

Me: Michaele, your first book is PLAYFUL MOON with words by Michelle Leclaire O'Neil- illustrated by yourself- (all proceeds of which go to the nonprofit Smart Beginnings/Easy Preventions- an organization in California that gives resources to pregnant teens and for preventing teen pregnancy) what a beautiful book and wonderful organization! Do you have any bits to share about how you decided to portray the images for this lovely story?

Michaele:  Well, Michelle and I brainstormed a bit about the visuals of the book. Her text was so lyrical and rich, with some traditional overtones, that I wanted to reflect that in the artwork. In Michelle's mind, when she was writing Playful Moon, her story was this burst of color and sweetness and I wanted to really drive that feeling. The illustrations I did were different from my usual style which is more of a subdued color palette with lots of white space, but since the majority of Playful Moon happens at night, I had to change it up. We also discussed how we wanted the character to look and we both agreed we wanted her to be a little girl of color and being a mixed girl myself, I wanted it  ambiguous enough so any girl reading the book could potentially see themselves. I also added a puppy as an additional character (I couldn't help myself)  in honor of my old, awesome dog, Sobee.


Me: What is your typical medium?

Michaele: My typical medium has changed! Originally, it was watercolor and pencil (sometimes I say graphite to sound artsy--Ha!). I've dabbled in oils and gouache, but the medium I use primarily is digital right now (Photoshop CS6). With a six year old son and 10 month old daughter, I have very little time and I can get so much done faster when I work digitally.

Me: When did you know you wanted to illustrate for children?

Michaele: I feel like I've known I wanted to do art since I was very little. I was constantly drawing and reading--two of my favorite things--and I guess I wanted to merge those two things together instinctively. I wasn't sure exactly what that would look like but I knew creating artwork was my thing, my lifestyle. I LOVED (still do) my children's books, but I also read comic books too and poured over the artwork. As I got older, I just put those thoughts away and did more fine art, then design, and I really didn't think about children's art for awhile, though it felt like it was always in the back of my mind. Then, when I had my son and a few serious health scares, my priorities shifted. I asked myself what was it that I wanted in my life? What was my most basic dream? The answer was crystal clear; I wanted to make children's books.

Me: Who/what do you think are your biggest influences?

Michaele:  The first thing that popped in my mind were all my old children's books. My top three that I still have: Favorite Japanese Children's Stories written by Florence Sakade and illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki (my favorite artist), Twice Upon a Time written by Irwin Shapiro and illustrated by Adrienne Adams and, last but not least, Heidi by written by Johanna Spyri and illustrated by Corinne Malvern. Kurosaki's work is fresh, playful and light. There's just enough detail but never too much and there's also this element of Japanese calligraphy that I absolutely adore. Adrienne Adams is just wonderful, her line quality and style are gorgeous. Her work is sweet but there's an element of darkness that adds a seriousness (but never creepy) to her art. Malvern is just old school goodness--traditional watercolor with gorgeous colors and aesthetic that still feels modern and relevant (actually, her style reminds me of your work, Sarah). But those artists barely scratch the surface when it comes to influences. I'm looking at a lot of 1800s Persian art right now and illustrations from the 1920s as well. Of course, I scour the internet for other artists that inspire me (thank you Pinterest!) and follow a ton of artist blogs too. Last but not least, my critique group has been invaluable! Each person brings serious talent to the table and different perspectives that has helped me more than anything!

Me: Any advice you've received in the past or have come up with on your own that you think is most valuable?

Michaele: Hmmm...advice. There's probably a gazillion things different people have said to me over the years that has helped me immensely but the one thing that pops in my head was from one of my painting professors. She said when we feel stuck, or lost, or frustrated that was usually when we are going to make a big break through, when we were going to improve in those quick bursts of creativity, we just have to keep going. I have to remind myself of that all the time!

Me: What do you love most about illustration?

Michaele: My favorite thing about illustration has to be the infinite amount of styles and interpretations there are. Two artist can draw the same subject and they will be COMPLETELY different in style and tone and everything! It's just so cool. When I see other artists' work, I'm just blown away most of the time. I'm feel like I'm always thinking, "I'm surrounded my geniuses!" And I feel so grateful for that.

Me: Thank you again for your time! I can't wait to see your future projects unfold. One more question: if you had 
to choose, which would it be- pen, pencil, or crayon?

Michaele: Pencil! Actually, mechanical pencil (my art teachers would throttle me)--I get too lazy to sharpen them!

You can see more of Michaele's beautiful work on her blog: Razi Ink. Do that, and you should definitely purchase her book PLAYFUL MOON- don't forget 100% of proceeds go to Smart Beginnings/Easy Preventions and you will be getting a wonderful book for doing something good!