If you know me, then you know that I love the ocean. Okay, I might even be called obsessed. Same goes for mermaids. So imagine my delight when I heard that Molly Idle was making another mermaid picture book! I already loved “Pearl” and now, there’s “Coral.”
Molly Idle once worked at DreamWorks before making her splash into picture books as an author-illustrator. She is perhaps most well known for her wordless picture books with a girl named Flora who loves to dance with her feathered friends (from Flamingos to Peacocks). She has now created many picture books with her beautiful art work and lives in Arizona with her family. You can find out more about her at her website.
“Coral” is a story of a coral mermaid who doesn’t want to share. She wants her little spot of the world all to herself for once! Yet she comes to the realization that it takes more than one to help make the world work. This story is stunning in its modesty and restraint. I gasped at its beauty (the illustrations do wonderful and amazingly subtle things, playing with the gutter), I was left breathless at the simplicity of the story line (that works oh so perfectly), and I read the book over and over trying to soak in as many of the details as I could. It’s fantastic. I cannot recommend it enough (to writers, illustrators, or readers)!
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic journey? When did you start drawing? And how did you end up illustrating picture books?
Molly: One of my earliest memories is of walking into my mom’s painting studio in our garage in Los Angeles. I was about three years old, and as she was painting, I asked, “Can I do that?”
And because my mom is an awesome mom, she said yes, and handed me her brush and paints.
I wish I could tell you that the instant she put the paints into my hands, a magical light shone down upon us there in the studio, and that my first brushstrokes upon the canvas made it clear, that in that instant, I had found my destiny!
But looking at an early example of my work, you’ll see that was not the case.
As you can see, there was no was no way for either of us to know then, what that moment would inspire.
That it would lead to countless other paintings and drawings and scribbles.
To devouring how-to-draw books at the library.
To art school.
To making movies at DreamWorks…
Which lead to making books.
Me: Wow! What a journey! You have many wonderful picture books out now. What illustration method or techniques do you use the most in making picture books? Can you talk about your process?
Molly: Prismacolor pencils and paper are my mediums of choice. I love the precision they provide.
Working much like a painter, I’ll create an underdrawing and then work from the background to the foreground, slowly building layer upon layer of color. There’s no doubt that working this way, in pencil, is time consuming, but it can be calming too- almost meditative.
Me: Those are my favorite colored pencils! Excellent! After reading “Pearl,” I was delighted to find out you had another mermaid book coming out. Why mermaids? Will there be more mermaid books forthcoming?
Molly: Mermaids have always fascinated me! When I was little I wanted to become one- they’re so magical. And while I don’t have another mermaid tale in the works, my next book with Little Brown, Witch Hazel, does contain a bit more magic!
Me: Aww! I can’t wait to read it. “Coral” has beautiful messages of friendship, sharing, and working together. Yet it also addresses coral conservation. As someone who is a lover of the ocean and all the worlds below, I have to ask, is this message one that is important to you?Is it something you want kids to think about?
But in as much as the issue of coral conservation is an issue I care deeply about, it’s only a part of what I hope readers take with them. The themes of cooperation and coexistence in the book are at once timeless and timely. Today, more than ever before, we need to find new ways to collaborate and help one another.
Whether we are part of a creative team, a coral colony, or a community- there’s nothing that we can’t make better by working together.
Me: I love that. Both the writing and the illustrating of “Coral” left me breathless. I’m quite agog at how much you were able to include in this little gem. What was harder with this story, the writing or the illustrating? Were there many revisions?
Molly: That’s so kind of you to say!
As an artist, I try to create new challenges for myself with every book that I illustrate. As an author, I find that the challenges create themselves! So I can say without hesitation that the writing was the most difficult part of creating Coral’s story.
I got stuck on some parts. Other parts were slippery, and I couldn’t get a grip on them. All in all, the process of writing this manuscript was the creative equivalent of wrestling a giant squid!
Me: What surprised you in writing the book?
Molly: In the end, the only way I was able to get a hold on the story was to draw everything out, then go back and write in what needed to be said rather than shown. I’ve never worked that way before. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time… again, like squid wrestling!
Me: Any advice for other aspiring picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Molly: Read. Write. Draw. Repeat 🙂
Excellent advice. Thank you again for visiting my blog Molly. Dear readers, if you haven’t yet had a chance to read this book, I highly recommend it. Don’t miss it!