Today I get to introduce you to a truly original character: Blob (with an L).
Anne Appert spent her childhood in New Jersey with her nose stuck in a book and a wild imagination that transformed her backyard into faraway places. This allowed her to be anything she dreamed she could be. She still enjoys spending time in her backyard dreaming, and now her imagination turns her dreams into words and pictures for children. Anne is represented by Charlotte Wenger at Prospect Agency. You can learn more about Anne at her website and follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
BLOB is her debut picture book as author-illustrator. Here is a character quite unlike any other. They’re literally a blob and they can change their shape into anything they wants. Or at least so the narrator tells us. This is a funny meta picture book where the character talks back to the story teller and changes the direction of what they wants versus what the narrator wants. This story is hilarious, entertaining, and charming. It’s one you won’t want to miss.
Me: Can you share about your artistic journey? When did you start creating art? How did that bring you to where you are now as an illustrator?
Anne: I enjoyed making art as a kid, but I wasn’t ever the kid who was always drawing. You were more likely to find me playing epic games of pretend with my siblings or with my nose stuck in a book. Starting in middle school, I sketched sometimes as a hobby. In high school, my twin sister danced, and I wanted to find my own thing, so I started to play more with art. We didn’t have an art program at the school we attended, so I decided to study architecture in college because I was very good at math and decent at drawing. When I received a brochure from a school with an architecture program that also had an illustration program, I changed my mind. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to create picture books. After college, I joined SCBWI, but I didn’t become active for a couple years. Once I did, I met a lot of great people who helped me get to where I am today.
Me: “Blob” is your author-illustrator debut. Yay! Congratulations! What is it that draws you to creating picture books?
Anne: Thank you so much! As someone who writes and illustrates, picture books just made sense. Story telling has always been a huge part of my life, from playing pretend as a kid to stories my dad told us at bed time. There are so many story telling possibilities within the picture book format. You can do so much with so little and yet it can be a challenge to fit the words and illustrations together to create a story that shines. The moment that everything clicks together is so exciting. All that being said, I am also working on some projects for older audiences now! I’m eager to see if they go anywhere.
Me: “Blob” reminds me ever-so-slightly of the picture book “Chester” by Melanie Watt. What gave you the idea for this story?
Anne: Thanks for the book suggestion! Blob started as a joke between me and a friend. I was working on an illustration for promotional use, and the feedback I was getting kept confusing my animals as different animals. For example, I drew a skunk, and people kept thinking it was a badger. After the third time this happened in the span of a week, I said to this friend that my bio should be: even if you can’t tell what Anne Appert draws, her animals are always cute and blobby. Then Blob popped into my head and I couldn’t resist drawing them. I shared the drawings on social media and got a great response. It was then I knew I was on to something.
Me: Which was harder: writing or illustrating “Blob”?
Anne: Blob was one of those annoyingly wonderful projects that was easy to write and illustrate. The first draft and the final draft are not that different. Most of the changes involved choosing words that had even greater impact and enabled a clearer message (thanks to my wonderful editor). The final illustration in the book changed dramatically. Beyond Blob, I find illustrating harder, simply because it takes more time and effort to create and then make revisions to art. However, I wouldn’t say no to a project simply popping into my head again, the same way Blob did!
Me: What did your illustration process for this book look like? Are you a traditional or a digital artist? Or do you use a blend of both?
Anne: I typically work 100% digitally, which is what I did for Blob. I did all the sketching and final art for Blob in the app Procreate on the iPad. To go from sketch to final art, I duplicated the files, traced them, added color, and tidied them up. I had chosen a limited palette for the original Blob illustrations, so I stuck with that for the entire book. It technically uses only 4 colors (plus white and a touch of black). I did play with the opacity levels for some of the layers, so it looks like I used more than 4 colors. Once the sketches were approved and I had added color, I brought the drawings into photoshop so I could blow them up more in order to tidy them further. I also changed them from an RGB to CMYK color profile. Interestingly, it’s looking like my second picture book will be almost 100% traditional. You never know where your art will take you!
Me: I love how Blob uses a paintbrush to change their look and sometimes their hair color. And yet, they still just want to be themself. Why is this an important message you want to share with young readers?
Anne: I didn’t write this book planning on sharing a message. I was simply writing Blob’s story as it came to me. The message came to life through revisions with my editor. In complete honesty, I didn’t even think about the message until I was asked to write about it by my editor for promotional use. However, there are several reasons this message was what emerged in this book.
The first is that, as a kid, I hated when adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had no idea! Secondly, growing up as a twin, I often had to work to have people recognize me as an individual. I wanted people to know who “me” was as a unique person. Knowing how frustrating that was, I wanted to share with kids that it’s ok to just be them and insist on being them, whatever that looks like!
Me: I love that! Any advice for other new picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Anne: I have two pieces of advice that I give to picture book writers and illustrators. First: find your community. Joining SCBWI and then finding kidlitart on twitter are what got me to where I am today. Through these, I found mentorship opportunities, critique partners, and, most importantly, friends. There will be a lot of ups and downs as a writer and illustrator, as well as periods where nothing happens. Having a support system of people who know what it’s like can make all the difference.
Second: don’t rush the process. I see too many people who eagerly jump into querying before they have multiple polished manuscripts or a professional level portfolio. Most of the successful artists and writers I know have been working on their craft for years. I know it’s frustrating, but know that putting time into your craft will pay off.
Final bonus piece of advice? As Blob would say: Be you! You are unique, and we need your voice in the industry.
Great advice Anne. Thank you for stopping by my blog.
Dear readers, if you haven’t yet had a chance to track down this book, I highly recommend it. It will have you laughing all the way throughout the story, and by the end, you will be just as charmed by Blob as I was. Don’t miss it!