Wade showed his session participants some of his original picture book illustrations. I was blown away by Wade’s huge originals—especially those from his book Big, Bad and a Little Bit Scary. I had never seen picture book art quite like his. It was bold and bursting with color. I was taken with the power of some of his images; the close-ups and different perspectives; the deep, rich colors he used in his art.
“In Zahares' first picture book, pastel drawings curve and flow with the train over bulbous hills and chunky tracks; a scene of a sleeping child on the title page implies a dream journey, so the stylized illustrations accentuate objects in adventurous ways, e.g., grapevines that resemble barbed wire, and waves as flat and white as spilled milk. A glowing trip.” — Kirkus Reviews
“[G]orgeous drawings... a lovely story line… telling us in pictures about a little girl returning home after a visit to her grandparents.” — The New York Times Book Review
Wade: Actually, I work with soft pastels, a combination of Schminikee, Sennelier and Unison sticks. I’ve been working pastels for 25 years starting with college. At the time I loved working with charcoal, the compressed kind, working only in black and white on large sheets of paper. I was going into my senior year of school at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, when my instructor really wanted me to add color to my charcoal drawings so I picked up a blue pastel , I think it was Rembrandt or Nu pastel, and started adding it to my drawing on the cool side of the subject matter. The next week I added another color and then another color until it was a full blown pastel drawing that I really liked. I like the immediacy of the chalk and the flat soft look of the finished piece.
Elaine: You really have a distinctive artistic style. You use bold primary and secondary colors and lots of odd perspectives in your picture book illustrations. Did you develop your style when you were in art school…or later?
Some of Wade's Artistic Creations
Wade: I have always loved perspective and have been trying to take it as far as I can. My color has been developing over the years always changing. I started with a distinct style in school and have been pushing that continuously not knowing where it will take me. It’s funny, I teach a pastel class at an art school but have never had a pastel class myself. Maybe that has helped with my unique style.
Elaine: Has any artist or illustrator influenced your work?
Wade: I may have been influenced some by artists like Edward Hopper, Grant Wood Wayne Thiebaud, but I have always been a strong believer in developing you own style and not letting others influence your work to much.
Elaine: I have seen some of the original illustrations you created for your picture books Red Are the Apples and Big, Bad and a Little Bit Scary. They were really quite large. At the Robert’s Snow Artist Open House, you said you are beginning to scale down the size of your illustrations. Have you found it difficult working on a smaller scale?
Wade: Years ago when I was working large, 30” x 40”, I would find it very difficult working small so I didn’t—but slowly over the years I have progressively been working smaller and smaller. It makes life easier carrying an entire book of original art to New York in the back of my jeep or on the train. I think the publishers also like it. I am beginning to oil paint in my studio, on a very large scale. I also am working on a 12’ X 36’ mural at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Last month, along with 500 plus children I did a mural on the floor, inside and out, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York based on my book Liberty Rising, The Making of the Statue of Liberty, where they gave all the participants my book.
Elaine: Window Music, your first picture book, was designated a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book. Do you feel that award opened more doors for you in the world of children’s book publishing?
Elaine: In addition to illustrating children’s books, you also create works of fine art. Is there a difference in how you approach the two?
Wade: It is almost exactly the same. You can’t tell the difference between my book illustrations and my gallery work. When I do art that is not in a book I generally work on one piece at a time—but when I do a book, I work on all the art at one time, bringing all the pieces to completion at the same time.
Elaine: Have you ever considered writing a children’s book?
Wade: I sure have. I have folders of ideas but can’t seem to put an entire story down on paper. I am trying to write it as if I were writing a song, which I haven’t done either. I have also worked with a few writers on a couple of ideas but so far that hasn't worked. I always say when the story is ready to come out of me it will just pour out.
Elaine: Do you have any new books coming out next year or any projects that you are working on at the present time that you would like to tell us about?
Wade: I just finished my roughs for my newest book Pony Island with Walker books which is due out in the spring of 2009. It a story by Candice Ransom about the ponies on Assateague Island, a small island off the coast of Virginia. Next week I will start the final pieces of art and have a deadline of March 2008. I work on all the approximately 20 pieces of art at the same time so they’re all at the same level of completion. I do have all the paper cut.
I am also working with a design company, White Dog Arts, designing a new web site for my self, zahares.com. I am drawing the entire site so it is taking a good chunk of my time. The site will be up and running very soon and when it is I will be sending an announcement out.
As I also mentioned, I am doing a 12’ x 36 ‘mural at the new student center at Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. I have been doing freelance work for the academy since 1994, including campus maps, bulletin covers and scratch board ink renderings of their many buildings.
Wade's 2004 Snowflake
Elaine: Liberty Rising was the inspiration for your 2004 snowflake. What was the inspiration for your 2005 snowflake?
Wade's 2005 Snowflake
Wade: The release of Liberty Rising happened during the time I was creating my snowflake for 2005. I had already used that book for my 2004 snowflake and was also stuck on the story of people coming from all over from the world to settle in America so the idea of “The World” popped into my head.
Elaine: Can you tell us about the snowflake you created for Robert’s Snow 2007?
Wade: To me, painting the snowflake is almost as difficult as painting an entire book. I took my idea for the snowflake from my newest book Lucky Jake, having Pa, Jake and Dog walking over the mountain on a cold winter night. Being from Maine, those cold winter nights with a full moon are some of my favorite nights of the year.
An Illustration from Lucky Jake
Wade's 2007 snowflake is the "mystery" snowflake. As far as I know, no one has caught a glimpse of it yet. Snowflake investigators are hard at work searching for an image of it. I promise to post a picture of it as soon as the snowflake is captured on film.
All illustrations © Wade Zahares. They may not be used without his permission.
REMINDER: WIN A PRIZE!!! I do hope you’ll stop by to read all of my Blogging for a Cure interviews and to comment about the artists and their work. I have a special prize for some lucky person who leaves a comment at any of my six posts featuring a Robert’s Snow artist: a limited edition giclee print of an illustration from Grace Lin’s book Robert’s Snow! Each time you comment at one of my Blogging for a Cure posts about a Robert’s Snow artist, I’ll put your name in a hat. If you comment at all six posts, your name will go into the hat six times! The drawing will take place on November 19th, the day bidding begins on the first of three Robert’s Snow 2007 auctions.
I also have several consolation prizes for commenters who don’t win the “big” prize: five small prints of the Robert’s Snow mouse(mice).
Read about the following Robert's Snow artists that I have already interviewed for Blogging for a Cure:
Here is a link to my interview with Scott Bakal.
Here is a link to my interview with Alissa Imre Geis.
Here is a link to my interview with Wendell Minor.
Here is a link to my interview with Susan Kathleen Hartung.