Monday, November 29, 2010

Introductions: CLINT YOUNG

There are so many wonderful places that you can meet kindred spirits. Groups like SCBWI and sites like JacketFlap and Twitter have created many opportunities for me to meet like-minded creative types with the same passion for telling stories for children. Most of the time I am floored by the talent hidden in all the whimsical corners of world. Tinkerers of the trade spinning soon to be classic tales. One of those artists happens to be CLINT YOUNG. Fellow SCBWI member, JacketFlap pal, and former Lucas Arts Jedi. Clint's talent is jaw dropping and you will be treated to a taste of it here once I'm done bragging about his skills. Let's get to it.

Can you give me a little bit of your background and what brought you to writing/illustrating for children?

Clint Young: Sure!, As a child I was a doodler, a pencil junkie and a giant storybook fan. I’ve always had a tremendous passion for creating, especially when art supplies were available. Drawing for hours and hours was not an unusual occurrence for me. I’m surprised I didn’t sleep with my art kit in hand. I must have read every “making of” or “how to” book that came out of Hollywood at that time. During Art school (early 90s) I was introduced to the new media of digital art and 3d animation. This led me to a job in the video game and film industry as a conceptual artist and visual effects lead. It was during this time I began thinking about children’s books, and the future of illustrating in the E-book age, and where the industry was going.

Could there be a bridge between animation, film, games and Children’s books?

What does your illustrating process involve? What is your preferred medium to work in?

CY: Illustration for me always starts with concepts sketched on paper. These preliminary studies are small, and are used to convey idea, flow and block-out. Typically, I scan these and begin painting the underlying palette, keeping in mind color and lighting for tone and mood. I have found that in the Children’s book industry there is a style, look, and over-all feel to illustrations. The trick is to come as close to a natural look, but produce it in a digital (easy to revise) medium. Software like Photoshop and Painter allow for quick turn around and can give you the “painted on canvas” look while allowing the artist to edit quickly for editors and clients. The trick is to use real brush strokes on canvas as a base for custom digital brush creation…In other words, scan REAL brush strokes. This gives your painting a real world quality you can’t get with “out of the box” software. I love both mediums!

Can you tell us about your book upcoming book Toast and what is the inspiration behind it?

CY: Toast (working title) is my first venture into the Children’s book market. It’s a wonderful little story about a pig living in the adventurous world of all things make-believe, and his collection of children’s dreams, wishes and playful thoughts. But when Toast loses something very dear to him, he ventures out across the land in search of the answer to “why?” and meets many fantastic characters along the way.

The story and character of Toast were born of my daughter’s creation during a trip to New York . She had named her newly acquired stuffed pig “Toast” due to his brownish, toast color and strawberry jam nose. I had been working on another story “The World through the Basement Door”, but as soon as my daughter began telling me about Toast, I knew I had to stop and write this book. It was almost too perfect, something that I was immediately drawn into.

I am heavily influenced by Star Wars (being a child of that series), is this a huge influence on you and why do you think it resonates with so many writers and artists of our generation?

CY: Movies, in general, especially films of the late seventies, early eighties were a huge influence on me and my career. Star Wars was a giant part of that movement in both terms of art and story. We (the public) had never seen anything like that, and for those people who were at that perfect, influential age when films like (Star Wars, Raiders, Superman, etc) were released, it really motivated a creative movement in the youth of the time. I think art (conceptual art) was born of those films and has become a significant part of movies, books and games. Star Wars was the first of its kind in terms of visuals, but the story and characters were really the driving (force) behind its longevity.

The “Hero’s Journey” is a timeless fable that everyone, especially younger audiences, are drawn to. Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter (only to name a few) represent that call to adventure; the every-person, who becomes something remarkable and accomplishes the impossible. Having worked at LucasArts and been a part of the Lucasfilm family; I feel very fortunate and grateful for the years of happiness that playing in that universe has brought. I suppose I will always be a Star Wars fan.

Besides your book, if you could illustrate any book in history what would it be? Why?

CY: Wow!, That’s a hard question to answer! Many of my favorite books already have a rich history in terms of illustration and association with wonderful artists. “Peter Pan” is a fantastic book and one of my favorites; I would love to try to capture the adventurous landscape of that story. “Where the Wild Things Are” is another great book I could read over and over, and never grow tired of Maurice Sendak’s fanciful, otherworldly illustrations. It’s complicated as I typically fall for books because of their illustrations, and I would never think that I could capture Sendak’s “Max” or J.M.Barrie’s “Hook” as well as the masters have already done. Though, I’d love to try.

Mary Blair concept art for Peter Pan
For many of us, the creative process (writing or illustrating) is like breathing. Why is it important to you and what do you hope to accomplish in telling your stories?

CY: Writing and illustrating is an escape for me. I like to imagine. I enjoy make-believe and conjuring exciting places and characters in my head. I like descriptive text, the deeper the better…building a world from scratch, and painting a picture in text is very therapeutic. Writing and illustrating indulges the artistic side of me; besides you never know when a publisher will ask “What are you working on?” It’s always good to have a few open worlds and stories swimming around in your noggin.

CY: I would love to accomplish the perfect story. It’s an unattainable goal, to be certain; I think that stories, much like art are never really finished. What I would really like is to bridge that gap between art, story and digital entertainment. Finding new and inventive ways of telling a story through art and animation; allowing the reader to hear the voices of the characters, to see the world in a way never possible on paper, and allow for a bigger more immersive reading experience. With the advent of the E-Book, stories, and the way we tell them, are going to change dramatically. It’s exciting to think about that future, and the possibilities of making your own story a living, growing book. (Can you imagine a 3d digital pop-up book that animates?)

Books are invaluable to us growing up. They shape the way we look at the world. What book do you recommend to young readers as they start their reading journey?

CY: There a hundreds of great books to start with. (some) I read as a child. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie.

There are so many wonderful books, both new and old that I could list. All are fun and inspiring. The important thing is to read until you find something that speaks to you, and then read more.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent read them more fairy tales.” -Einstein

Thank you, Clint, for spending the afternoon with us. I will pick up my jaw once I am done staring at the images. I have a fluttery feeling in my stomach that TOAST is going to make a big splash. If the images and story concept alone don't have you hooked, well then you weren't paying attention.