One of my favorite artists I discovered at San Diego Comic-Con last year, Cari Corene, is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for an adorable picture book she co-authored and co-illustrated with Amanda Coronado.
Floral Frolic is the story of two foxes, Queenie and Dawnsing, who are having a friendly competition to see who can find the best flowers. I had a chance to preview the whole story, and it’s perfectly sweet and simple. As the foxes go off on their own to find unique flowers, we are introduced to synonyms and antonyms in an organic and non-preachy way. The story is the perfect length to really let the art shine.
These two artists have worked fabulously together to create art that’s bold and colorful, while also being soft and whimsical. And that is the magic of watercolor. Cari and Amanda earned a degree in sequential art together, which serves them well as illustrators and storytellers for this debut picture book.
I got the chance to ask these talented ladies a few questions about the book and their geeky passions.
GeekMom: Why did you choose to work on this together?
Floral Frolic: When creating something so labor intensive and time sucking as a book, followed by a huge Kickstarter campaign, the benefits of tag-teaming are definitely in play. We decided to work together on Floral Frolic because neither of us could have completed this much work and remained motivated alone. Both of us would have given up on this project after the first one or two illustrations if the other person hadn’t been requesting more work to be finished. While one person is answering comments on Kickstarter, the other person can be posting about Floral Frolic online! (Or, say, corresponding with GeekMom.) Working as a team has also helped the project a lot; we are there to help each other with the artwork and generate ideas. Some of the illustrations in the book only exist because of ideas generated from working in a team.
GM: How did you blend your art together into one consistent look?
FF: We actually had several art melding together failures before finally succeeding! In Update 2 of our Kickstarter (a backer-only update) we actually show the first page spread we did together, which was painted twice in two different ways. It also helps that we are around each other a lot every day, so there is more interaction between us while working on the project.
GM: How did you come up with this story?
FF: We were talking one day about what we would want to write a children’s book about. We each had fox characters. We both wanted something simply written and illustration weighted. We both felt that we were capable of creating a children’s book, so why had we never done it? That brings me back to why we collaborated; we needed the shared time and work burden to get us through. When actually coming up with the script, we each sat down separately, wrote out what we thought would be good, and compared. They ended up being mostly identical scripts about two fox friends picking flowers, almost having a tiff at the end, and then becoming better friends.
GM: As illustrators, what comes to you first, ideas for the illustrations or for the story?
FF: It’s actually the opposite for each of us! Amanda thinks in pictures, her scripts are quick, rough thumbnails based on a plot she has in her head. Cari thinks in words or lists. A rough script for Cari are single-sentence descriptions of actions and dialogue that looks a lot like a list. After each writing a script (a thumbnailed script and a written one), we went to sketching out ideas and fleshing out some tighter thumbnails for possible illustrations.
GM: Why did you choose to pursue self-publishing over the traditional publishing route?
FF: We’re actually very interested in traditional publishing, where one would have their book put out and distributed by a publisher. However, so far in our lives, publishers have only been interested in a story once it has been completed and they can see that the published story has a clear audience. It would not make us sad to self-publish Floral Frolic and that’s all it ever is. That would be completely fine! But we’re really hoping that having a beautiful book one might prompt a publisher to be interested in a book two! We already have a script, all we need is a publisher to believe in us and help us get our book in to stores.
GM: What tips do you have for someone who wants to become a professional illustrator?
FF: The best tip I heard was from a professor in college. He said there are three key parts of being a professional artist, you must rule two of them. The three things are:
1. Be very good.
2. Be very fast.
3. Know the right people.
So far this list has been mostly accurate, so pick your two and go for it.
I think it’s also important that budding illustrators focus on developing a point of view. Some might call it “a style,” but I think style can evolve and develop over time. What’s important is that you are drawing things for yourself, first and foremost. It’s also important to not be afraid to show your work! There are many great places to share online and you just never know.
GM: Do you have any favorite online resources for learning to draw or paint or use new techniques?
Cari: I like my Tumblr dashboard? Because I follow a lot of people who are always reblogging art resources, I wouldn’t think to look for. Just a lot of anatomy tutorials, pretty pictures, and motivational gifs. I know other artists who would really have an exceptional list of websites for learning resources, maybe I’ve faltered here in my duties.
Amanda: I still use DeviantArt for tutorials if I’m struggling with something. Sometimes YouTube can have great video tutorials, as well. I think my biggest resource though is probably Google Images for reference. I can spend hours googling photos of environments, animals, etc., either for reference or inspiration.
GM: What keeps you motivated, for this project and in general?
Cari: Still passion, with a little bit of deadlines and needing to earn a living thrown in there for spice. I’m still pretty motivated by the distant horizon line, too. I’ll think to myself of future projects, new painting ideas, stories I still want to write, but first I need to complete the work in the here and now, because this work will inform the work I do on the horizon. I never have a shortage of crazy dream projects to keep my mind occupied. Occasionally, the crazy dream projects make it into reality (that would be Floral Frolic).
Amanda: I don’t know if this makes sense, but the act of drawing and working on the project is a driving force for me. It’s fun to sit down and flesh out things we’ve only imagined. There’s also the promise of a finished project, as well as the pressure of getting it done. Deadlines are always a motivator!
GM: What is your favorite format to illustrate (graphic novel, comic book, picture books, merchandise, anything that pays, something else)?
Cari: I really, really, really love illustrated pros. So that could be a children’s book, or it could be a fully written story with occasional illustrations. Or some other format?? I love complex, adult-oriented stories that look like children’s books. Maybe that’s what I should say. Graphic novels are really nice, but sometimes I just want to write the story instead of drawing 10 panels. Words and pictures can do very different things. I’m still trying to reconcile words and pictures, I think my entire life of drawing will be about how I learn to put the two together in a way that is uniquely me.
Amanda: I will always have a soft spot for comics. If only it weren’t so time-consuming! I enjoy drawing images that move in a progression. Now that I’ve worked on a children’s book, I’m also enjoying single illustration, but I think I will always love comics. Lately, I’ve been enjoying smaller illustrations for repeating patterns, too!
GM: At what conventions can we find you?
FF: TOO MANY!
SDCC (art show only)
Gen Con (Cari only)
Dragoncon (art show only)
Rainfurrest (Cari only)
Baltimore Comic Con (Amanda only)
New York Comic Con
GM: What other projects might I have seen your art in?
Amanda: I’ve been working as the penciller/inker on Vamplets: Nightmare Nursery for about three years now. I also ran one other crowdfunding campaign before Floral Frolic for the plush I designed, Angry Cat.
GM: What graphic novels or comic books do you recommend for a young audience?
Amanda: Growing up, my greatest inspiration was Cardcaptor Sakura by Clamp. The art was elegant and simple and will always be my favorite. As a kid, my favorite children’s books were by Chris Van Allsburg and Marguerite Henry. Seeing The Mysteries of Harris Burdick really blew my mind in the third grade and inspired me to want to be an illustrator. I’ve also enjoyed The Voyage of the Basset by James C. Christensen, as well as Margaret Hodges’ Saint George and the Dragon.
Cari: Drop everything and go read every book by Paul Goble. Okay, now moving on. I grew up reading Sailor Moon and I love it! So of course, I recommend reading Sailor Moon. Blade of the Immortal and Ranma ½ were also much beloved, but might require parental guidance. Bone and Stardust both really changed my perception of comics and storytelling when I was a teen as well. Sky Doll was also fantastic; it made me want to stretch my art! I can’t help but also drop in novels here too, which shaped me when I was young probably more than comics. I loved Lord of the Rings more than I can even put in words, and how could I not love Harry Potter and all the Pokemon games they were my life! So was Zelda. The Mercy Thompson series was my paranormal romance genre book of choice.
Thank you, Cari and Amanda, for taking the time to talk to us! The Kickstarter campaign for Floral Frolic is already fully funded, but there’s only a few days left for them to reach some awesome stretch goals. Campaign rewards include the book itself (physical and/or PDF), stickers, postcards, posters, lanyards, wallets, wood necklaces, scarves, original book art, and even the option of having a custom portrait of your pet drawn and painted by the artists.