Today I am so proud to have Illustrator Gael Abary as our Illustrator Spotlight. Gael's book, "Crow Spirit" just released at Spork on March 5th!
Tell me about yourself. I recently moved to Hawaii with my partner, our daughter, a cat and a retired racing greyhound. We previously lived in NY and Philadelphia. I’ve always loved drawing and making things since I was a kid, and my background is in illustration, design and metalsmithing. I discovered my passion for picture books through reading to my daughter. Crow Spirit is my debut as a children’s book illustrator.
Tell me about Crow Spirit. What makes it special? When I first read the manuscript, it had been about a year since my daughter lost one grandparent and only a couple months since she lost another. She was 6 at the time and we had lots of conversations about death. This story offered more fodder for our talks and opened her mind to other possibilities.
What were some things you did to make the book your own? The story is Debra’s but I really enjoyed contributing my visual interpretation. The main character, Cecily Jane, is very similar to my daughter, Yvie, so naturally she was my muse and there are elements of her woven throughout. There’s an image of Cecily Jane as a baby tearing up paper which was one of Yvie’s favorite things to do when she was a baby. She was a little confetti-making machine.
How do you identify with the characters in the book? Which one is your favorite? I identify with mama, of course, because I’m a mama. But Cecily Jane reminds me of when I was in grade school and how excited I was when a cat followed me home one day. I think as a child I felt more connected to animals than people, so I also identify with Grandma who was so connected to the birds and nature. I adore all of the characters, including Mr. Crow, so it’s hard to pick a favorite.
What are things that inspire you? Life! I find inspiration all around me, and sometimes it’s overwhelming and I’m flooded with so many ideas that I have a hard time focusing on just one at a time. I think because I get so visually overstimulated, I tend to lean towards producing more minimalistic work.
What mediums do you use? I like exploring different mediums and techniques, but I really enjoy working with pencil, ink and watercolor. I use an iPad/computer as a tool as well.
What is your process of creating art? I usually start off sketching with pencil and paper. The mediums and colors I choose to use depend on the project and the mood I’m trying to convey. Sometimes I’ll play around with different methods til I find the right fit.
What other projects are you working on? I have aspirations of writing children’s books as well, so I’m working on some story ideas and improving my writing skills.