24 May Interview with Adam Turner, Illustrator Extraordinaire
We’re days away from releasing Mystery of the Thief in the Night, the first book in the Pack-n-Go Girls Mexico series. It’s the perfect time to pick up the rest of our interview with Adam Turner, the illustrator extraordinaire for the Pack-n-Go Girls series. We were lucky enough to spend a week together in Mexico when he and his daughter, Addie, joined us on our sailboat. We promise you’ll get to hear from Addie, too, in a future blog. For the first part of this interview, check out our blog from March 24, 2014.
Janelle: You’re a lucky person to have art as your vocation and avocation. When did you realize this was your passion?
Adam: At a very early age, I knew art was going to be a pretty significant element in my life. As soon as I could pick up a pencil, I began to try and reflect the world around me on paper. My grandmother was an artist, and she passed onto me some basic practices that helped sharpen my skills. I was rewarded at a very young age for my skill set, and that just fueled me on to continue to this day.
Janelle: Lisa and I are within days of publishing the first Mexico book and are already in the middle of pulling together Mystery of the Golden Temple, the first book in the Thailand series. By the way, I love your addition of the snake on the cover of the Golden Temple. It was the perfect touch to make the book a little scary and a reminder of how you create something special in all your illustrations. How do you make your work distinctive?
Adam: I don’t do anything intentional to make my work distinctive. Many artists today have a very distinctive style, but my strength has always been my versatility. However, my wife and other friends of mine have pointed out that they could pick out my style from a mile away. So I suppose a distinctive style just becomes part of who you are as you develop your skill set over the years. My only warning would be that if you want a distinctive style, then be sure to limit the amount of copying or tracing that you do along the way, and be sure to develop your own interpretation of the lines, shapes, shadow and lights around you.
Janelle: I know among our readers there are just as many girls who dream of being artists as being writers. For other budding illustrators, what insights or advice can you share?
Adam: My biggest advice that I give anyone starting out is to learn basic practices to improve drawing skills. Essentially, learning how to see the world as shapes, lines, shadow and light, not as trees, people, buildings, and other recognizable objects. Once someone learns how to draw what they actual see and not what they think they see, then they learn to command the ability to render almost anything. Once someone has the ability to render, then they can learn how to manipulate those shapes and lines to convey emotion and movement and dynamic compositions. One practical application of this is something called upside down contour drawing. Take a photograph of someone recognizable, turn it upside down so it’s no longer recognizable as someone you know or even recognizable as a person any more. It’s just lines, shapes, light and shadow. Draw that. Forget that it’s a person. This will help train the eye into seeing what you see, not what you think you see.
Janelle: Lisa and I have appreciated how quickly you’ve been able to turn around illustrations. I know you have a full time job, a family, and other passions. How do you make time for this?
Adam: In order to be able to do this, I’ve just had to be very disciplined and intentional about my boundaries. Because I’m balancing other things of importance, I’ve had to set aside one weekday evening, and one weekend day to work on this project. The weekday fluctuates, but the weekend day is always Saturday, all day. I leave Sunday, and two weeknights for my family, one weeknight for other projects, and one weeknight that fluctuates between family and friends.
Janelle: We’ve loved your dedication to this venture. Why are you excited about Pack-n-Go Girls?
Adam: I have a daughter. I love to travel. I love to introduce her to the world and have, several times in her young life. She and I went camping together many times before she was a year old. I’ve taken her to Mexico; I’ve taken her to Canada; I’ve taken her on canoeing trips. She flew on planes probably ten times before she was two. I myself have traveled all over the world, and she and I are planning an around the world trip when she turns sixteen.
These books are a perfect fit. Enough said.
Janelle: Okay, we can’t finish this conversation without asking what drives you with all of this. What’s your secret hope?
Adam: My secret hope, ironically, is to travel more frequently. To do that, I also secretly hope to eventually quit my day job, and just illustrate full time—maybe on a boat in Mexico or in a castle in Austria.
Janelle: We certainly share that dream!