A Red Cedar Award Interview

The Red Cedar Award is an annual, young reader’s-choice event given in two categories: fiction and information. Students from across the province of British Columbia take part in deciding the winners.

This is the first time one of my books have been nominated and I’m very excited to be attending the gala awards ceremony on May 7th at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. I understand that there will be skits performed based on the shortlisted books.

As part of the pre-voting activities, interviews have been conducted with the authors. Here is the link for the one I did with a grade six student from Pemberton BC:

Red Cedar Award Interview with Dan Bar-el

Meet the Illustrator: Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Audrey in sketch 001 - Copy

Today I’m thrilled to introduce to you the illustrator of Audrey (cow), Tatjana Mai-Wyss. Reviewers have praised her ability to capture the different characters’ individual traits as well as add to the humour of the story. I asked Tatjana a few questions and here is what she had to say:

To begin with, where do you live?

My family and I live in the southern part of the United States. I am originally from Switzerland and grew up there and in the U.S. I have lived in New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans, the Chicago suburbs, and even in Paris France. I love to explore new places and would like to see a lot more of the world.

What is your background as an artist? Were you always a children’s book illustrator?

I went to school for illustration, and soon had to admit that kids’ books were a pretty natural fit for me. I’ve always liked to draw, but I used to be kind of shy about it. Now I never leave the house without a sketchbook, and I think it’s my favorite thing to do.

How did art play a role in your life when you were a child?

I’ve always liked to draw, but I guess you could say I came to illustration through books and not through art. In the same way, I still have some of my favorite childhood books (thanks mom and dad), but I don’t personally have any drawings from my childhood (we moved a lot).

What are the challenges of drawing animal characters, especially when the animals have human qualities?

Some of my favorite illustrators (Richard Scarry, Marc Boutavant for example) use animals in their stories to represent humans. In Audrey the animals can’t do what humans do, but they each have their own talent to contribute. The challenge of drawing and animal character is to convincingly show the animal while stylizing it enough to give it its own character, and to do it in your own way.

Did you use live animals as models or were drawing from memory or using photos?

I have a few pets that happily model for me, but most of these animals were drawn using some photo references.

Was there a style or even “feeling” you were striving for with Audrey (cow)?

I wanted to give the animals a lot of life and personality. I used a wash and pencil approach to keep the drawings loose and keep a sense of movement.

Do you have any first draft examples that you can show us?

Here are a couple of alternate cover ideas:



What are the upcoming projects you’re working on or have finished that we should look for?

I worked on a fun project this past summer that you can find at the grocery store now. I painted the background story for a candyland “feature” – ten pages of holiday candy recipes. It’s in the Dec/Jan issue of allrecipes magazine.

Any final thoughts?

Although it’s a bit harder than it looks, being an illustrator is the best job in the world.


Learn more about Tatjana’s work on her website: tatjanamaiwyss.com

Video Wednesdays: Interview with a Guinea Pig

Something a bit goofy this week but certainly in keeping with the talking animal premise of Audrey (cow).

And here I thought I was weird for walking around the house talking in cow voices all the time. At least I wasn’t lip-syncing to my pets. So please remove that straight-jacket, doctor!

Do you have an idea of a good animal video to share? Then I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line on the CONTACT page.