Dinosaurs at a tea party is a funny image that instantly lends itself to the imaginations of children–it is also the subject of one of author Molly Idle’s charming books titled “Tea Rex”. Molly Idle is an award-winning author who was presented with a Caldecott Honor for “Flora and the Flamingo”. She is also the creator of Flora and the Penguin, Flora and the Peacocks (May 2016), and the Rex series- which includes Tea Rex, Camp Rex and Sea Rex. Moreover, she is the illustrator of “Rodeo Red”, and the “Zombelina” series.
Molly lives in Tempe, Arizona with her fabulous family. And when she’s not watching old Technicolor musicals, Molly can be found in her workshop with a cup of espresso in one hand, and a pencil in the other, scribbling away, working on her next picture book. Recently, Molly Idle spoke to the Examiner about her experiences working as an author and her hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): What influenced you to become an illustrator?
Molly Idle (M.I.): It’s funny, but I didn’t set out to become an illustrator. Growing up, my goal was always to become an animator. I drew constantly! And, in fact, when I finished school, I began working as an artist for DreamWorks Feature Animation. This was back in the day when most everything was drawn by hand in animated films.But after a number of years, the studio switched over to making films with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). I loved making movies. I loved the characters and the storytelling…but in working solely on the computer, I found I really missed drawing. So, I asked myself what other medium I could work in that would allow me to tell stories and draw characters, and the answer was simple- children’s book illustration!
M.M.: Growing up, what artists and illustrators inspired you?
M.I.: Early on, I was completely taken with the work of Disney’s Nine Old Men- like Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson. Then, when Disney’s the “Little Mermaid” came out- I saw the work animator Glen Keane, and was completely awestruck by the emotion he was able to convey with his drawings. Later on in school, I became completely smitten with the work of Degas and Daumier. The thing all of these amazing artists have in common is their uncommonly beautiful line-work, and depiction of the human form.
M.M.: So far, which of your projects has been your favorite and why?
M.I.: My favorite project is always my next project. I think that’s because, before you begin a book, anything is possible! And it is the possibilities that excite me most.
M.M.: How did you think up the concept for “Tea Rex”?
M.I.: I credit my son John with inspiring the idea for “Tea Rex”. When he was about three years old, and just learning his ABC’s, we were driving home from a visit to the Arizona Natural History Museum. We had been looking at all of the enormous dinosaur fossils, and Tyrannosaurus Rex was, by far, John’s favorite. Riding along in the car, his voice piped up from the backseat, “Mom? Do you think T-Rexes like crumpets with their “T”? Because, just learning his letters, he thought “T” and “Tea” were interchangeable. I remember thinking that that was an amazing question, to which I did not have the answer. So I said to John, “I don’t know. Do YOU think T-Rexes like crumpets with their tea?” There was a pause, and then he replied “No. They like chocolate chip cookies!”
M.M.: What other books have you written and illustrated?
M.I.: I’ve written and illustrated two other Rex books: “Camp Rex” and “Sea Rex”. I’ve also created a series of wordless picture books: “Flora and the Flamingo”, “Flora and the Penguin”, and coming this May- “Flora and the Peacocks”.
M.M.: The illustrations in your books are very playful. Approximately how long does it take you to draw each scene?
M.I.: It depends entirely upon the complexity of the scene. Some small illustrations may take only a day to complete. Larger illustrations, with a number of characters, may take more than a week. But whether the image is large or small, the majority of my time is spent in coming up with the composition of the piece, and the action of the characters- through sketching. Only when I have everything figured out in sketches, do I move on to coloring in the artwork.
M.M.: Would you ever consider illustrating books, especially children’s books, for other authors?
M.I.: I can, I have, and I do! Most recently, I’ve illustrated the “Zombelina” series, written by Kristyn Crow, and “Rodeo Red”, written by Maripat Perkins. As much as I love creating my own stories to tell, I also love collaborating with other storytellers. It is so much fun to step inside a world of words that someone else has created, and bring it to life in pictures!
M.M.: What is your “dream project”?
M.I.: I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of dream projects. I find that, for me, it isn’t so much the subject matter or format that makes a project a “dream” to work on. It is, rather, the magic that happens when a group of people works together as a team. When everyone involved- editors, art directors, designers, publishers, authors and illustrators- collaborate to make a book the very best it can be… the results are magical.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of being an artist?
M.I.: The most rewarding part of being an artist is the act of making art. Every day, I sit down at my desk, and face a blank sheet of paper. I pick up my pencil and start to draw… and then, at the end of the day, after hours of work, the piece of paper has become something new. Something exists in the world that didn’t before. It has become a piece of art.
M.M.: Career wise, where do you see yourself ten years from now?
M.I.: Oh goodness, I know that in most careers, a ten year plan sees people hoping to move on from what they are currently doing. But I hope that in ten years I’m still doing what I’m doing- making art and telling new stories!
M.M.: What advice would you give someone who is aspiring to be an artist?
M.I.: Make art! I know that sounds terribly simple- but it really is the very best advice there is. If you want to be an artist- you must sit down every day and practice, and study, and experiment. Go out there and make something!
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To learn more about Molly Idle visit her official website and Facebook. She can also be followed on Twitter and Instagram via @mollyidle