Friday, September 3, 2010

Q&A with "Sloppy Joe" illustrator Denise Brunkus


I had the pleasure of having my picture book Sloppy Joe illustrated by Denise Brunkus, who's mucho famous for illustrating the Junie B. Jones series. I even got to do a two-week, cross-country book tour with Denise, who I learned is a rock star at every elementary school between Texas and New Jersey. She's also a funny and interesting creative type who loves nothing more than answering silly questions.

1.) So are you sloppy or neat? Have you always been that way?
Well, I started out neat and have pretty much been neat my whole life. But then Sloppy Joe introduced me to the perks and benefits of “sloppy,” so I have since lightened up on the neat thing.

2.) What's the single best thing about being an illustrator?
THE ART SUPPLIES!!! I have tons of colored markers and pencils, piles of beautiful papers and sketchbooks, colorful paints and pastels galore! And because I am “Boss” of my studio, I can have as many art supplies as I want. Ha!

3.) What is the hardest thing for you to draw? What's the easiest?
Hardest thing? Well, I'd say horses, but then, to be fair, I'd also have to admit that I am not good at drawing cars, airplanes, buildings, and straight lines. But years ago, I needed to draw a horse in one of my illustrations. I panicked! My 10-year-old daughter saved the day; she drew the horse for me. As for the easiest thing for me to draw........dots! I love drawing dots. And I am a pro! Dots everywhere.

4.) Did you want to be an illustrator when you were young?
When I was young I didn't even know what an illustrator was, but I did know that I liked to make art. And that's what I've been doing all my days. When I was a kid, I was always imagining, drawing, coloring and making things... artwork, puppets, Barbie clothes. And it is still what I do. Well, not exactly, because I HAVE stopped making Barbie clothes.

5.) What was the best thing about illustrating Sloppy Joe?
I'd say the best thing was getting to talk to the author of Sloppy Joe, Dave Keane. I don't usually get to talk with the authors of the books I illustrate: in the publishing business authors and illustrators are kept apart. But this time, our amazing editor, Margaret, believed it would make a better book if Dave and I talked throughout the creative process. So we talked and exchanged ideas, and I do believe our book is better because we did.

6.) What is your favorite page in Sloppy Joe?
I really like the picture of Sloppy Joe slouched in the chair with his lunch. although I must say that my favorite thing in Sloppy Joe is Sloppy Joe himself! I really had so much fun drawing him and making him move and react throughout the pages of the book. What a guy!

7.) Have you ever drawn so many frogs before? Do you feel you are now a frog expert?
No, never. Truth is, I do not particularly care for real frogs, so I am totally surprised at how many frogs I DID draw. Better yet, I am even more surprised at how much fun I had drawing them all. Maybe it's because my frogs look funny and friendly and not too slimy. Once I started drawing them, I couldn't stop. Frogs EVERYWHERE! But I am no expert. I only wish that real frogs looked more like MY frogs. Then maybe I'd like them more.

8.) Do you have a dog like Sloppy Joe has? Frogs? A bearded dragon? Crickets?
No, I don't have a dog like Joe's, nor do I have a bearded dragon. I didn't even know that bearded dragons existed until I read the Sloppy Joe story. (I had to Google "bearded dragon" to see how to draw one!) As for frogs, yes, I have frogs— way more frogs than I drew in the book! I live in the woods and so do they. Having frogs for neighbors is okay, as long as they stay in the woods. But every so often they decide to come OUT of the woods. And don't you know they come out and sit along the path that leads to my studio. They think it's real funny to jump out to scare me when I walk by. Yeah...real funny.

9.) Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? How many could you eat? What is your favorite sandwich in the whole wide world?
Grilled cheese sandwiches are tasty enough, so I can definitely eat one, two if I am totally starving. But my favorite sandwich in the whole wide world? That would be a baloney sandwich. Yessir. Baloney on squishy white bread served with real chocolate milk. Dee-licious! I always have it on my birthday, which, by the way, is Barbie's birthday, too, although I don't know what her birthday meal would be. (P.S. Can you find the baloney sandwich that I put in the book?)


10.) If you were not illustrating children's books, what do you think you'd do for a living?
Oh, I'd be working in a beauty salon. For sure. And if that didn't pan out, I'd be a cowgirl, as that would give me the opportunity to wear fringe, yodel, and sit around the campfire playing the harmonica after the round-up.