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Recently I got an introduction to another talented Kansas City artist when I had the chance to interview children’s book author and illustrator Lindsey Yankey.  The Kansas native graduated from the University of Kansas’ illustration program in 2009, and already has two original publications under her belt.

stack of books

Working in multiple mediums, Yankey is a fan of, “the mouthwatering juiciness of oil paint, the independence watercolor, the history of found paper, the simplicity of pencil and pen, and all the rabbit holes that are revealed by carving linoleum block to create pattern and repetition.”

Her writing style mirrors her illustrations, starting with a simple idea and filling in the details. In words, this translates to a story like Bluebird, her first English publication, where a bird’s search for the wind leads to a rich adventure. The accompanying illustrations are scenes embellished by delicate lines and calculated placement of color, most of which can also be purchased on her website in print form. Yankey fills us in on the remaining details of her work in the interview below.

From your blog, it looks like you come from a pretty artistic family. What was it like to grow up surrounded by other creative people, and how did that affect your own path as an artist?

I had a lot of fun with my brother and sister when we were little making things out of wood, painting, and imagining. Growing up in an artistic family makes artistic expression feel normal. My parents always supported my artistic endeavors, whether I was meticulously painting tiny spots on army men and toy dinosaurs, or driving me to the Wichita Art Center for classes. I think it’s a special thing to have a family that understands so well what it is like to make art a profession.

What made you choose illustrating children’s books as your specific outlet?

I think that picture books are a great avenue to express just about anything. I like to believe that they can be for everyone, not just kids, so that makes the possibilities even bigger. I like telling stories, making up places and characters, I love creating things with my hands, painting, drawing and experimenting with materials. All of these things can be done with books. Picture books seem like a great fit. I get to combine lots of my interest into one.

What were some of your own favorite illustrations in books as a child?

Some of my favorite illustrations as a child were Chris VanAlsberg, especially Jumanji. I liked Jan Brett, and Don and Audrey Wood books, the Good Dog Carl series, and Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Roald Dahl’s books.

meo helping

In an interview on your blog, you mention that with your illustrations, you like to play with different angles and perspectives. While I know that’s true of all artists, is there any specific thing about illustrating for children that allows more freedom when imagining these different perspectives?

I don’t think that illustrating for children would really grant more freedom than an artist who’s work isn’t for children. I think that as an artist my only real limits are the ones I’ve created for myself, so if I don’t like the rules I’ve set, or they aren’t serving me well any more, I’ll change my rules. I like to keep my options open when I make pictures. I feel like if I put to many rules out for myself I’ll feel stagnant.

In that same interview you also say that your stories are based on building on one simple idea. This is probably a random reaction, but it made me think of the scenery in Kansas and the Midwest; it can seem really plain and simple, but when you look up close at certain places, for instance the prairie, there’s also a lot of interesting detail to observe.

How did growing up in rural Kansas affect your artistic perspective?

I imagine if affected me a lot in my fondness for drawing flowers, trees, and animals. I guess one part of growing up in rural Kansas is that without internet or cable TV, it was up to myself to figure how to spend my time, which in turn helped foster my creativity.

Work in progress 2

What are some of your favorite reviews you’ve gotten-both from kids and adults-on your work?

Gosh, neither of my favorite responses were reviews, more just comments.  My favorite comment from a kid was, “Is Bluebird French?”

As far as adults go, my favorite nod of approval was from when I showed my grandma (Grandma Brooks in the book) Bluebird for the first time. She didn’t know she was in it, and when she opened her door that day she was wearing the exact same outfit I’d painted her in. She gave me a kiss on the cheek when she flipped to her page.

fireworks close up5

What are you currently working on? Any upcoming book tours?

I’m currently working on wrapping up another book, Sun and Moon. I’ve just finished hanging lots of my illustrations for a show at WheatFields Bakery in Lawrence. I’m also gearing up for the Craft Collective in November and I’m working on putting together a book presentation for my old elementary school. I’m also working on lining up art shows and craft fairs for 2015 and playing around with a few new story ideas. As for a book tour, not yet, but maybe once I have a few more books under my belt.

To see more of my work and visit my shop go to www.lindseyyankey.com

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2 thoughts on “It Starts with a Simple Idea: An Interview with Illustrator Lindsey Yankey

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