Mark Teague at Tucson Festival of Books
This is only the second year for this festival, but there appeared to be a pretty good turnout. I arrived a little early and was wandering around the children's book area when I spotted Mr. Teague, so I asked him to sign my copy of Funny Farm, which he generously did.
At the beginning of his one-hour presentation, Mark talked about how he has been drawing since childhood. His father was an insurance salesman, and whenever he changed jobs, he would bring home a stack of stationery from the office for Mark to draw on. After showing a slide of his studio, he told the audience that he still basically does what he's been doing since he was a child -- drawing and painting on paper. That remark drew laughter from the crowd, about half of which were children.
He then focused primarily on his working process, specifically on an image from his upcoming picture book, the sequel to Funny Farm, called Firehouse. Firehouse tells the continuing adventures of Edward, the main canine character of Funny Farm. Through a series of slides, Mark explained how he works, from thumbnail sketches, to dummy, to sketching and painting a spread. In the photo below, you can see a spread from Firehouse on the screen behind him.
He begins his paintings by applying gesso on a watercolor paper block. The block must be fairly large, as he works at the actual printing size. He then transfers the sketch, and paints an acrylic underpainting in burnt sienna. From there he adds the dark tones and shadows in various shades of black, gray and purple. He then adds the highlights. At this point, he basically has a painting with all of the values worked out. He then switches to water-soluble oil paints to add color. He used to paint with acrylics, but likes the vibrant oil colors, and since they're the water-soluble kind, they dry faster than traditional oils.
A spread such as the one above takes him about 3-4 days to complete. An entire book takes about 3-4 months to complete.
So what are his next projects? Firehouse is available May 1st, and another LaRue book is being published next year. Last year, Mark published his first YA novel, the Doom Machine, which he began writing years ago, in the slow periods between picture book gigs. He seemed very enthusiastic when talking about the Doom Machine, and when reading an excerpt from it. There will probably be more novels to come, but I'll always be partial to his picture books.