Sunday, October 21, 2007

Matthew Cordell: Fuzzy Ears and All!

What a pleasure to "cap off" the first full week of blog posts for the Robert's Snow snowflake benefit auction with this feature of Matthew Cordell's darling contribution, "Snow Caps."

First, the snowflake:

Check out the front:

And the back:

Next, the bio:

Matthew Cordell
is an illustrator of children's literature, newspapers, magazines, and many things in between. Though he spent most of his life in small town South Carolina, in 1999 he migrated midwest to set up shop in Chicago. It was there that he met his soon-to-be bride, his passion for children's books and deep-dish pizza.

Matthew's children's books include: Toby and the Snowflakes, Righty and Lefty, and The Moon is La Luna. Currently he is working hard on forthcoming picture books with Candlewick and Feiwel and Friends. Matthew now lives in the burbs of Chicago with his exceptional wife, picture book author and YA novelist Julie Halpern, and their squeezably soft Siamese cat, Tobin.

And, the self-portrait:

Julie Halpern and Matthew Cordell (as illustrated by Matthew):

Now, onto the Q&A:

What inspired you to pursue a career in illustration? And why for kids?

Well, I've always been an artist. As I got older and was forced to start thinking about a career, I knew it had to be one in art. For a good chunk of time in my early adult life, I wandered a little trying to decide where, artistically, to put my focus. I'd developed a real passion for graphic design as well as fine art, so I figured I would be in it for life down one (or both) of those roads. But when I began achieving success in art and in design, I started to realize that neither was what I actually wanted.

My wife, Julie Halpern, is a writer and had written a picture book story called Toby and the Snowflakes. And she had me in mind as the illustrator for her story - something we could collaborate on and then try to get published. At first, I put it off (for about a year!).

But as I got more and more bummed about design and art, the idea of Toby started to sound very appealing. Of course, it was exciting to work on something with Julie, but there was also a lot of potential there that I hadn't taken the time to see before. This would be a much-needed new audience for me - children with hopeful and fresh perspectives (not as jaded, anyway, as some of us adults!). And if it worked, I could delve into a new industry, too, in children's publishing. So after all that procrastination, I finally went over to the drawing board and came up with a handful of drawings to accompany Julie's manuscript and a proposal to send out to 20 or so children's book publishers.

After a series of both form and personally encouraging rejection letters, it looked as though Toby might not happen. But finally, Julie received a very encouraging e-mail from an editor expressing an interest in Julie's and my combined efforts. In the fall of 2004, Toby and the Snowflakes was published by Houghton Mifflin and this set forth a very thrilling and rewarding career for me in illustrating books for children. I couldn't be happier with the reception I've gotten from this very warm and encouraging industry (editors and art directors, librarians and teachers, and kids alike).

Why did you decide to participate in the Robert's Snow fund-raiser?

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I hadn't heard about Robert's Snow until this year. Julie, also a librarian and Internet sleuth, had of course heard of the project and saw an online call for illustrators for this year's group. Once I learned more, I really wanted to take part. Many of us have been affected personally by the grief and tragedy of cancer. The Robert's Snow project is such an excellent way to raise money for the cause and a fun and easy way for the children's lit industry and industry lovers to get involved. I'm honored to be given the opportunity to participate.

Why did you decide to illustrate your snowflake the way you did?

I can't survive winter without a good winter hat (my ears are screaming if I leave them at the mercy of a winter wind). And there are a lot of great hat styles to choose from, so I figured I'd try and show as many as possible. That's how the series of kids in their "snow caps" came about.

What's your favorite thing about snow?

My favorite thing about snow is how it completely changes the existing landscape. Winter, to me, can be pretty gloomy at times with the lack of sunlight and the extreme cold. To wake up and see a fresh blanket of snowfall totally changing the way the trees, the ground, the houses and the cars look - it always gives me a boost.

They say there are no two snowflakes alike. Name something that makes you different from anyone else on Earth.

I'd have to say it's my unusually fuzzy ears. I mean, I've seen guys with hair on their ears before, but nothing like what I'm capable of. My ear hair will grow crazy long (if I let it) but it's a soft, light-colored variety of hair so it's not particularly obvious or grotesque (I like to think). Julie likes the soft, downy feel, but I keep it trimmed to maintain appearances. Hey, maybe it's a defense mechanism against these bitter Chicagoland winters.

And finally, the pitch:

Matthew Cordell's "Snow Caps" will be put up for bid in an online auction November 26-30. To check out the other snowflakes and illustrators featured on kid lit blogs this week, see the sidebar at the right of your screen. For a complete schedule of the snowflake auctions and to learn how you can purchase a unique piece of art while also supporting a good cause, head on over to the Robert's Snow site now!

Update: I just received an email from someone (actually, Matthew himself!) and the pictures are not uploading for him. I'm not sure how to fix this as they seem to be uploading for others; however, since the pictures of the snowflakes are kinda the point of this post, I beg you, if you cannot see them, to visit this page and check out the fourth entry in the list (click on the snowflakes to see the larger view). And visit Matthew's Web site to see the self-portrait and much more of his artwork. I will try to figure out the problem and get it fixed; in the meantime, if anyone else is having problems, please leave me a comment so I can see how widespread this is. Sorry for any inconvenience!

Update to the Update: I think (thanks to my husband, Joe) we've fixed the problem. Though the layout isn't quite as pretty as before, at least the graphics should be showing up for everyone. If you still can't see them, go here, where DH has recreated the entire post on his own blog for me.


Goadingthepen said...

Great interview! I love all the caps on this one. How much fun.

Anonymous said...

That is a really well-done interview, Linda. Thanks! And those hats are such one-of-a-kind hats on a one-of-a-kind snowflake. I like that one.

I had the pleasure of (very briefly) meeting Matthew at the kidlitosphere conference in Chicago. I'm looking forward to reading more of his books.


Anonymous said...

Oh, another one I love! I can't wait until the auctions start.

Sara said...

Oooh, look at that cute red beret! And the plaid hat! And the fuzzy-wuzzy one!

Thanks, Linda, for featuring Matthew. This was fun to read...and look at!

tanita✿davis said...

I really love the clean lines of Matthew's style, and I am a self-proclaimed hat nut, so this snowflake is awesome on two levels!

I'm always interested in people who can work with a spouse, too. I think that's phenomenal.

jama said...

I am absolutely tickled and delighted with Matthew's snowflake! All those caps (brilliant idea)! And I love all the little noses :).

Great interview, Linda. Loved learning about Matthew and his fuzzy ears.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! Call me a weirdo, but I love reading about all the rejections that successful authors/illustrators have dealt with before success. It's just so inspiring.

Helen/Spike and Drusilla OK Citizens said...

What a great interview. Thank you. I am having so much fun, going from snowflake to snowflake.

LindaBudz said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting, everyone! Glad we can all be so friendly now. But I have to warn you, once that auction starts, it's every man and woman for themselves!


Stephanie, PQW said...

I really enjoyed the interview. It's always inspiring to read about someone's journey into this arena.

Be careful auctions can be tricky. You think you've won and then someone comes along and outbids what you just knew had to be the winning bid.

LindaBudz said...

Ah, yes. But I plan to be that person who comes along and outbids all those other suckers ... er, I mean, kid lit fans. [Insert evil titter.]

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