I was asked recently to describe the way I paint pictures for picture books. I was very surprised by this request because I thought that by now every soul in America had either read about, heard, or seen me and my amazing little art demonstration, in which I show exactly how I make the pictures for my books. I think it much better to see me do this firsthand, but welcome the opportunity to offer a brief description of this highly unusual way of making pictures! You must first understand that I don’t actually paint the images for a picture book. The images are made with an eraser. Yes, a magical little piece of kneaded rubber is my tool of choice. After coating the paper, board, or canvas with a “wash” of very thin oil paint or chalk to make a background, the picture is created by erasing the shapes of the lighter areas of the subject or image I wish to make. It is fascinating to watch the images emerge from the background as I work the eraser across the surface of the canvas until what appears is a completely rendered picture in black and white, lacking only color. Colors are then applied by “rubbing” various media (acrylics, watercolors, pastels, or oils) onto the erased image. The process is evolving, as I try to do something different with each new story or project.
From the March/April 1998 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Picture Books.