Interviewing Sarah Whang
Member of Kelly Dyksterhouse's Kidlit Crew
Hello, Dionna! Thanks for inviting me!
My pleasure! I'm wondering, did you love illustrating and making comics as a kid?
I did! Though I was painfully shy, art was the one thing I always felt confident in. I’ve been drawing as long as I could remember, and I had a fondness for writing as well. I spent most of my day at school in the library, reading everything that I found interesting. The most memorable finds were intricately illustrated picture books by Robert Munsch, Jan Brett, Beatrix Potter and others. As a child, I would read and write little picture books for myself.
When I grew older, I sent out a printed book to my relatives as gifts that I assembled with my home scanner, a stapler, and PowerPoint. I wrote comics as well, sometimes in collaboration with my brother who would draw the panels. Comics were harder to come by, but to this day I read my hand-me-down Archie comics and manga as much as possible.
I'm sure your family enjoyed those gifts more than store bought ones! What types of books for children would you like to create as an author/illustrator or comic book author?
Though my art aligned with kidlit very well, I thought that children’s books could only be written by people with rosy childhoods. My children’s books professor in art school changed my perspective. More often than not, children are smart enough to know about the sad, scary, and unfair aspects of the world. I would love to create work that acknowledges these tough subjects with kindness and help kids understand them as my favourite childhood books have done for me.
Those types of topics are needed in this sad, scary, and unfair world. Is there anything in particular that inspires your art?
Not to be cliché, but nature is my greatest inspiration. At the onset of the Pandemic lockdown, I reevaluated my unhealthy relationship to art and took a long break. I would go on multiple walks a day with my dad who I moved back in with briefly. Being from Vancouver, British Columbia, there was no shortage of natural beauty to draw from. But aside from mountains and oceans, I found joy in the curious sights of everyday life, like the flowers that survived through an unusually warm winter, or an owl perching snugly on a stop sign.
I forced myself only to create with the old paint and coloured pencils in my childhood home. I fell back in love with making art. Most of my work features nature, especially flowers. My family was in the flower business for years and I grew up surrounded by blooms, and I worked as a florist for them occasionally. It’s great to be able to draw so many different kinds of flowers from memory!
My process really depends on the project, but recently, I really like to get as much worked out in the early stages as possible. It’s a rather structured process, which I’ve developed from a hectic schedule during school days and working full time. I start with research of course, making a board of reference photos. The Notion app has been my recent obsession for keeping track of information and files.
In my first book, which I am currently working on, I kept a sketchbook full of all the research and sketches pertaining to the story. Then, I did a close read of the manuscript and sketched out scenes and pages. I made a template for thumbnails with the right ratio and rough text placement and filled this in using Photoshop since they get revised over and over. Working digitally saves time.
I took each thumbnail, enlarged it to make a tighter sketch, and chose a colour palette for the page. (I stole this step from my partner who is a fantastic artist. He finishes an entire painting digitally first, and then paints it on canvas.) This type of precise groundwork gives the final artwork a clean, purposeful look instead of being overworked or having to restart many times. Next, I printed out the sketch, transferred it to watercolour paper for the final mixed media painting, which I like to do completely traditionally as I love the warm look and soothing process.
Wow! Sounds like a labor intensive process, but one that pays off in the end! Last question, how did Kelly discover you and why are you glad to be represented by her?
Kelly and I actually found each other after a good friend had joined The Tobias Literary Agency as a client. He kept telling me how his agent was great to work with, so I asked him for more info. Though my friend's agent wasn’t taking on any new clients, she referred me to Kelly, her colleague at TLA.
Kelly had a great list of artists and seemed very experienced, so I reached out, and she promptly responded. She led me through the agenting process and the contract step by step. I became intrigued by the idea of being in a community of other children’s book artists. Luckily, soon after we signed, our first project that went out on submission was acquired! It’s only been a little while since we’ve worked together, but I’m excited to see where Kelly and I will go.
Kelly is awesome, and I'm excited to see where your work will go too! Well, thanks for chatting with us, Sarah, and do stop by again!
You're welcome, and I will!