Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Constance Anderson

© Constance Anderson

Jan. 12, 2018

Today we feature author-illustrator Constance Anderson and her new picture book, A STICK UNTIL . . .  (Star Bright Books 2017). Be sure to enter to win a copy.



Tell us about yourself and how you came to write and illustrate for children.


I rediscovered the art of children’s books when I started reading picture books to my own children. As a child, I was inspired by language because of my father’s nightly poetry recitations and funny song performances. And before I could read words, I read the pictures in The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature. So sharing picture books with my children was a reawakening of how word and image come alive in a picture book. I wanted to be part of that. It took many rejections before my first picture book, SMELLING SUNSHINE, was published in 2013. I am so pleased about the publication of my newest picture book, A STICK UNTIL…

Congratulations on your book A STICK UNTIL . . .  Tell us about it and what inspired you.

Thank you! A STICK UNTIL … follows a stick on its journey as a tool, and from a tool to a toy, to a tree. The stick is used by a wide range of animals, is lost, found, and used again, this time by people. Science information about stick use is also included, like a science journal.


A STICK UNTIL… started with my sons, the masters of human stick use who never met a stick they didn’t like. I also noticed other children playing with sticks. When I saw a young Japanese boy in a botanical garden in Kyoto playing with a stick, I realized that messing around with sticks is a universal joy among children everywhere.

Animals use sticks as well. As a nature guide at the Martin Griffin Preserve, I had observed Great Egrets presenting sticks to their potential mates, and using sticks to build their nests. I knew about the chimpanzees in Gombe Stream Game Reserve that Jane Goodall had observed using sticks to dig out termites to eat.  I started doing research and found that many animals use sticks as tools, some in unexpected ways. From my observations of children, and research into animal tool use the idea persisted that there was a story in stick use and that I should write it.

Tell us about your illustration process.

In A STICK UNTIL… the story line journey of the stick is in color accompanied by sepia charcoal illustrations that add contextual information. 

© Constance Anderson


Charcoal drawings are the foundation for the artwork throughout the book.

© Constance Anderson
Many are enriched with paint and paper in what I call collage painting.

© Constance Anderson
I am always looking for unusual textures that will work in an illustration. The alligator illustration is an example. I had completed the drawing for the alligator and I was looking around for textured papers I could use for the alligator’s skin.

© Constance Anderson


And then the mail came, and when I opened up an envelope, voila! There inside the envelope was the answer, this octagonal security design pattern.


With some design changes in scale and color, it became the alligator's skin.

© Constance Anderson
In the dog illustration spread...

© Constance Anderson

I created fur using a fork to spread acrylic paint on wax paper. 


© Constance Anderson
 In the gorilla spread, I used a similar technique for the gorilla’s hair. The resist beading up of paint on wax paper became part of the water.

© Constance Anderson
What projects are you working on now?

I work on several ideas at a time, over a long period of time. One of the projects usually gathers more steam than another and becomes a primary project. Several concepts in development are animal communication, and rock transformation.

What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

When I write or illustrate, much of the creative process is intuitive. It’s hard to create and analyze at the same time. In fact the innovative artist and graphic designer Corita Kent, who I studied with when I was coming of age, suggested Rule 8 in her wonderful set of art department “rules”: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

Another one of her “rules” is what people call butt in the chair, although Kent has a more eloquent explanation of why this is important: The only ruleis work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all ofthe work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

And then there is Kent’s Rule One: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while. This place for me has always been the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. SCBWI is an invaluable resource for information, companionship, and conferences. Another trusting place is my critique group, which has given me friendship, perspective and a place to test the rigor of my work.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I fight against perfection which is that persnickety voice saying I should draw within the lines. I pay attention to the voice in order to quiet it.

 Where can people find you on line?

My website is: www.candersonart.com


Constance Anderson is an illustrator and author interested in connecting people to one another, and to the environment. Her two pictures books reflect these interests. Smelling Sunshine is a story about one world doing an ordinary chore of hanging laundry, (Star Bright Books, 2013). Her newest picture book, A Stick Until..., follows a stick on its transformational journey as a tool (Star Bright Books, July, 2017). Constance often combines paint and paper in her narrative images, a process reminiscent of hours spent as a child making paper dolls and the stories that went with them. Her illustrations have appeared throughout the San Diego Zoo, in science journals, cookbooks, and children’s magazines, and at California galleries and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area in a small house with big garden that doubles as a day spa for birds.

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17 comments:

  1. I absolutely cannot wait to read A Stick Until...! What an interesting concept, and I'm in love already with your illustrations and their various styles. Thanks for sharing a bit of your creative process as well.

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  2. I love getting the inside scoop on an artists processes. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. I love the idea of this book and can't wait to read it!

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  4. I love seeing how you created the texture, Constance. Can't wait to check out this book!

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  5. Love this...and will buy the book...and hope to get you to sign it.

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  6. My grandson loves sticks, too. We don't go out side that he doesn't pick up a stick. I think this is such a clever book that my grandson could relate to and enjoy.

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  7. Thank you for taking us inside your process. Your work and process is inspiring.

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  8. Your artwork is amazing! I loved getting an inside peek into how you created some of the illustrations. Also really like the premise of A Stick Until . . . Congratulations!!

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  9. This is wonderful, Constance! I love your different techniques!

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  10. Thanks for taking us through your art for this creative book. I enjoyed this post very much and find your work inspirational.

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  11. What an interesting and original topic! Beautiful illustrations, too. I'll be on the lookout for "A Stick Until . . . "

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  12. I love your concept for A STICK UNTIL . . . And I really appreciate the sneak peek into your process.

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  13. Love this idea and how you brought it to fruition!

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  14. I really enjoyed reading about your illustration process. A STICK UNTIL ... sounds fascinating!

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  15. This is a wonderful interview! I love reading about your process. Thanks for sharing!

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  16. I can not wait for this lovely book! I remember once watching a chimpanzee use a stick to fish ants out of a log at the Houston zoo. It was mesmerizing!

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