Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Jason Chin

© Jason Chin

July 19, 2019

Today we are excited to feature award-winning author-illustrator Jason Chin and his recent picture book NINE MONTHS: BEFORE A BABY IS BORN, by Miranda Paul (Holiday House/ Neal Porter Books, April 2019). Enter to win a copy!




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

I grew up in Lyme, NH which happened to be the same town that Trina Schart Hyman lived in.  She regularly came to our school to present, and that’s what first put the idea in my head that illustrating picture books was a possibility.  I met her later on, in high school, and she became my mentor.  Her support and encouragement set me towards becoming a professional artist and eventually to picture books. 

Congrats on your recent picture book NINE MONTHS: BEFORE A BABY IS BORN, by Miranda Paul. Tell us how your research process for the illustration and how you came to some of your illustration choices.

Around the time that my editor asked me to do this project, my brother called me to tell me that he and his wife were expecting their first child. I decided to put them in the book.  My brother is the father, my sister-in-law is the mother and their dogs are in the book. Their daughter was born just as I was beginning the final art, and I dedicated the book to her. The older sister is based on my daughter. Basing the characters on people who I know well made the research for that portion relatively easy.

© Jason Chin


Doing the visual researching for the images of the fetus was much more difficult. The main challenge was that I have never seen the subject with my own eyes. Everything was based on photographs, which made me a little uncomfortable. When I paint I like to have seen the subject, so I can be confident in my representation of it. In this case, I had the photos, and also help from two doctors who gave me very important feedback. I couldn’t have done the work with out them.

© Jason Chin


You are known for your stunning and detailed art and conceptual books. What comes first for you, the images, or the story?

For NINE MONTHS it was the story, because Miranda wrote the text first. Her text was the starting point for me to build the visual story off of. My first step was to decide who the characters would be. Then it was a matter of building scenes from prompts in the text. For example, one stanza ends with the line “she likes to move.”  So I came up with ideas about how to show the sister moving (running, jumping rope, riding a rocking horse) and ended up showing her jumping on the bed. I built the rest of the scene around that activity.  One reason I like to base characters on real people is that it helps me imagine the character’s emotions, and in this case I was thinking of my daughter’s joy when she jumps on her bed.


© Jason Chin


How does illustrating other people's books compare to illustrating your own?

When I illustrate my own, I develop a idea of what I want the book to look like as I write (I write first). So when it comes time to develop the illustrations, a lot of visual questions are answered.  



For example, when I wrote Grand Canyon, I knew the aesthetic that I was going for before I drew anything.  When I illustrate someone else's book I don’t have this head start.  There’s a period of getting to know the text and experimenting with visual styles before I know what I want the aesthetic to be.



What is your preferred medium & illustration process? 

I work in watercolor and gouache and enjoy it for the most part.  In general, I start with small sketches and big picture concepts, then revise and refine until I’m ready to paint. 
© Jason Chin

There’s a lot of planning and ideally, by the time I paint I have a very clear idea of what the picture will be. I like many different mediums, however, and hope to try out some new techniques in the future.


© Jason Chin



© Jason Chin

What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on a book about our place in the Universe.  It’s about cosmology, scale and perspective and hopefully it will introduce readers to size of the known Universe and our place in it.

 What are the one or two things you did that most advanced your career? What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Getting to know Trina was without question number one thing that advanced my career, because she gave me the confidence to try to become an artist. The second most important thing was moving to New York and meeting people in the children’s publishing world—networking, basically. Knowing people in the industry lead to the publication of my book REDWOODS (the first that I both wrote and illustrated).



I think one key to success is to make art regularly.  To do this you need to enjoy the process.  It’s important to find joy and satisfaction in developing your craft regardless of how it's received by others.  If you enjoy the creative process and enjoy the learning process, you’ll end up making more art, the more you make the better your art will be, and this will give you a much greater chance for professional success. 

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

I am afraid of heights.

Where can people find you online?

Website: http://www.jasonchin.net
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/authorjchin 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorjasonchin/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorjasonchin


© Deirdre Gill
Jason Chin is an author and illustrator non-fiction picture books, including GRAND CANYON, REDWOODS, ISLAND, and GRAVITY. His newest illustrated book, NINE MONTHS, is his second collaboration with author Miranda Paul.  He has received a Caldecott Honor, Sibert Honor, NCTE’s Orbis Pictus award, and the CCB’s Gryphon Award.


  
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16 comments:

  1. I was blown away by the art in NINE MONTHS. I'll definitely be looking for your other books!

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  2. Wow! This looks amazing! Congratulations!

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  3. The art work is amazing and so realistic. This book will make excellent to-be-big-sibling gifts.

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  4. Those 9 months were the best of my life!

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  5. This book is wonderful. A great way to celebrate a new addition to the family!

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  6. What a great collection of illustrations. This book looks very good as well, thanks for the chance to win it!

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  7. I can't wait to get this one! Modern science has taken the mystery out of how a baby grows and this seems to really capture the miracle for young readers and big siblings to be!

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  8. Jason, your book, Nine Months, looks like a wonderful book to use when explaining birth to children. The illustrations are realistic and give the child reading or being read to a picture of what's happening. Terrific book!

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  9. Can't wait to share this with my daughter. We were just discussing babies and pregnancy. This looks like the perfect book to guide further discussion.

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  10. Beautiful illustrations. It looks like a great way for children to come to understand this topic.

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  11. I am a huge fan of Jason's work and loved hearing the backstory on Nine Months!

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  12. Loved the interview and hearing more about the backstory. This looks like a wonderful book. So needed!

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  13. I keep hearing about the book 9 Months, it looks beautiful!

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  14. I love both Jason and Miranda's work. I can't wait to read this one!

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