Writer and illustrator Aaron Renier will be at Write On, leading our KIDS WOW! Program, July 22 through 26. Intended for students going into 6th through 8th grades this September, the creative camp will focus on creating comics and graphic novels. Find more details about KIDS WOW! on our calendar. I had the chance to talk with Aaron about his work and about the upcoming creative camp.
Jerod Santek (JS): You have both written and illustrated your own books and have illustrated books written by other writers. Is it easier or more challenging for you to illustrate another writer’s work as compared to your own?
Aaron Renier (AR): For me it is easier to illustrate for someone else than illustrating my own text. When I’m illustrating myself, everything is flexible. If I don’t like how the text is working when I’m drawing the pictures, I can change it. With my own work, there is ALWAYS something I can change.
When it’s another author, I listen to them or the art director in charge, and I then try to best work within the constraints set before me. When I don’t have many choices to make, and I can’t be critical of the text, I really just need to draw. For me, that’s a lot of fun. (Just drawing, and not thinking too hard.) A bonus for drawing for someone else is that (if you do a good job) the author is happy, and you made for them a gift of sorts.
For me it’s more challenging to illustrate myself, but it’s the most interesting to illustrate myself, because I can literally draw and write whatever I make up. That is very exciting.
JS: Do ideas come to you and present themselves as something to be drawn or something to be written, or a combination of the two?
AR: I’m a very visual person. I picture things quite clearly as a picture. But ideas still do come to me as words, especially if it’s an abstract concept or dialogue.
JS: Who have been your artistic influences – both visual and literary?
AR: Visually, my influences change quite rapidly. Right now I’ve been really interested in Bill Peet (amazing children’s book writer/illustrator) and I’ve been loving looking at Van Gogh’s black and white drawings. A year ago, I was really interested in more contemporary French cartoonists. Growing up, I loved Batman and Calvin and Hobbes (specifically the art of Bruce Timm and Bill Watterson).
My literary influences are Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, and Italo Calvino. I like playing with levels of reality in my comics, or perceptions and reality. And like Dahl making the reality sometimes really really out there.
JS: What can students taking your creative camp this July expect to experience during their week?
AR: Drawing, drawing, and more drawing. Going outside and drawing, staying inside and drawing. Talking about character designs and plotting stories. We’ll be making a lot of comics. We will make comics about the real world, we will make comics about made up worlds. And students will walk away with a printed and bound comic they helped create.
JS: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and artists?
AR: Being an artist is a lifelong journey. You will always think your work can be better. So if you think you aren’t good enough to make comics, you are wrong. You will continue to make comics better than your last. So think of all the amazing comics you can make… now and in the future!!!