SCBWI Bologna 2012 Author-Illustrator Interview: Bob Barner

Photo of Bob Barner by Catherine Barner.

By P.J. Lyons for SCBWI Bologna 2012 at Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Bob Barner is the creator of many popular children’s books including Dem Bones (Chronicle, 1996), Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! (Chronicle, 1999) and Fish Wish (Holiday House, 2000).

He graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design and worked as an art director before starting his career in publishing. He likes to present his work to schools and libraries all around the world. His books are in print in French, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. Several of his titles have been developed as videos and set to music.

He lives with his wife Catherine in San Francisco.

Describe your process when you illustrate a book.

I usually start illustrating a book with lots of research followed by small thumbnail sketches, working to full size sketches and finally doing the final collage artwork.

How did you decide upon collage as your medium?

I came to collage after drawing with lines for a long time. I wanted something new and fresh and from my heart. I took some time and remembered how much I liked doing collage as a child. It was a fresh start and got me excited about what I do all over again.

Do you prefer illustrating your own manuscripts or those of other authors? How does process differ?

I do prefer illustrating my own stories. I really like nonfiction. I love the research, talking to experts in the field, visiting museums for research and inspiration and finally fleshing out my ideas.

I do read manuscripts, but unfortunately, I’m usually too busy to take them on. I do feel flattered when a publisher asks me to read one and it is refreshing to be a part of some else’s vision for a change when I do take the project.

Whose art has influenced your art? What current artists inspire you?

I have been influenced by almost all of the art I have ever seen in one way or another. Lately, I seem to gravitate to letterpress books, crafts, sewing and three dimensional work. Maybe some of these elements will find a way into my art.

How has your work evolved over your career?

My work has evolved many times and continues to. In part because I still like to take art classes from time to time. In the last years I have studied book making, letterpress, and mono print. Overall I think my images are becoming more colorful and less complex.

What are you working on now?

I just finished illustrating two books for the South Korean market which was exciting. And I am currently illustrating “I Have a Garden,” one of my own texts.

What words of advice do you have for emergent illustrators?

My advice for new illustrators would be to become great friends with your local children’s librarian, look at picture books old and new, join SCBWI and go to any and every book or author related event you can attend.

Is there something you know now that you wish you had known when you first started illustrating? 

When I started illustrating I didn’t know how important and helpful other illustrators and authors could be. I didn’t have a good network of arty people around me. I still seek out the opinions of people I admire when I have a question or sticking point in a project.

Cynsational Notes

P.J. Lyons has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and an art major from Calvin College. She is the author of Little Lamb’s Bible, Little Lion’s Bible, and The Wonderful World that God Made. Her earliest memories are of telling stories to her stuffed animals while cutting and pasting pictures.

The SCBWI Bologna 2012 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Showcase in conjunction with Cynsations. To find out more, visit the SCBWI Bologna Showcase Special thanks to Angela Cerrito for coordinating this series with SCBWI Bologna and Cynsations.

3 thoughts on “SCBWI Bologna 2012 Author-Illustrator Interview: Bob Barner

  1. Bob Barner is a gifted and talented author/illustrator. Thank you for showcasing his work. Others who are interested in his work may be interested in his book:
    Bob Barner and you
    Volume 6 of Author and you
    Author Bob Barner
    Edition illustrated
    Publisher Libraries Unlimited, 2006
    ISBN 1591582628, 9781591582625
    Length 124 pages
    It is a professional book in which Bob shares much of the background and ideas for incorporating his books into the lives of readers. It's available from ABC-CLIO which is now the parent company of Libraries Unlimited.
    Sharron McElmeel

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