Ms. Kirsten Down’s students of Town of Webb School interviewed Mr. Tim Bowers, illustrator of the Charlotte award nominated Memoirs of a Goldfish.
Tim Bowers with goldfish
What do you use to make the colors so bright?
The artwork for Memoirs of a Goldfish was painted with acrylic paints on paper. The paint comes in squeezable tubes and I chose tubes of bright colors, then mixed those bright colors to get the color that I needed…bright orange for the goldfish, bright green for the fishbowl gravel, purple for Mr. Bubble’s suit, and so on. I tried not to use too much black when mixing the bright colors. Adding black always makes the color darker. I also painted in a watercolor technique. I mixed a lot of water with the paint so that the white paper showed through the paint, making it even brighter.
Did you make the pictures extra colorful or do you always use strong colors?
I don’t always use strong colors. I always think about the story and what colors would tell that story best. This story seemed to be one where using bright colors and a lot of white background would be perfect. I thought back to my childhood and my fish aquarium. I had bright colored gravel on the bottom and a lot of really cool, colorful fish, like neon tetras, gold mollies and guppies. I even had snails (like Mervin) that ate slime in the fish tank.
How did you get chosen to be the illustrator for Memoirs of a Goldfish? Do you know the author?
I was chosen to be the illustrator by the publisher, Sleeping Bear Press. I have illustrated other books for them and they thought I would be a good choice for this story. I use a lot of humor in my art and I think the publisher wanted humorous artwork to go along with such a funny story. I didn’t know the author, Devin Scillian before I started working on the art for this book. We’ve exchanged emails but haven’t met, face to face… yet.
Memoirs of a Goldfish sketch pages 18-19.
The pictures were very interesting with lots of expression. Was it easy to draw the goldfish with different expressions or did you make a lot of changes along the way?
The faces of the book characters always help me tell the story. This entire story took place in a small fish bowl (except at the end), so my story telling really relied on the faces and gesture (body language) in the artwork. It takes a lot of practice to get the faces just right but when I get the perfect expression, it even makes me laugh. I am always redrawing and changing my sketches to get the best illustrations for the story. It takes a lot of time and paper but that’s how I develop good characters, one face at a time.
Memoirs of a Goldfish–facial expressions
Where do you get your inspiration?
I am inspired by humor in cartoons, other children’s books and funny people (in my family, my neighborhood or on T.V.). I also love nature, to watch animals and the way they look and act. Goldfish are really interesting to watch. Snails can be a bit boring… they move pretty slowly but they are still interesting. Words to a story inspire me. When I read the Memoirs of a Goldfish manuscript, I was really inspired to create characters and add my humorous artwork to an already great story in words. I love to bring a story to life with pictures. This story was inspiring, even before I drew the first sketch.
Tim Bowers, December 2011