“In 1998, Jeff Kinney came up with the idea for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a story about a middle-school weakling named Greg Heffley. Jeff worked on his book for almost eight years before showing it to a publisher in New York.” – www.wimpykid.com
As both a writer and an illustrator, I was excited to have the opportunity to interview Jeff for the Middle Grade Mafia. His books, which have changed the genre to include graphic novels and the journal style of middle grade novels, have grabbed the attention of both avid and reluctant readers around the world.
Alison Hertz: As both the author and the illustrator, would you say that you get more direction from the editor or the art director for each new book?
Jeff Kinney: I don’t get any feedback from the art director on the illustrations in the book. We consider both art and text to be editorial, so all the feedback I get is from the editor.
AH: Which character in the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID books is most like you were?
JK: I’d say Greg is the most similar to me. Although he’s an exaggerated version of myself. I was full of flaws as a kid (and still am as a grown-up), but Greg’s faults are amplified.
AH: Have you also illustrated any picture books and if so, how was that different from working on mid grade novels?
JK: I illustrated one book that never got published. My experience doesn’t extend beyond that!
AH: How would you describe your art style?
JK: I’d call my style “polished seventh grade.”
AH: I love that. Where did you get your artistic training?
JK: I was never trained formally. I drew a lot as a kid, and took one art class in college, but other than that, it was just me doodling.
AH: How do you keep your illustrations fresh?
JK: It’s hard to do when you’re working in the same style, with the same characters. Cartooning is the art of simplification, so I try not to go overboard with the illustrations. I draw just enough to get the point across.
AH: What is your favorite media to use?
JK: I like using Flash. I like clean lines, and the illustration tools are just enough for me.
AH: Jeff, please share a little about your drawing process with us?
JK: I start with rough sketches. I use a medium brush in Flash for my “pencils,” and I use lots of different colors in each drawing to keep objects separate from one another. That’s one big advantage to working on the computer. I have a huge Wacom… I think it’s 24 inches. I lay it almost flat to my desk. After the roughs are done, I move to “ink”… black lines. I move very slowly through these. It takes me about an hour to complete each drawing. About 350 hours total per book.
AH: Where do you like to work or what is your studio space like?
JK: I work in my home office. It’s a standard living room space with a high ceiling, a big TV on the wall, a nice desk, and an entertainment sofa with four individual chairs.
AH: Here’s a fun question. Do you have a favorite snack to nosh on while you illustrate?
JK: I like UTZ Sour Cream and Onion chips!
Thank you to Jeff Kinney for taking the time during your launch of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Long Haul. You can find, follow, and learn more about Jeff Kinney and his books through his website, Twitter and Facebook.