10 Questions With…Illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi
TODAY AT ALL THE WRITE NOTES I HAVE “10 QUESTIONS WITH…” ILLUSTRATOR DEBBIE RIDPATH OHI. DEBBIE AND I CHATTED ABOUT HER INFLUENCES, STAR WARS vs STAR TREK, HER INSPIRATION FOR THE COVER OF ‘I’M BORED’, AND THE MIND-BLOWING EXPERIENCE OF BEING CHOSEN TO DESIGN COVERS FOR THE LEGENDARY JUDY BLUME.
Van Gogh liked to paint copies of Millet. Picasso liked to paint copies of Velázquez. Is there an artist that you loved as a child, or as an adult, that has helped to shape your very unique, and fun, style as an illustrator?
It’s hard to pick just one. I’ve always loved the storytelling and characters in Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts and Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and they’re big influences on some of my work. As an adult, I’m drawn to Quentin Blake, William Steig and Ronald Searle’s loose and quirky styles.
All of us here have a real passion for music when we write. What role does music take in your day-to-day illustration life?
When I’m working on the early stages of a book illustration project, I prefer silence. Later on, though, I revel in cranking up the tunes. One of my recent work favourites: Ookla The Mok’s comic-themed VS EVIL, especially the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek Suprema Lex and Dr. Octopus. Another favourite is Italian progressive rock band La Locanda delle Fate because I can’t understand Italian, so the words don’t distract me.
Being an Art educator, I have the pleasure of seeing the students’ creative moments appear on an almost daily basis. It’s quite inspirational to see their ideas spark from music, art history, or random moments of their young lives. In terms of your illustration work for Michael Ian Black’s I’M BORED, where did you find the inspiration for that particular cover?
My art director was responsible for the design (which I love). He gave me the basic template of the big “I’M BORED” letters and asked me to come up with some sketch ideas of the characters in the book interacting with the letters. So I had the little girl in various poses of boredom on and around the letters, with the occasional bored potato making an appearance as well.
Being a proud Ontarian, tell our readers a little bit about the writing & illustration community that exists within Toronto, and Southern Ontario.
We have a very active writing and illustration community in the area, and I’m proud to be part of it. CANSCAIP is a wonderful organization which supports and promotes children’s literature through online forums, social media, newsletters, workshops, information programs and meetings. They host an annual conference for children’s authors, illustrators and performers called Packaging Your Imagination, and I’ll be one of the presenters this year (yay!).
More informally, I’m also a member of The Toronto Area Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group (a.k.a. Torkidlit), which is group founded by author Claudia Osmond, and we get together for dinner and drinks once a month. You can find out news about our members on Facebook.
Having just completed illustrating the covers of the seven middle editions of classic Judy Blume novels, that are being reissued by Simon & Schuster Children’s, I see you’re now working on new illustrations for three more of her classic books. What was that moment like when you found out you were going to be illustrating Judy’s reissued books?
Oh my gosh. My head was exploding. I couldn’t believe it.
I screamed. A LOT. My editor (Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster Children’s) had to keep reassuring me on the phone that yes, this was really happening. If anyone’s interested, I blogged about the experience. The middle grade books and the chapter books with my illustrations on the cover are out now.
I would love to share a beer with comic book artist John Byrne and ask him about his days drawing The Uncanny X-Men, and why he left to draw Superman. (Marvel Rules!) Is there an artist that you would love to sit and have a drink with?
Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
One Book…One Band…
What was your first concert?
Suzanne Vega, I think.
Last, but not definitely not least, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Trek, definitely. I’m a longtime Trek fan, back from the first series. If you asked me which is my favourite Star Trek captain, that would be a trickier answer. I’d want to have drinks with Captain Kirk but for an away mission I’d always opt for Jean-Luc Picard. I once wrote a song about Captain Picard that made it into the TV Guide Collector’s Edition, “Farewell To Star Trek The Next Generation“.
A BIG THANK YOU TO DEBBIE FOR STOPPING BY A.T.W.N. FOR 10 QUESTIONS WITH. FOR A LIST OF DEBBIE’S ILLUSTRATION PROJECTS, AND UPCOMING ONES, WITH SIMON & SHUSTER, HARPERCOLLINS, AND RANDOM HOUSE, CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE HERE.