--How you were selected as illustrator?

Hyperion editor, Donna Bray, contacted me directly. We had never met or worked together but she had seen some of my previous books and thought that I’d be a good match for this story.

--What appealed to you about the text? 
Everything! I was taken by the very first paragraph. 
Especially the line when we are first introduced to the littlest,
“She was the size of a bumblebee, and she was made of the heart of the
 sweet-smelling wood.”

This story felt old fashioned and magic. The emotional thread of love and separation throughout the story held my heart, while my imagination was captivated by a doll maker and nesting dolls, sisters, journeys and a little girl named Jessie. 

   -- What is your process like?

1. Read the manuscript

2. Begin sketching what comes to mind first; characters, scenes, animals etc. 

3. Research: Matryoshka dolls, Russian villages, lathes, squirrel, blue herons.

4. Thumbnail sketches: these are very small sketches depicting a whole scene. They are quick to draw while I figure out what works and what doesn’t.

5. Page layout: placing the text with the sketches on full size pages. These are then taped together in a book dummy.
6. Book dummy: a mock up of the book. This shows the editors and art directors how the pictures tell the story and how text is places from one page to another.

7. Finishes: final art. The pictures for The Littlest Matryoshka were done in watercolor on Arches watercolor paper.

--How long it took to complete the art?

It took a whole year to complete the artwork.

-- What medium did you use?


--Anything else about the process that you think might be interesting ?

Corinne lived nearby but we had never had the chance to get acquainted. It wasn’t until after I had signed the contract with Hyperion that she called me and we met in person for a cup of tea.

Corinne is every bit as magic as her writing. She wasn’t at all interested in telling me how I should go about illustrating the story; she understood that was my deal. However, she was very willing to share her Matryoshka set of six. The very ones she wrote the story about. They were an inspiration as I lined them up on my drawing table! But it was Corinne’s words that breathed the life into my illustrations.

The dolls are pictured in the illustration: “You are six sisters” (pages 4-5).  This is a favorite of mine, as it was the first of the final paintings. It took me over two weeks to paint. By the time I had painted each doll’s shining black hair and eyes, red dress, yellow shawl, a fancy flower on each of their aprons and a smile on each doll’s face---I felt like Nikolai!

I was pleased when the art designer chose this illustration for the jacket art and enhanced the backdrop with the shining black.

                                                                          - Kathy Brown

Back to Littlest Matryoshka
A Few Questions About Illustrating
The Littlest Matryoshka
photo by Daniella Bordonaro