Eugenie Fernandes - Author/Illustrator
My world is yellow and blue and green. I grew up on the beach. I painted with my father --- comic-book illustrator Creig Flessel. We made up stories sitting on the front porch. Birds flew down from the sky and sat on my shoulder. Cats purred. Frogs hopped. I have always lived on islands ...a house on Long Island, an apartment on Manhattan Island, a thatch hut on an island in the middle of the South Pacific, and now ... I live and work in a little house ... on a little island ... in a little lake in southern Ontario. Summer and winter ...starting at the crack of dawn, I paint every day. Sometimes, I write stories. Sometimes, I sell the stories. Then I paint again ... I paint my stories ... I paint other people's stories. Sometimes, I paint paintings for myself ... abstract paintings ... big ... free ... Sunshine fills my studio.I am surrounded by water and birds and trees.My world is yellow and blue and green. Eugenie graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1965. Her paintings from Earth Magic and One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference are at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art.
Huntington, Long Island, New York.
Where do you live now?
I live beside a lake in southern Ontario.
When did you start writing/drawing?
My dad is an illustrator, one of the early comic book artists in the 1930s with DC comics. His studio is at the top of the house where I was born. A picture window looks out over the treetops to Huntington Bay, Long Island. I had my own desk right next to his. I spent much of my growing-up time in that studio. The first material I published was a story called Wickedishrag that I wrote and illustrated for a class project when I was in art school in 1965.
How did you get involved with children's books?
I grew up with stories and art --- they were interconnected with each other and with my life. Pop was a wonderful storyteller. I can remember sitting with him on the front porch. Everything and anything could spark a story --- a neighbor walking past with a fishing pole: Where is he going? Will he catch anything? Maybe he'll be lost in a storm. Cricket's music, rain, worms in the compost heap, thunder, cats, birds, trees --- anything. For my father, stories are just a part of the way he talks. I don't remember any of those stories now, but I do recall the time spent with Pop and the laughter. That has given me a permanent warm feeling about stories. At the School of Visual Arts, my favorite class was illustrating children's books with Eric Bleguad (who illustrated Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear by N.M. Bodecker). To get involved professionally, I knocked on doors, showed my portfolio to art directors, wrote stories, waited ... hoped ... rewrote ... and DIDN'T give up!
What is the thing you like the most about creating kids books?
I like the headspace --- I like where I am in my mind when writing and illustrating.
Who is in your family?
My husband Henry, and our children, Kim and Matthew. Henry is also an artist, and we have collaborated on a number of projects, such as Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish. In the 1970s, we had great fun writing and designing and producing animated spots for Sesame Street. Kim and Matthew are artists as well! Matt wrote and illustrated a book called Farmer Bill ... and Kim and I worked together on Sleepy Little Mouse and Busy Little Mouse for Kids Can Press.
What is your favorite movie?
The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio.
What are your hobbies?
In my spare time I like to paint pictures --- without deadlines --- and walk barefoot on the beach.
What is your favorite food?
My favorite foods are cereal and fruits and sushi.
What was your training or schooling?
I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Where do you work?
In my studio at home. It's glass on three sides and overlooks the lake and the woods, so I'm inside out and outside in. Before this, my studio was always the corner of a bedroom, protected only by a strip of tape on the floor that said, “please knock.” Our two children were quite good about that invisible door. They often sat next to me creating pictures and stories of their own.
How do you create your stories? Where do your ideas come from?
Story ideas are all around us all the time --- like radio waves. I try to keep my antennae tuned in ... then I snatch the ideas that have the most appeal. THEN, I build the story around the idea. I make it shorter; make it sound good; make the words feel comfortable in your mouth.
Do you have any tips for young creators?
Write what you feel ... draw what you love.
What's your greatest childhood memory?
All of it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist and a mom.