April 9, 2019

Let's Talk Illustrators #105: Kelly Pousette

I caught up with Kelly Pousette, debut illustrator of Little Things. Written by Nick Dyer, Little Things focuses on a young girl who takes time every day to notice the little things around her and appreciate the details. Kelly creates dioramas full of small, paper-cut images with TONS of details. A match made in heaven? I think so!

About the book:
A child notices everyday small things from footprints to flowers, from berries to birds. And what may seem like a small act to one, may be a lifesaving act to another – proving that even the littlest things in the world may have the biggest impact.

Let's talk Kelly Pousette!

LTPB: Thank you for talking to me about this book, Kelly, and a huge congratulations on your debut! How did you come to be the illustrator of Little Things, and what were you most excited to tackle?

KP: Thank you, Mel, for this opportunity! I’m honoured and humbled to join your blog alongside such incredible talent. I was immediately drawn to Little Things and am thrilled to have been apart of this story. I was excited when I was approached about the project because I really felt that the paper-cut style would suit the story so well and would emphasize the “little things” within it. Nick’s writing offered so much opportunity to explore, create and interpret. Children have this amazing ability to notice these little things around us that are often missed in our busy adult lives. I love the idea of slowing down, taking these things in and feeling almost childlike again. While working on this book I found myself doing just that, noticing small things that I have overlooked for a long time. It was a special first book project. 

LTPB: Is paper-cut your preferred method of illustration? What can you tell us about the process for creating paper-cuts with light box dioramas? What challenges do you encounter?

KP: I love to use cut paper illustrations for several reasons. Many years ago, I was given a book on paper-cut and was instantly fascinated by the process. I dove into it with gusto, but of course was only skilled at cutting straight lines and nothing very intricate. I kept at it, practising, practising, practising. The recycling bins became very full of rejected trees and animals that had been accidentally sliced in half. But in time, I found a process that worked for me.

Creating small and large dioramas for my paper-cut pieces seemed like a logical next step. I love recreating small worlds. I am not what you would call a realism illustrator – there is a very strong element of whimsy – but I love creating these little whimsical details and then standing them up in a scene. The shadows that the paper cuts create are beautiful, and change, depending on how the scenes are arranged. So really, you can have a scene with the same elements, change them around, and move the light slightly, and it's like the scene is a different time of day or even year. Then I take a photo of the scene and that, essentially, becomes the illustration. 

It is difficult sometimes cutting out the small details – tiny flowers, blades of grass, small footprints or animals. But I love the challenge. I use a very sharp knife, and I go slow. And those very small details are sometimes what makes the scene even more special. I love adding tiny details where they are almost hidden from the eye – like they, in themselves, are a separate story.My favourite books as a child were the children’s books with small doors in them that you could open and peek behind. I feel like I can emulate this a little with small, almost hidden details. 

LTPB: What do you do when you're not illustrating children's books? How does it affect your work as an illustrator?

KP: We live in a really beautiful area with very pronounced seasons and are often out exploring. My husband taught me to fly fish, and although I’m still very much a novice, I absolutely love it. There is something very special about fly fishing – the remote areas it takes you to, the pristine wildness of those places. We often see wildlife – bears, eagles, otters, lynx, coyotes, birds, ducks. It's quiet and all you hear is your line zipping out and the slurp of a fish taking the fly. We practise catch and release, and each time I gently release a fish back to its home, I feel this incredible blessing, and I say a quiet thank you. I feel like each time I catch a fish, the fish is giving me an opportunity to connect with the world around me, like for a moment, we have this bond. 


We have some phenomenal winters as well – so we love to snow shoe, cross country ski. I love the winters here about as equally as I love the other seasons. In winter, everything seems so much sharper and pronounced. Including the sky! Winter skies seem enormous, and deep, full of bright stars. Details in winter seem both shadowed and brighter, at the same time. I love how I can see the smallest footsteps across the snow – those kinds of details you don’t see in the other seasons. 

So much of what I love to create is influenced by our wanders through the wilds. I try to capture it all in my mind and take it home to recreate it. I love remembering the smallest detail, the way a seed pod looked on a plant, the shiny scales on a fish, how a swan quietly glided across the creek, how the wind sounded in the trees high above. I want to try to capture as much as I can in my illustrations. 

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?

KP: I am just in the process of finishing a book project with Simon and Schuster’s Atheneum Books for Young Readers – due to be published September 2019. It is called The Very Very Far North, written by Dan Bar-el. It is a beautiful book, full of gentle stories and adventures of a polar bear named Duane and his friends from the North. I adore it and cannot wait to see it in print. The illustrations were created with charcoal and graphite and all in grey tones. It is a style that I love creating. 

I also have another book project on the go from Cameron Kids, Cameron and Company, called Do Not Rake Your Garden in a Party Dress, written by Amy Bissonette. This is such a joyous, fun book! I can’t share much more than that for the moment, but stayed tuned…

LTPB: If you were to write your picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?

KP: I have such admiration for so many illustrators. I don’t know how I could ever decide! The best I can do is narrow it down to three who I adore: Beatrix Potter, Bill Peet and Stephanie Graegin. I have always been drawn to animal illustrations, even as a child. And these three in my mind, personify animals in such a way, that everyone can relate. As a child, I could look at illustrations by Beatrix Potter and Bill Peet, and immediately relate to what the animal was going through. And more recently with Stephanie Graegin’s art. I feel as well that all three artists are quite different in their art style, and I’m drawn to all three. 

I would be honoured if they could personify me as whatever animal they feel is most suiting. Then I think my autobiography would be complete.

A million thanks to Kelly for taking time to answers some questions! Little Things published last month from Peter Pauper Press!

Special thanks to Kelly and Peter Pauper Press for use of these images!

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