April 30, 2024

Let's Talk Illustrators #289: Mae Waite

I was lucky to get a closer look at the illustration process for Aloha Everything, written by Kaylin Melia George and illustrated by Mae Waite. Mae was such a blast to chat with in this interview, and I hope you enjoy our peek behind the curtain of this gorgeous book!

About the book:
Since the day that Ano was born, her heart has been connected to her home. But, this adventurous child has a lot to learn! When Ano begins to dance hula––a storytelling dance form that carries the knowledge, history, and folklore of the Hawaiian people––Ano comes to understand the true meaning of aloha.

The beautiful poetry––weaving its way through every page--artfully blends 25 Hawaiian words into the English prose and provides a thoughtful exploration of the meaning of aloha in relation to the land, the people, and the lore. There is also a pronunciation guide and glossary providing additional information for those looking to learn more about the rich language and culture of Hawai'i.

Peek underneath the dust jacket:

And check out the endpapers:

Let's talk Mae Waite!

LTPB: How did you become the illustrator of Aloha Everything, written by Kaylin Melia George?

MW: On a random day in 2022, I woke up to an email from Kaylin George about a proposal for a fun project that involved a lot of painting. I was immediately intrigued and wrote back. Kaylin spoke with so much passion that it was a no-brainer, I said yes in the second email exchange. I later learned that Kaylin had searched far and wide across 808ARTS (an online catalog of local artists) before coming across my works and deciding that I was the perfect fit.

LTPB: Can you talk a little bit about the visual evolution of the illustrations? As you got to know the characters, how did the images evolve?

MW: The visual evolution of the illustrations was a journey that was so rewarding. The initially conceptualized images were actually very different from the final. In the beginning stages of development we took a more literal direction so one could read the text and see that scene plainly on the page. It wasn’t very interesting, so we took a more whimsical approach later on which complemented the writing style.

We created character sketches and painting swatches to maintain consistency and keep the protagonist recognizable. What I learned is that no amount of planning can solve all questions—at a certain point it’s necessary to be adaptable. Some thumbnail sketches that were planned out were changed last-minute and there were some pages that had to be changed out entirely.
LTPB: What did you find most difficult in creating this book?

MW: One of the biggest challenges involved time and the many revisions that Kaylin and myself found necessary. We both are passionate about our work and we don’t like to put in subpar effort. We were constantly asking ourselves “how can we make this better?” Although the process was long, I don’t regret a thing because the result was perfect.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? How does your process change from book to book?

MW: The medium used was mainly acrylic on paper. I love using the two together because it behaves a lot like watercolor when diluted with water but you can also build it up to make it opaque. I really enjoy using acrylics because it’s so versatile, but my favorite medium is oil paints.

The process can vary from book to book depending on how the author feels. After the big project briefing, I would suggest mediums or styles that would work best.

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

MW: I have quite a few private commissions that I’m working on, but I can show you a program cover that I just completed for HCMF (Honolulu Chamber Music Festival), an organization that works with youth musicians to help them navigate and create meaningful moments that positively impact the community.

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

MW: This is probably the hardest question to answer because there are so many artists that I admire. At the moment, I would love to see how Fredrick Pillot would illustrate the pages. He is based out of France and he is renowned for his use of composition, color and adventurous scenes. I would love to have a tale about a painter or maybe about the painting process blown up in epic proportions.

A massive thanks to Mae for taking time to answer some questions about this book! Aloha Everything published last week from Red Comet Press!

Special thanks to Mae and Red Comet Press for use of these images!

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