October 30, 2018

Let's Talk Illustrators #88: Taeeun Yoo

I have been gleefully following Taeeun Yoo's career for a few years now, and I've always loved everything she creates. But—and keep in mind I'm a big cat person!—when I picked up Kitten and the Night Watchman, written by John Sullivan, back in September, I knew this was the book I wanted to talk to her about. It's an incredibly sweet and compelling story made even more so by Taeeun's thoughtful and carefully crafted illustrations, and it's my pleasure to share our conversation with you all today!

About the book:
The night watchman hugs his wife and kids and drives to work.
All night he is alone.
Every hour he makes his rounds.

He sees the stars twinkling. He hears the sounds of the night:
ki-DEE ki-DEE ki-DEE
Woof! Woof! Woof!


When he is joined by a stray kitten, the night suddenly seems different. Has the kitten found a new home?

Let's talk Taeuun Yoo!

LTPB: How did you use the narrative structure of Kitten and the Night Watchman to create your characters? With everything taking place at night, how did you keep things interesting?

TY: Kitten and the Night Watchman is written beautifully about a nighttime construction site. There is only one character who makes the rounds alone before he meets this little kitten.

Once I started drawing each page, I realized this book is very quiet and not as colorful as the story sets at night. I wanted to find some ways to keep readers’ eyes moving throughout the book. The night watchman begins his work at night and goes back home in the morning. I thought it would be a good opportunity to show the various sky color from sunset to sunrise as the story moves. Even during the nighttime, I tried not to use the same blue colors.

LTPB: What is the first thing you did when you received this manuscript? How do stay inspired and come up with your ideas?

TY: I normally draw any images that comes up in my head as I read the manuscript. That’s the first impression of the story for me. Then I make pagination and fill each page. I research if I need. I researched a lot about construction sites and equipment like backhoes and garbage trucks.

I also had to decide if I would set the construction site in the middle of a city or a suburb. As I worked on the story board, I also did character studies. When I get stuck in the middle, I asked my editor Sylvie Frank and art director Laurent Linn for help. Sylvie and Laurent were great to talk to when I lacked ideas.

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

TY: I created this book using mostly digital. I love print making and the unexpected result of prints. My previous books were created with etchings and linoleum block prints with pencil/charcoal line drawings. I use similar styles with textured prints and line drawings for each book, but the process for each books is different. Sometimes I print the whole book with block print, sometimes I print only textures and work in Photoshop. Sometimes I draw pencil/charcoal lines on papers, and this time I drew and colored the whole book digitally. It all depends on what is most effective and what is most fun for me to work with.

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

TY: I am currently working on a picture book with Nancy Paulsen Books. It’s called When Storm Comes written by Linda Ashman. I cannot share images at this point, but it’s a very fun book that shows how rain storms progress in a small town. 

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

TY: I would love to ask Evaline Ness to illustrate my story. I have admired her work since I first read her book Sam, Bangs and Moonshine at Books of Wonder in New York. I was drawn into her beautiful art immediately, and her work inspired me to learn printmaking. I love her sophisticated sense of color composition and effortless line drawings.

Thank you so much to Taeeun for answering all my questions about this adorable cat and her new friend! Kitten and the Night Watchman published from Paula Wiseman Books in September!

Special thanks to Taeeun and Paula Wiseman for use of these images!

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