I’d like to thank Kinsy McVay for taking time from his many projects to appear on my blog.
Kinsy McVay was born in 1978 in Liberal, KS and was raised with his younger brother and sister by two wonderful parents in the little blip-in-the-road of Plains, KS. He attended junior college in Liberal before moving on to the University of Kansas in Lawrence where he earned his degree in Illustration. While in Lawrence, Kinsy married his long-time love, Tricia, who has since blessed him with two wonderful sons. Kinsy currently lives with his family in Fort Worth, TX, where he teaches elementary art. He wrote his first children’s book, “Just Line Around”, to be used in his classroom to inspire and encourage his awesome students.
Thanks, Bill! It’s great to be here.
Tell us what Tree House Illustration is.
Simply put, TreeHouse Illustration (www.treehouseillustration.com) is where I offer my illustration services to the world at large (dream big, right?). Right now, I am primarily focused on illustrating for children’s books and cover art for novels, but I hope to expand into other venues in the future (magazines, advertising, etc.). I have also recently begun branching out (pun intended) into book and cover layout, and, surprisingly enough, I find that I quite enjoy it.
My business was formerly known as Kinsy McVay Creations, but I had never been very happy with that name. I just wasn’t very imaginative or memorable. In other words, it was lame. One day, though, as I was driving around Fort Worth, I came across this piece of land that was for sale. Sitting right in the middle of it was a nice big tree. When I saw it, I immediately pictured a sprawling tree house nestled among the branches. All kinds of boyhood hopes and dreams came back to me in that moment. I mean, who wouldn’t love to have an awesome tree house?! Better yet, what if I could build an art studio as a tree house? I began to imagine rope ladders, fire poles, trap doors… the whole nine. (It was at this point that I wondered if I would ever actually get any work done in a place like that!) From then on, the tree house not only represented a wild-eyed goal for the future, but also the imagination and fun that I enjoy through creating art every day.
How do you divide your time between teaching and your company?
I’ll be honest with you. This is an issue that I am struggling with. Over the summer, I had plenty of time to work on projects and begin working on new ones. Now that school is back in full swing that is no longer the case. School takes up most of my day, and that only leaves me with a few short hours with my wife and kids afterwards. To help adjust for this, I have started getting up an hour earlier each morning to get some uninterrupted work done. My wife and I have also been discussing setting aside some specific times that are strictly set aside as work time.
In addition, we will be moving into a larger home soon, so I should have a space that is dedicated to my illustration business. I’ve found it’s a little difficult to get quality work done sitting at the kitchen table while the TV is on, the kids are playing, and there are dishes that need doing (why are there always dirty dishes?!). Having a place to go where I can shut the door will help my productivity immensely!
Your children’s book, Just Line Around, features Stew, an ordinary line who discovers he can be more. How did you come up with the concept?
The idea for Just Line Around came from a need I had in my classroom. Lines are the very first Element of Art that we learn about, and I always like to have a book or two to tie into the concepts that I teach, especially for my Kinder – 2nd graders. Although there are a few great line books out there (Harold and the Purple Crayon, for example), I just couldn’t find exactly what I needed. So, on a whim, I started sketching out the types of lines I wanted my younger students to learn about. Then I went back and created a story that would support the images. In that way, I worked a bit backwards from tradition. The pictures came first, and then the story followed.
I’ve watched the video and was astounded. In creating Stew’s movement, do you use the old cartoon animation techniques or something new?
Creating that trailer was a lot of fun! I made it using old-school, stop motion animation (It’s been around since the late 1800’s). I do a similar project with my 4th graders at school, but I had never considered it for a book trailer, until I saw an exhibit of William Kentridge’s work at the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum. He does a lot of work with charcoal and stop motion animation. Because he uses the charcoal on the same sheet of paper, you can see the entire process of the animation as it unfolds. It was very inspiring! Since Stew is nothing more than a moving black line, I couldn’t think of a better combination.
Just Line Around has been translated into Spanish. The school you teach in has a Spanish name. I’m seeing an outreach to the Spanish community through your book, is that correct?
Absolutely! The school where I teach is about 95% Hispanic, and as soon as Just Line Around came out, the teachers at my school wanted to know when the Spanish version would be available. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought of it until they said something, but I’m glad they did. It was actually a bit nerve-wracking working in a language I don’t speak. I had one teacher do the translation for me, but she recommended that I share it with others for feedback. Everyone that read it had slightly different suggestions for it. The major change came, though, when someone finally told me that the word “line” in Spanish (la línea) is a feminine word. Since my main character was currently male, it would be confusing to Spanish readers. So Stew underwent a minor procedure (outpatient, really) and became Stephanie.
It took me a while to get it finalized, but now it’s ready, and I will be giving copies out to my fellow teachers very soon (and praying for good feedback!).
You’ve done some book covers. Amanda Thrasher’s, The Ghost of Whispering Willow is an example. Are you expanding that part of your business, and how can our readers get a quote from you on a project?
I’ve really enjoyed working on book covers and hope to do many more. The great thing about cover projects is that they are easier for me to fit into my daily routine. Compared to a picture book project that contains at least 16 images, book covers are much easier for me to complete in a timely manner. At the same time, though, because the cover is the first thing people see, it can’t be rushed. A lot of thought and planning have to go into what the author does or does not want to say with the image. For example, with The Ghost of Whispering Willow, Amanda said that she was aiming for an “eerily mysterious” feeling. Although it’s a ghost story, it’s not a story that is meant to frighten. There won’t be any bad dreams after reading this book. So we had to work together to find a balance between scary and spooky, between frightening and creepy. It’s this author/illustrator dynamic and the challenge of creating the “right” image that comes with it that I find so appealing.
Anyone interested in contacting me, can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can bounce around ideas, throw down some sketches, and find out if my style of art matches the vision for their book. There is no fee until the author agrees on a final image and final art is started.
What new is Kinsy McVay thinking about in the way of books, illustration work, and other projects?
That’s a tough one! So many ideas and so little time… I’ve been working on a new picture book with Amanda M. Thrasher for the past year called There’s a Gator Under My Bed!, and we’re hoping to have it out in early 2013. I’ve also been knocking around some ideas for a sequel to Just Line Around where Stew learns about colors and emotions, and another picture book that is a Christian parable for the story of Jesus.
The most notable project I’m currently involved in is the creation of Rising Phoenix Press (www.risingphoenixpress.net) with my fellow authors, Amanda M. Thrasher and Jannifer Powelson. All three of us had a less-than-ideal experience with our previous publisher, so we decided to pool our talents and get our work out there the right way. We are currently using CreateSpace as the printer, but we are handling all of the layouts and design ourselves, making sure that all aspects of production are held to the highest of standards. We already have 7 titles under our belts between the three of us and will be releasing more soon. As of right now, we are not signing on any new authors or illustrators, but we will be changing that soon, as well. Interested parties can e-mail us at email@example.com.
Thanks for being my guest. To buy Kinsy’s book and learn more about Stew, click on the link below.
To buy my books, click on the following link.