Ryan is the author/illustrator of Zoe and Robot - Let’s Pretend (Blue Apple Books 2011) and the illustrator of Are You Eating Something Red? and Are You Eating Something Green?- placemat books from Blue Apple Books 2010. His story and illustration work have appeared in Nickelodeon magazine, the Flight series (Villard) and Mad magazine.
Ryan earned a B.F.A at the Ringling School of Art & Design in Florida, where he created the puppet troupe, "Patchwork Puppets" and performed in schools, libraries and theme parks. After working for five years at ReelFX in Texas as an art director for videos he moved to New York to pursue his television and children's book illustration career.
Ryan has considerable experience in the world of television and film. He has directed videos for Barney and Chuck E. Cheese and his storyboarding credits include the movie Bowling for Columbine, as well as Robots and Maya & Miguel for Scholastic Entertainment. He is currently working with Sesame Workshop (a dream come true!)
Ryan has so much interesting information to share that I will probably divide his interview between today and Wednesday so you can enjoy it fully. At the end there will be a contest (you know how I love contests!) and the prize will be a signed copy of Ryan's most recent title: Zoe and Robot - Let's Pretend!
Welcome, Ryan, and thank you so much for joining us!
SLH: Ryan, how old were you when you started writing stories? Drawing?
RS: According to my parents I started drawing when I was 1.5. I’ve seen a drawing I did of Ernie at age three. (I loved Sesame Street!) I have books I made all through school. So I’ve been creating stories my entire life!
|Two of Ryan's early drawings (above and below)|
SLH: Were you encouraged to pursue writing/illustrating?
RS: Yes, my mom taught Kindergarten and my dad was a Industrial designer. So it was a house of creative people. I remember drawing all the time. I was diagnosed with dyslexia very young, so I was encouraged to draw since school was tricky for me.
SLH: How has being dyslexic affected your career? (Although dyslexia makes writing harder, dyslexics are notoriously original thinkers, often very spatially gifted - more right-brained than the rest of us - are there things you think actually come more easily to you?)
RS: Being dyslexic made school very difficult for me, and was hard on my ego. I drew all the time because it was easy and I got praise for it. I think that is the main reason I draw all the time still.
I love to write because it is so creative, but it can be hard because I have typos and wrong tenses all over the place. (Probably in this interview!) I use spell check, but I’ll use the correct spelling of the wrong word. So I have to have everything checked by friends.
I do find I am able to generate ideas very fast, and I am creative all the time. I’m not sure how much of that is the dyslexia or just my lifetime of being creative. I’m not sure if I do it better than any one else.
I have learned to accept my dyslexia. It is an extra challenge, but I’ve never known any different and I don’t let it get in the way of my dreams!
SLH: What was your first published book? How did you feel/react?
RS: When Are You Eating Something Red? came out it was very exciting! But I didn’t fully believe it until I had a copy in my hands. The most shocking thing for me was when I saw it in the store of the Museum of Modern Art! Now I tell people that my work is in the MoMa next to the Picasso’s! ;)
SLH: What books have you published subsequently?
RS: My brand new book Zoe and Robot – Let’s Pretend was my next book, it is also with Blue Apple Books. It is part of their Ballon Toons line of books. It just came out April first!
SLH: Which is your favorite of the books you've published so far?
RS: I like all my books, but at the moment my new book Zoe and Robot – Let’s Pretend is my favorite. I like the comedy and how the Robot talks in third person. My goal is to do more silly books, so this is a step in that direction.
SLH: You have been both author and illustrator of your books. When you create a story, which comes first - the writing or the drawing? Or do they go hand-in-hand?
RS: They go hand in hand for me. I’ve started books both ways. I flip between both as I’m developing an idea.
|This is how I normally work. I do pencil sketches for the whole book.|
|I use a light board, making the lines with water color instead of the ink that many people use.|
|I scan the finished inked page.|
|I color in PhotoShop and TA DA! Finished art!|
Wow! As someone who cannot draw, I am fascinated by Ryan's process. I hope you're finding it interesting too!
Tune in Wednesday for the conclusion of Ryan's interview, when we'll learn about his marketing techniques and school visits, among other things, and finish with A SECRET! and our contest for a free signed copy of Zoe and Robot - Let's Pretend! See you then :)
And if you have questions for Ryan, please post them in the comments!