I was curious to know more about how Mikela made this book … I find the process so fascinating so was delighted when Mikela sent me back these questions in a day!
1. What was your design process like for I CAN HELP ?
The design process was many sketches, many different drafts, and narrowing it down to my favorite designs that spoke to the tone of the story and what I wanted to convey.
2. I loved your illustrations and how you brought Zahra to life. The pages where Zahra is happy really contrast with the pages where Zahra is sad and I felt her struggle. How did you do capture these expressions?
I did my best to keep common themes throughout the book to tie it all together, whether that be the position of the character, where they exist in space of the page, and the colors surrounding them. Zahra was such a pleasure to draw and in order to create her expressions I referenced photos but relied a good amount on my desk mirror to get the expressions I was looking for.
3. I loved that you were looking into a mirror! There was so much dreamy color and detail that you captured with the setting in fall with the leaves and art. Do you want to share how you got the book to look so beautiful?
I took inspiration from the paths I would walk either my kids or my dogs, the way leaves or flowers would gather in the cracks and corners of the sidewalk. These were by far my favorite scenes to draw, and I’m glad it shows.
4. You’ve captured the classroom setting and the students’ art in the end papers so beautifully and authentically. When I heard you were a classroom teacher, it all made sense to me. What grade(s) did you teach and did that help you when it came to illustrating this story?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with students from ages zero to mid twenties. One thing I’ve noticed and gravitated to is the variety of the children’s drawings. Especially with younger grades, their imagination runs wild and it shows in their work. My husband (a creative director) and I raised three fantastic children and taught them art as best we could. Thankfully I could never throw their artwork away so I used their old drawings as references.
5. Your pages also have such beautiful spacing. How did you know when to add the white space? You’ve really nailed this really neat minimalist feeling with the art, but somehow it’s maximized the feelings with emotion.
6. It’s genius! I loved your Illustration Note where you poignantly share how you were teased as a child for having Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I CAN HELP is a more serious story inspired by an experience of mine, and the other books you’ve worked on seem to have more lighter and joyful themes. Why did you take this project on?
When I was younger, I felt no one understood what I was going through. I took this project on because I wanted to provide a helping hand to anyone who may have felt or feels similar to my situation.
7. Favorite thing you like to draw?
kids, old people, bugs and plants
8. Where do get your work done?
For writing, anywhere I have a spare minute! But for illustration, my drafting table in the front room of our house.
9 . Favorite place to visit for inspiration?
Pinterest and Instagram
10. Favorite beauty product or skin care item?
Tan France’s diy green tea/yogurt facemask.
11. Fun! Any upcoming projects or previous projects that you’d like to share? How can we best support you? I know you’re @MikelaPrevost on Instagram and Twitter and I love your whimsical portfolio at www.mikelaprevost.com and can’t wait to read your book that you wrote and illustrated, LET’S HAVE A DOG PARTY.
Ideas are always coming and I’m so thankful to have a great critique group here in Phoenix – Michael Hale, Phoebe Fox and Kelly Klose I also can reach out to my illustration buddies – Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal
Lastly, thank you Mikela for being so detail oriented. I fell in love with Zahra’s fuzzy eyebrows and baby hairs on her forehead, her colorful Pakistani kurtas, and how you brought her dilemma to life. When I was querying this story, an agent told me it was ‘too quiet’ and asked if I could visualize the illustrations. I disagreed with it being too quiet, and was thrilled when Kathleen Merz (our editor!) made an offer, and that this book has been getting starred reviews. I also could visualize the illustrations, but what you’ve done is phenomenal and you’ve turned this story into a work of art. For that, I can’t thank you enough!
Mikela: I’m so glad I could help bring your story to life, it was such a pleasure to draw and a pleasure to work with you.