Paul Schmid is an author and illustrator of children’s picture books, including Oliver and his Alligator, A Pet for Petunia, and Hugs From Pearl. In 2010 Paul was awarded a month-long fellowship with Maurice Sendak. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Linda, and their daughter Anna. For more info, visit his website.
If you were a professional wrestler, what would your name be?
Whose ideas totally conflict with yours?
Anyone who thinks you can’t tell children the truth.
What is the biggest inconvenience about the place you are currently living in?
I deeply love the Pacific Northwest. Backpacking up to an alpine lake is about an hour’s drive and a few hours walk. I relish the moody, introspective weather and the Harbor Seals that play with my kayak. I have owls hooting outside my window at night. What Seattle doesn’t have is New York City. The museums, the architecture, and the big publishing houses. Not being in the center of all that has been a hindrance, I think.
What is something you wish you did every day, without fail?
Paint or draw from life.
Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?
Too well! The book I imagine is always more amazing than I am capable of executing. My hopes and vision far exceed my talent, which breaks my heart. The vision was so wonderful!
Finishing a book up has usually been disappointing for me in that I’ve been so intimately involved with my characters. I created them! Their tribulations, emotions, the way they look. They have been my children, I miss them when I send them out into the world.
If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?
I have always wanted to play the musical saw.
What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the illustrator you are today?
Time. Doing good work, developing your skills, takes so much time! You have to sacrifice some of the other things in life.
What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?
My wonderful figure drawing teacher at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Bill Parks, often urged us to ask ourselves: “What would you dream –and do– if you knew you would succeed?” Those words have taken me far. Not always succeeding, but having a fuller life than I would have had otherwise.
How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?
Not well. I tend to let my work consume me. Friends and family usually have to drag me away on vacations, backpacking, a night out.
What is your typical day like?
I stall about beginning my workday until I get disgusted with myself, start on something, get really focused, and then can’t stop.
How much of your own life is reflected in your work?
That depends on the book. Most of my stories were inspired by my own daughter’s antics. Yes, she wanted a pet skunk. She tried to hatch a rock which she was convinced was a dragon egg. Her friend Pearl was the hugging-est kid I’ve ever met.
Oliver and his Alligator is the closest book I have to being autobiographical. I still remember my first day of Kindergarten, being overwhelmed by all the newness and noisy activity, and sneaking off to hide under the sink in the play kitchen.
Do you have family members who are writers or illustrators?
I am the fourth generation artist in my family. My father, grand father and great-grandfather were all both commercial and fine artists.
Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?
Each of the books I’ve worked on have aspects I both feel proud and disappointed about. For me, creating something is a process using equal measures of control and discovery. Finding a nice balance between “I know what I want to do.” and “What happens if I do this?” So each book in it’s final form has surprises I love or didn’t quite work out for me, and things I meant to control that my skill couldn’t quite hit, or hit beautifully. My greatest satisfaction with my books comes from feedback I get from kids. Knowing they’ve connected to one of my stories is the best feeling.