Illustrator Interview with Carson: Art Meets Social Justice

Carson M

Carson M

Carson McNamara is one of the newest members of our art team here at Shout Mouse Press. She is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is majoring in Illustration. Her first Shout Mouse project is to illustrate the upcoming children’s book Drip, Drip: The Story of the Angry Sherbet, by Reach Incorporated teen authors Marques, Ericka, Dartavius, and Dache.
Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

Q: First things first, how did you get started, as an illustrator?

A: My mom was an art teacher when I was little, so she wouldn’t let me color in coloring books or trace anything. I always drew my own pictures. For a long time it was something I always did, but didn’t think to make it a career. I was thinking of going to school for English and I applied to art school on a whim and I got in. Then I realized fairly quickly that it could be a real career, a real way to live, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Illustration by Carson McNamara

Illustration by Carson McNamara

Q: What do you like the most about illustration?

A: I particularly love helping tell stories. I think that really good stories are the best tools we have for connection and empathy, so they are our most valuable resource. I am super thrilled to be part of anybody’s story and help them tell it, which is why working with Shout Mouse is so much fun, because these are great stories for a great cause.

Q: What made you decide to work on this particular project?

A: I work in a bookstore right now and I love picture books. I had a classmate (Mira Ko) who used to come in the bookstore all the time and look at picture books. She came in and she told me, “You know, I just did this thing with this organization called Shout Mouse…. You love picture books so much, you should apply!” She told it was really fun and that she had a great time and all about the organization.

Q: What was it like working with the authors?

A: It was really fun to come in, and they already had their doodles of the characters, too. It’s alway fun to ask people a bunch of questions [about what they imagine], then they answer them, and they’re like “Wow! That’s exactly it!” That’s always gratifying. These teens were really, really cool and smart, and I love their stories.

Q: What kinds of questions did you ask?

A: Does the ice cream shop have a checkered floor? What kind of street is the shop on? Is Sherbert’s face on the cone or on the ice cream part? One of the characters is a Hershey bar, but I couldn’t illustrate the wrapper, because it’s copyrighted, so we found a solution together. We also had a long discussion about whether the cherries in the story would have their face on the jar or cherries or on individual cherries.

Q: What is the most important thing to you about Drip, Drip?

A: It’s about finding a way to find calm and not be angry and find peace for yourself. That’s a good message to convey, because we all sometimes have moments where we’re too angry and can’t calm down and everybody’s like “Calm down!” and you’re like “I don’t know how!” I think it’s good to remember that everybody feels that way sometimes and that you can always find a different way [to express anger].

Illustration by Carson McNamara

Illustration by Carson McNamara

Q: Right. And it strikes me that that’s especially important for these authors, who are too often faced with overwhelming or stressful situations and need a positive strategy for handling emotions. Even more so given the current racial and political turbulence in our world. We were impressed with them coming up with this message for young readers. What are you hoping for with the release of the book?

A: Mostly I really hope that [the authors] feel I did their story justice. I just want to make sure they’re proud.

See more of Carson McNamara's work at her website: Look out for the release of Drip, Drip: The Story of the Angry Sherbet, and our three other 2016 Reach Incorporated Books this November.