Inside the Studio with Amy Young, Creator of A Unicorn Named Sparkle
The Children’s Book Review | July 31, 2016
Inside Amy Young’s Studio Space
My studio is a large and well-lit walkout basement. The ceiling is a bit low and there is no sink, but all in all it is a fine space. There are windows on three sides, with lovely views of the marsh in the back of our house. I often gaze outside to rest my eyes and to take a mental break. I usually will see some sort of animal life – a great blue heron sweeping by, two young raccoons climbing the tree just outside, a herd of deer, or maybe the neighbor’s chickens. And once: a fox, at the edge of the woods across the marsh.
When I am not in the middle of a project I like to keep my studio neat and orderly, with a place for everything and everything in its place. When I am deep into my work, however, it looks like a mini tornado has flung piles of debris all around the place. There is reference material spread on every flat surface, tubes of paint and rags and brushes by my work area, and reject artwork on the floor. This happens because when I am in the flow of work I don’t want anything to interrupt or disturb that creative impulse. Plenty of time to clean up later!
Amy Young’s Creative Process
Generally, I only use my studio to do final artwork. I write my stories and do pencil sketches at the kitchen table, or on the couch, or at the local coffee shop. Sometimes I get my best ideas when I am taking a walk. A UNICORN NAMED SPARKLE came to me like that, on a walk, all in a flash.
Once I had the idea for SPARKLE, I did a lot of loose sketches to get familiar with the characters. In my first sketches Sparkle was a bit older and seedier, and his horn was on the end of his nose instead of on his forehead. The early version of Lucy had short straight black hair. I was really happy when I realized that her hair needed to be super-curly: I love that hair!
Usually I don’t do a lot sketches until after a publisher offers a contract and edits the manuscript. Otherwise I may have to change all of the artwork I have labored over. This book was different: it felt special from the start, and I wanted to let it grow and develop on its own for a while, before showing it to anyone else. I did an entire dummy, and had a wonderful time letting it emerge at its own pace, with no pressure. I never get tired of drawing Sparkle and Lucy, so I didn’t mind making changes to improve the book.
My editor asked me to make a second SPARKLE book. Lucy and Sparkle are characters who generate a lot of ideas for me, so the book came fairly easily, and in fact is completely done already. A NEW FRIEND FOR SPARKLE will come out in 2017.
I do the final artwork for the SPARKLE books in India ink and watercolor. I use a light table to see my sketch, and ink right onto the watercolor paper. I work fast and try to keep the art fluid and expressive. If I don’t like how an image comes out, I do it again and again until I get it right.
I love what I do, and I love my very short commute downstairs to my home studio.
About Amy Young
Amy Young trained as a fine artist at Yale and received an MFA in painting from Indiana University. She then went on to earn a law degree from Harvard and worked as a lawyer for several years. She now devotes herself full time to writing and illustrating, and is the creator of the popular Belinda picture books.
For more information, visit: AmyYoungArt.com
Written and Illustrated by Amy Young
Publisher’s Synopsis: When Lucy sees an ad in the newspaper for a unicorn, she sends in her twenty-five cents and waits four to six long weeks for her very own unicorn to arrive. She imagines the flowers that she’ll braid into his beautiful pink mane, and she even picks the perfect name for him: Sparkle. But when Sparkle arrives, his ears are too long, his horn is too short, he smells funny–and oh, he has fleas. Lucy isn’t pleased, but in the end she warms up to Sparkle and realizes that even though he wasn’t exactly the unicorn she wanted, he might be just the one she needs.
Ages 2-6 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | July 5, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0374301859
Discover more books like the A UNICORN NAMED SPARKLE, written and illustrated by Amy Young, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our articles tagged with Amy Young, Books About Pets, and Unicorns. And be sure to check out more authors and illustrators featured in our Inside the Studio column.