Cale Atkinson - A Lion & Dragonfly Interview
We are huge fans of Cale Atkinson at Lion & Dragonfly. Off & Away is part of the Under the Sea collection, and we have just added Explorers of the Wild to our Summer Joy collection. Cale was kind enough to answer our questions from his home in British Columbia Canada. He fills us in on his inspirations, latest projects, and favorite super power!
Tell us about how you come up with the idea for Off & Away.
The idea for Off & Away came out of a series of paintings I did based around a girl adventuring in her sailboat. I began doing the paintings as an exercise in personal growth (as well as surely procrastinating from whatever work I should have been doing at the time), and really loved coming up with various fantastical scenes to put her in. It wasn’t long before I wanted to see if there was a story within those paintings. I did one drawing of her sending out messages in bottles and it sort of dawned on me, what if there was someone who made sure the messages in bottles got delivered?
Have you ever found a message in a bottle?
Sadly I have not found a message in a bottle yet, though whenever I am walking along a beach, I always keep my eyes out!
What inspired you to become an author/illustrator and/or Have you always wanted to be an author/illustrator?
I have always wanted to be a storyteller in some sense of the meaning since before I can remember. I can’t say that I had the singular goal of writing and illustrating picture books, it was more a need to create, whether it be in books, comic strips, comic books, video games or animation. The more I took in, read, or watched the above mediums, the more it made me strive to try and make my own.
Who has most inspired your artistic life?
My parents and older brother absolutely gave me the initial spark. Both my parents always encouraged the creative spirit, and I constantly gushed over my brothers' much better drawings than mine. Later on as I began to form my own tastes Gary Larson (of the Far Side), Matt Groening (Simpsons), and Sergio Aragones (Mad Magazine and Groo the Wanderer comic series) really stand out as the big influences on my artistic voice.
What’s been the most surprising thing about being a children’s author?
For myself, I think the most surprising part of being a children’s author, is that you also have to become somewhat of a performer/entertainer. I always had a decent idea what would go into making a children’s book, but never realized that once you have a book out, you may start to be invited to give presentations at schools and events! Being more of a shut away introverted artist, I had to step out of my comfort zone and embrace this part of being an author.
What do you think are the ingredients for a great children’s book?
I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself I would say;
Honesty - In order to make and write something that feels genuine and connectable
Effort - You have to give it the work and time it needs, in order to be worthy of sitting on a shelf in a store or in a home.
And Love - I think you need to love and believe in your book more than anyone else. If you don’t, then why should anyone else?
What is your hometown?
I grew up mostly in a small town outside of Vancouver called Belcarra. It is out by the ocean and forests, so I have many memories of running around exploring (when I wasn’t at home drawing).
What is your favorite place to write or illustrate?
I get distracted very easily, so for me it’s being locked away in my studio at home. I love the idea of writing in cafes or out in nature, but I don’t actually get too much done on those outings.
Do you have a favorite indie bookstore? What makes it amazing?
If I was forced to choose one and only one, I would have to say Mosaic Books, out here Kelowna BC. Ever since my very first book they have been champions to me and I will always love and appreciate them. They are passionate about books, amazing people, and tick all the right boxes in what makes an indie bookstore amazing.
Do you listen to music while you are working? If so, what’s currently on your playlist?
I do! But I sort of listen to bits of everything! If I’m writing I usually have ambient music with no words to help concentrate. Currently on the ol’ Spotify, I have the Luca soundtrack looping as I write. Otherwise it’s a wide assortment of music, and podcasts while working on art.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I have been lucky enough to do a fair bit of traveling so far in my life. One place I would love to spend more time in would be Japan. I am always getting inspired from the different places my wife and I travel, and being able to see more areas of Japan is big on the list (along with so many other places to see!)
What was your favorite picture book growing up? and/or What picture book do you never tire of reading to children?
While we read a lot of picture books as kids, I can’t say I have a stand out favourite. As tempting as it is to cop out and say a Seuss book or ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ (which I loved btw), I honestly have a stronger memory rereading Garfield treasuries and Far Side books (once I was old enough to understand them).
What children’s book (other than your own) are you recommending to friends at the moment?
It’s summertime. We have to know: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
I’m a mint chocolate chip kinda guy!
Which superpower would you most like to have?
Easy. Teleportation, so I could go anywhere in the world whenever I wanted.
What’s the last book you couldn’t put down?
I just finished reading Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Kitchen Confidential’, which was definitely an entertaining read, as well as made me never want to work in a kitchen.
What museum would you most like to spend the night in?
Hmmm! Maybe the Louvre since there’s so much to see that you kinda need to spend the full night.
If you weren’t an author, what would you most like to be? What is your (other) dream career?
I would love to work on an animated film one day, but if I eliminated all art related careers, I would say something related to helping animals.
What would you want your ten year-old self to know?
Keep dreaming big and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.
What are you currently working on?
I have some new picture books in the works, as well as my picture book ‘Sir Simon: Super Scarer’ recently turned into a graphic novel series, with the first ‘Super Detectives’ having come out this past February, and the 2nd ‘Super Sleepover’ coming out this September!