It’s time for another Author Spotlight! Today I am talking with author-illustrator Jamie Hogan about her latest picture book, Skywatcher. So without futher ado, let’s dive right in!
Jamie, I’m so excited to have you here! Before we talk about Skywatcher, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an author and illustrator?
I grew up drawing all the time, and went to art school to study illustration at Rhode Island School of Design. I began my freelance career in Boston, doing editorial illustrations for the Boston Globe and local magazines. It was years later that I moved to Maine and became a parent. Reading children’s books to my daughter sparked my interest in that area of publishing. I wrote my first picture book, SEVEN DAYS OF DAISY, inspired by her antics. I began illustrating for other authors while also teaching part time at Maine College of Art.
Skywatcher is your most recent picture book, and it is absolutely gorgeous! Can you tell readers a little bit about it?
SKYWATCHER is the story of a young boy who wants to see the stars, but the city lights obscure them. He travels with his mother to a place where they see the Milky Way.
What inspired you to write Skywatcher?
I had been working on illustrations for a poem about how the Milky Way formed and my radar was up around that. I noticed an article in the local newspaper about Maine state parks trying to get dark sky status. I knew little about light pollution or why dark skies are important and began to do research. We’re all so tethered to devices now, does anyone notice or care that the stars are hidden?
Author/Illustrator: Jamie Hogan
Publisher: Tillbury House
Published: October 5, 2022
Format: Picture Book
The night sky is such a magical thing, especially for children. Have you always been passionate about astronomy and astrology?
I have been curious about both astronomy and astrology thanks to my contributions to the Lunar Calendar published in Boston by the Luna Press. It is a comprehensive calendar of moon phases (astronomy) and their place in the astrological cycles. I still have plenty to learn but I find it fascinating and affirmative to pay attention to the moon and it’s pull on our rhythms.
What was the research process like for writing Skywatcher? Did you get to do lots of star gazing?
Yes! We visited Acadia and also Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, both places that had sought dark sky status at the time I was developing my book idea. By the time SKYWATCHER was published, the International Dark Sky Association had designated the 100 Mile Wilderness as the Northeast’s first Dark Sky Preserve, an area owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club and In the same vicinity. But otherwise, I make a point of going outside every night into my yard, to check on the stars. I live on an island three miles out to sea, and can see plenty, but the Milky Way is not that visible because of light pollution from Portland.
The illustrations in Skywatcher are absolutely stunning. Can you tell us about the mediums/techniques you used?
Thank you! I did black and white line drawings in black Prismacolor pencil and scanned them. I used chalk color pastels on sanded paper for vivid backgrounds with texture. I merged these in Photoshop, along with the stars I drew in digitally.
As someone who writes picture books, but has zero artistic skill, I’m always fascinated by author/illustrators’ process. Do you come up with the story first, or the images? Or is it all just simultaneous?
I think visually first. The whole book was about the light we live in. I drew thumbnail scenes in a storyboard, so I could see it all on a single page, how the focus will move from page to page, like a short film. I began to write the story as the visuals took shape, but it’s important that the illustrations show something beyond the words and vice versa.
I love that Skywatcher has so much information in the back matter. I think it blends fiction and nonfiction in a way that really sticks with readers. Have you visited any of the Dark Sky Preserves listed in the backmatter? If so, which was your favorite?
Thanks, I found I had way more information than could fit into the story! I have not visited any preserves other than going to Katahdin before that area was officially designated. But it’s my goal to go out to the Southwest, where the dark skies are legendary. Being in the presence of the Milky Way is a humbling and magical experience. Everyone should seek that out, feeling a connection to our universe.
What can we expect from you next? Are there any more releases in the near future?
While I was developing the book, an astronaut from Maine was on the International Space Station, Jessica Meir. I drew her on the cover of Tamen’s comic, Skywatcher, and have been developing a picture book bio about her. Stay tuned on that! Meanwhile, I am working on a picture book written by Jennifer Jacobson, OH, CHICKADEE which will be published by McSea Books in 2023.
Anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?
I feel truly grateful to be making books for children. As a parent, that chapter of reading books together is a treasured one, and remains a formative source of inspiration about how to spark the imagination of a child learning about the world. I am drawn to nature themes and feel strongly about connecting to the wilderness within us. A picture book can be a spring board to other books about the same topic or new themes that a child wants to follow. Everyone can learn from storytelling. Thanks so much for asking these questions, and shining a light on my book. May we all keep looking up!
Thank you so much for answering all my questions today, Jamie! It was wonderful having you!
To learn more about Jamie and her work please visit her website at jamiehogan.com.