Kimberly Andrews Creativity with creatures

Artist and scientist KIMBERLY ANDREWS is the author and illustrator of the much-loved picture book Puffin the Architect. Her cast of creature characters is now growing with the release of her latest book Moose the Pilot. We caught up with Kimberly to talk about her work.

You moved from illustrating other people’s books to writing your own. Have you always been a writer, or is that something new you have developed?
I had always wanted to write and illustrate my own books, but I began getting paid commission work illustrating other authors’ books first. I did have experience in writing, just in a different field – scientific writing for my Master’s thesis and academic papers. This writing style and experience set me up surprisingly well for picture books – you need to be very careful about word choice and be as succinct as possible.

How has your training in biology and geology and your work experience influenced your illustration work?
My scientific background influences so much of what I do as an illustrator and author. Having a knowledge of the natural world gives a depth to my illustrations – from the type of rocks to the forms of the mountains. Even though my animal characters are very much anthropomorphised, having drawn and studied birds and other species for such a long time, my characters have a recognisable grounding in reality. I also think that my studies instilled in me a level of self-motivation and organisation that has really helped with the tight deadlines.

Who is your favourite of each of your characters? Does anyone have a special place in your heart?
Haha, that is too hard as I really do love them all. If I were really pushed, I would have to say Puffin has a very special place in my heart, as she has really introduced me to all these amazing new characters and allowed me to explore her world for a living!

Can you tell us a bit about your new book  Moose the Pilot?
Moose is a loveable bush pilot who spends his day helping out by delivering parcels and gear. We follow along on an exceptionally busy day for Moose. Just as one delivery is made, his radio blasts into life and we are taken to a new corner of the world of Puffin the Architect (there is a detailed map in the book, so you know where you are!). It is a book full of adventure, planes and friends!

Kids LOVE animals, and it’s clear that you do, too. Does that passion for wildlife come from childhood?
I absolutely do have a passion for wildlife, and yes, I suppose it came from childhood, as I really don’t remember not being passionate about wildlife! I grew up in the Canadian Rockies, with grizzly bears, deer, squirrels, eagles and moose as neighbours! Moving to New Zealand (still as a child) further solidified my love of nature, with the lush forests and truly unique birdlife. I am sure that both my studies of the natural world and my animal-centred picture books stem from this early exposure.

How has being a parent shaped the stories you have written for children? Has it changed your approach?
I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to publish before I had kids. Now that I have young kids, I am constantly exposed to picture books, and I wonder if I might have felt too intimidated by the beautiful books out there. I believe I write and illustrate what I (as an adult and as a kid) want to see in a book, rather than creating for a particular age range.

What is your favourite thing about your work in children’s fiction?
I love the world I get to create and that children and parents, can inhabit. I know the impact that my favourite books made on me as a kid, so if I could have that effect on someone else’s childhood, that would be an honour.

Your business, Tumbleweed Tees, contributes money to conservation initiatives. What has inspired your personal conservation efforts?
My inspiration comes from a love of the outsdoors, hiking and observing the amazing biodiversity we have here in NZ. At Tumbleweed Tees, we say we are From + For Nature – our designs are inspired by nature, and our purpose is to celebrate nature and promote and fund conservation efforts. 

What’s next for you? Do you have any exciting projects on the go?
Ooooh… I am not sure what I am and am not allowed to talk about, but I will say that I am currently working on the next installment in this series of Puffin’s world! I’m in the very early stages right now, and it is exciting and daunting!

kimberly-andrews.com