Interstellar Cinderella is one of the hottest new children’s books. It’s on the Wisconsin State Reading Association’s Picture This! and Florida 2016-2017 SSYRA Jr. list of picture books! It is one of Amazon’s Best Books of the year, is a nominee for the Mississippi Magnolia Award and those are just the ones we know about! Like this Cinderella story of inter-galactic proportions, Meg Hunt’s illustration work is emotional, energetic, and unique. Being amazed at the pure genius that is Hunt’s work, I had to pick her brain a bit. Lucky for us, she told me a bit about how her work in Interstellar Cinderella came about.
What inspired the style of Interstellar Cinderella and the other characters? When I first got the project, I looked around at examples of current space-themed children's books in the marketplace-- most were pretty factual or really simplified. Modern day sci-fi tends to favor sleek, minimalistic profiles, but that didn't feel right either. I knew that I really wanted to make the world of Interstellar Cinderella something filled with character and richness-- something a bit like our world, but filled with potential. So I looked back to things that I got excited at as a kid-- photographs from NASA, classic Warner Bros., and Tex Avery cartoons (especially the World of Tomorrow cartoons), and vintage science fiction dime store novels. For the spaceships, I wanted to play with shape and hint towards classic and concept cars. I paired that with looking at couture fashion from designers like Alexander McQueen and Dior who focus on shape and silhouette for the characters' designs. This sense of looking back and forward gave Cinderella's world its interstellar flavor.
How did you come up with the idea for each painting? A lot of the story was open-ended enough for me to play with different options-- I wanted to play with different compositions and spreads so that there was a strong sense of rhythm and motion to the book. Some of them were easier to come up with different visual solutions (the scene with the prince searching the cosmos for Cinderella, for example), and some of them were harder to balance action with the world itself. I really had to ask myself what was most important to show on the page to allow a reader to delight in turning the page? With a lot of sketching and the help of art director Kristine Brogno though, we found some happy end-results.
What is your favorite illustration in the book? Hard to pick! I like a lot of them for different reasons. But I'm a sucker for the parade scene-- it was really fun to draw all those aliens, space ships, and space confetti!
How would you describe your work/style? My work is filled with character-- it's emotional, energetic, and exploratory. Sometimes it's poppy, but sometimes it's subdued; it's a constantly-evolving thing. Through mixing thoughtful research and storytelling with my own processes (which usually involve shape and mark-making), I'm constantly discovering new worlds to visualize. I get to be an explorer in that way, which is pretty great.
How do you approach the process of understanding your client’s needs? Communication is really important between an illustrator and their client, I think. Certain jobs require different skills and different approaches. The more we discuss and work out together what is best for a given project, the easier it is to deliver something memorable and fun. And while I push for taking different risks and sharing my expertise, I am open to collaboration and feedback. When things need revising, it usually makes the work stronger in a way I didn't realize! But it's definitely a collaborative process. I try to think about all this as I'm working up ideas-- how can I make even stronger work that both satisfies the brief but also pushes my work in a new direction?
As an illustrator, what three qualities or skill sets are you most proud of? My family instilled me with a strong work ethic; I'm also glad I have the ability to think critically/thoughtfully about my work in order to help it flourish and evolve, and the fact that I am always seeking to learn and experiment with process.
What’s your personal passion, outside of illustration? I think I'd have to say learning, if that's not too broad an answer! I learned a lot in school, but I suppose I am a lifelong learner. I've learned so much as I've grown up as an illustrator by seeking out information from people, research, and experiences. Even now as an educator, I am always curious to understand more; read more information on subjects, try more things to see if they can lead to new ideas, experiment, question and in the process try to grow into a more thoughtful and well-rounded person every day.