Monday, June 18, 2012

Guest Post: Camille Matthews

Today we welcome Camille Matthews, author of the Quncy the Horse books, as she tours with Walker Author Tours with Quincy Moves to the Desert. In this guest post, she talks about creating the beautiful illustrations for these wonderful children's books with her illustrator, Michelle Black.

Our Experience with Illustrations and Design:

The Backstory of the Quincy the Horse Books

by Camille Matthews 

A guiding mission in designing the Quincy the Horse Books has been our desire to bring Quincy and his experience to life in a way that would allow children not only read the stories but to have an in depth experience of Quincy’s world. An important aspect of the stories is that they allow the child not only to follow Quincy’s adventures but to get to know him on a personal level in more depth than might be usual in a children’s picture book. I guess you could say that we envisioned the Quincy the Horse Books as educational in the broadest sense. Quincy gets out in the world and does things, even when he is not sure he likes it! He learns new things, meets new friends, acquires new skills and sees new places. This is the theme that propels the stories.

In keeping with the creation of in depth experience and expanded horizons, we chose a style for the illustrations that is realistic but at the same time rich with color, detail and authenticity. The illustrations are from full sized oil paintings that alternate soothing still life images, depictions of Quincy’s emotions, and complex, dramatic paintings of action and landscapes. Children who have grown up in the East see the picture of Quincy roping a calf and expand their horizons about what happens in rodeos. Children who live in New Mexico have a chance to learn about the green forests and high piled snows of Upstate New York.

As with the realization of any creative vision, this process was not without its ups and downs! Here are some anecdotes from our creative process that give a window into the challenges we faced. The first episode came about two months into our initial collaboration when we were going through the manuscript for the first book, the other during book two.

When we began with Quincy Finds a New Home, my illustrator, Michelle Black, and I discussed where each illustration would be placed in the text and what would be pictured in the illustration. It was a Sunday and we were sitting at my kitchen table with the manuscript spread out page by page. Michelle said, almost as an aside, that she would need actual photographs from which to work. I was shocked as I assumed all she would need was a verbal description of what would be in the picture. Luckily I am a fair amateur photographer and the characters and scenes were actually real so this was possible. I ended up enjoying this role because it made me more engaged in the illustration process. Through this exercise I also learned the importance of the pictures actually fitting the words.

The next example was actually a huge breakthrough involving the second book, Quincy Moves to the Desert. Many authors describe an experience where a character has a mind of his/her own and takes over the story. In the second book, this happened with the illustrations. Originally the illustrations of the jobs horses have in different places, Amish draft horses, Thoroughbreds racing and the little boy on his calf roping horse, were going to be simple depictions of those activities. We had a photo of two black draft horses pulling a colorful hay mower slated for the Amish scene but the background did not work and Michelle decided the photo was not one she could use. I went to a draft horse driving competition in Southern Colorado to get some additional photos where I took pictures of a three horse team. The next morning I was sitting at the computer reviewing the digital images when I realized that the team of red draft horses included a horse that was much smaller and had a white blaze just like Quincy. This lead me to the idea of Quincy not just learning about draft horses but actually imagining himself as a draft horse. This took the story to a whole new level of imagination which is so central to the child’s way of exploring the world and learning new things and added more action to the journey in the horse van. We then found pictures of red horses winning a race and roping a calf to carry this through the book.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Camille Matthews or Laura Sjosten at 877-550-5010, 610-488-1282 or  Also please visit and
 Thank you to Camille for stopping by and sharing this very interesting insight into the books!

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