Bird Show: Interview with Susan Stockdale

Hello! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Tell us a little bit about your new
book, Bird Show.

Bird Show celebrates the decorative patterns and rich hues of 18 exotic and
familiar birds from around the world. I imagine their plumage as clothing, from
suits and gowns to headdresses and tailcoats. The birds are in a fashion show!
Backmatter outlines details about each one, including where it’s from and its
courtship rituals, and features a match-the-colors-and-patterns game.


Tell us a little bit about your illustration process for this book.
I began by creating many pencil sketches of the birds while referring to photo
references of them. Since this is a nonfiction book, I needed to be factually
accurate in my depiction of the birds as I interpreted them in my own artistic style.
For each final illustration, I traced my drawing onto Bristol paper. Then for each
color, I applied at least three layers of acrylic paint to give the image a flat, crisp
appearance. Using tiny brushes, I reveled in depicting the smallest details, such
as the snow-white speckles on a Starling and the patterned tail of the Replendent
Quetzal.


Have you always been into writing/illustrating books?
My book career actually began later in life after I had my two children. But before
then, I freelanced as a textile designer for the apparel industry, creating patterned
designs that were featured on women’s clothing. That was a great way to express
my love of pattern and color.


What’s the most exciting part of your job?
So much of it is exciting but a few things really thrill me: coming up with a book
idea that I think will really engage kids; finding just the right word in a manuscript
to convey an idea; and mixing different paint colors and applying them with
precision and detail.


What inspires your creativity?
Nature has inspired all my books. I created Fabulous Fishes after a porcupine fish
inflated itself right before my eyes as I snorkeled in Belize. Stripes of All Types
was sparked after seeing a striped poison dart frog in the Costa Rican rainforest.
I’m always looking for themes through which I can open young eyes to nature in a
fresh and playful way.


What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell
us?

I sang in a rock and roll band in college and then performed with a pianist in
venues in Washington, DC afterwards. Now I try to find the “music” in my picture
books by writing in lyrical, rhythmic rhyme.


If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d be a gallery guide for children, leading them on tours of museum art
collections. I worked as a gallery educator for school groups at the National
Portrait Gallery and The Phillips Collection for several years and really enjoyed it.


What can readers expect from you in the future?
I’m currently creating another book about animals that will be out in 2023. I’m
thrilled with its theme, especially as it doesn’t seem to have been explored in a
picture book before.


Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

I hope my books inspire children to appreciate nature and to marvel at its
magnificent colors and patterns. Nature is the ultimate designer!

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