Sometimes I come across a picture book with such sincerity and charm, it's like a comforting cup of hot tea, spring tulips or listening to a favorite song you haven't heard in a long time. Keith Patterson is an author/ illustrator whose books have these qualities and more. His Maybelle titles in collaboration with Bees Knees Books will gain wider distribution. But I wanted to introduce him here and find out what he's been working on lately.
Keith, tell us a little about yourself.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a suburb of Albany, New York, in upstate New York.
How has your childhood influenced your work?
My parents read to me a lot, so I was probably introduced to art
through children's books. From as far back as I can remember,
I always liked to just sit and draw, and my family and my teachers,
and other kids at school were very encouraging.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
I get most of my ideas from watching my 3 year old. She is very
imaginative and happy and enthusiastic. Also, we go to the library
several times a week, so I am reading children's books on a daily
basis. Just seeing different illustrations every day is very
I know Alaska is the setting for a couple of your books.
What do you love about Alaska?
Alaska is just an awesome place. If you drive down from
Anchorage to Homer, there is one particular spot on the road,
where you come to the top of a hill, and get your first view of the
mountains. There is no way to describe what it is like, but the
closest comparison would be the Himalayas.
How did you develop your skill and style as an artist?
Growing up, I drew cartoons for the school newspaper, and took
art classes in school. After high school, I went to SUNY Albany,
and that's where I had my first real art teachers. They tried to
break all the bad habits I had learned from drawing with a felt tip
marker, etc. I am still trying to get better at drawing.I think one's
basic style of drawing is probably formed early on, like
What is your process? I mean do your write the story
first, or the illustrations, or both together?
Sometimes, I start by drawing random illustrations, but that's not
the best way to do it. Now, I'm trying to get the story more set
first, to avoid having to rewrite things.
Are there any children's authors/ illustrators that you
My all time favorite children's book author/illustrator is Maurice
Sendak. Where the Wild Things are was a big influence on me as a
child. I loved the detail, and the endless cross hatching and pen
scratches, and the colors. It still has the same effect on me. I have
recently discovered Charlotte Voake, who does great pen and ink
and water color illustrations. I have always loved Richard Scarry.
Beatrix Potter, Virginia Lee Burton, Wanda Gag are also great.
Can you tell us a little about what you're currently
I just finished a book called the Story of Hobo, about a dog that
somebody found in a coal bin, and somehow he ended up in my
family, and we named him Hobo because of the coal dust. My
dad was a mailman at the time, and he used to bring Hobo to
work with him, and Hobo learned to hitchhike by mail truck.
I'm also trying to finish a book I started about ten years ago
about a dog named Lilli that stayed with me temporarily. That
one is based on a real dog, but it's set in the time of the Vikings.
I'm also starting one about my daughter as a princess, with
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors and illustrators?
I just try to keep at it.
Thank you Keith for sharing some background and these