A Chat with Emily Winfield Martin on Her New Picture Book, Dream Animals

A Chat with Emily Winfield Martin on Her New Picture Book, Dream Animals

Carrie McBride
Nov 20, 2013

Oh, to be ferried off to dreamland "on wing, or paw or fin", atop a friendly creature as a dream escort. Emily Winfield Martin's new picture book, Animal Dreams, is just that...dreamy. It's a perfect bedtime book as it creates a feeling of security and comfort paired with the endless possibilities for exploration and adventure that dreams bring. The illustrations are rich and sumptuous, yet delicate and ethereal. It's a lovely book, one that you'll want to hold onto for years to come.

You may be familiar with Emily Martin, aka The Black Apple. She conquered Etsy with her shop of prints, stationery, and other goods and is now bringing her vintage-inspired artwork and penchant for imaginative and lovably offbeat characters, landscapes and cosmos to the publishing world. Nestled in Portland, she kindly shared some thoughts on her work and inspirations:

1. I've been familiar with your art since the early days of Etsy and it seems it has always been ripe for developing into children's books. Has publishing a book been a dream of yours for a long time?
Many people don't know this (or didn't at first) but nearly the whole time I've been a person, I've been as much a word-person as a picture-person. In school, I took almost as many English classes as art classes and very often mixed the two, writing papers about visual details in modernist novels and making illustrated books for painting classes.

After school, when I became more focused with my artwork, the images I liked the most and that I most wanted to make were ones that had a story in their back pocket. So before I started making illustrations for actual stories, like Oddfellow's or Dream Animals, I was making illustrations for stories that didn't actually exist.

2. Your first children's book, Oddfellow's Orphanage, includes portraits of the characters but it is not a picture book. Did the writing come easily to you?
When I set about writing the vignettes for Oddfellow's, I had such a vivid idea of that world and those characters that I felt very at home (literally) with the writing. I feel like a not-insignificant part of me lives in that big house of brick, settled in cozily, watching the comings and goings and seasons changing.

3. Dream Animals is a bedtime story. When you began working on it which came first: the words or the art?
We began with the idea of magical creatures that sweep children off to their dreams and then narrowed it down to a nice menagerie of animals. From there, I started creating the artwork and dreaming up the dreams and then the words grew out of the images.

4. What I love most about your art, even in the prints you sell aside from your books, is the sense that each character, human or animal, has a rich backstory and that we're just seeing a moment in time for them. Is this true? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about their histories?
I'm so happy they feel that way for you, because that "moment in time" element is something elusive that I love. I think it comes from an early fondness for film stills and (of course) the narrative/story aspect we talked about before.

5. Which children's books have had the biggest impression on you either as a child or as an adult?
As far as things-were-never-the-same-again kind of influence, I think the single most significant one is, unsurprisingly, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The wit, unnerving beauty, fitful surrealism, meanness, strange tenderness...it's tattooed on my heart.

My favorite picture book when I was small (and still probably my all-time favorite) is Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown. Garth William's illustrations are so cozy & the whole perfect little book is strange and gentle and warm as toast.

6. Which illustrators inspire you?
I collect children's book from the late nineteenth century through the 1950s, so as far as illustrators that make me lose my mind, it's most of the usual suspects: Arthur Rackham, Milo Winter, Dorothy Lathrop, Mary Blair, Gustaf Tenggren, Richard Scarry. Among the contemporary illustrators I love are Sophie Blackall, Giselle Potter, Jon Klassen, Camille Rose Garcia, Marcel Dzama.

I tend to find most inspiration in other mediums & places, like the stories of Angela Carter, records by Tom Waits or Cocteau Twins, beautiful films, natural history museums, old toys...

7. Owls and foxes have been the most popular animals for children's motifs for quite a while now, which animal would you nominate to be the next "it" animal?
Who can say? I'll throw Sea Monster into the hat.

8. What is your own personal dream animal?
If I get to choose, I'd like a giant rabbit or bear for a Dream Animal, with duties that extend to Pie Procurer and Nap Accomplice.

Thanks Emily! And good news, readers, Emily is at work on a companion book, Day Dreamers, to be released in fall 2014.

Title: Dream Animals
Author & Illustrator: Emily Winfield Martin
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Children

Age group:
Toddler, preschool
Best for kids who: like to laugh

Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.

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