Qin Leng is a Layout Supervisor at Brown Bag Toronto, working on our newest show “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum”. In her spare time she's also a talented and award-winning illustrator most notably known for her work on children's books, including “Good Night, Good Night” by Dennis Lee. Recently, Qin has added budding author to her impressive credentials, with her authorial debut picturebook “I am Small”, which is now available in stores.
Mimi is so little, ?I might as well be called Mini,? she says. Everyone is taller than her, even the family dog! She can barely reach the bottom of the blackboard at school and isn't tall enough to see all the pretty cakes in the display case at the bakery. Though her friends try to tell her there are lots of advantages to being her size—- like fitting into the best hiding places and easily scooting to the front of the cafeteria line—- to Mimi, being small is the worst. But then one day, she hears that there's a surprise waiting for her at home. A very little surprise. And Mimi is about to discover a little something about being little.
To celebrate the book's release, Qin is hosting a launch party at Toronto's indie bookstore, Queen Bookstore in Lesliville, on Sunday, October 21st between 2pm-4pm, and everyone is invited! Appropriate for all ages, the event will include a book reading, drawing demo and activities for kids, along with a presentation of the original book art and a talk about her drawing process.
We had a chance to catch up with Qin to discuss her illustration style, the inspiration for “I am Small” and learn more about what guests can expect at the event.
What inspired you to write/ illustrate your own book?
Drawing has always been part of me. I have loved it since I was very little and drawing children especially is what I enjoy most.
Kids are full of expression, so lively and spontaneous, they are simply the perfect models. While working in animation (since 2006), I was always drawing for myself as well. After a while, I felt the need to get my work known and decided to try to get published. After submitting my portfolio to various publishers around the globe, I started getting responses and have been busy ever since, with 38 published books to date. My first book was released in 2009. For almost 10 years, illustrating picture books, magazine covers, editorials, and book covers have exposed me to lots of incredible writing and I was compelled to someday write my own. “I am Small” is the first but hopefully not last of the books I write.
How did you come up with the story and the book's whimsical look and feel?
I enjoy illustrating books I can relate to. Either because the story reminds me of a personal experience, or the subject or era is one that fascinates me. I knew then that I wanted my first authorial picture book to reflect a story that would be very personal to me. Being only 5.2” I have always struggled with my size. Back in school, I was always the shortest one and it really affected my self-confidence. “I am Small” is about that and about perspective, how a certain situation can be looked at in many different ways and that what you think is a flaw or disadvantage, can be also a great advantage in the eyes of others. I wanted a picture book that would give children and also grownups a new look at what it means to be different. Mimi, the main character, is partially inspired by what 5 year old me looked like. A little girl with a boyish look and very short hair. I wanted to create a character that would be relatable to both boys and girls.
The palate is soft, with light watercolour washes and fine ink lines created with a nib. I enjoy this aesthetic when creating my work, partially from all the amazing illustrators whose books I read growing up in France, and who greatly influenced me and my work.
Can you tell us more about your style? Do you use any special techniques when illustrating?
My illustrations are always done traditionally. Drawing on paper is very tactile and I love this feeling. The art is inked with a nib and Indian ink, and painted with watercolors. I only use the computer to do some cleanup or colour adjustments.
Finally, tell us a little more about what we expect at the event this Sunday?
The plan is to have a book reading and some drawing demos showing the audience how I created some of the characters from the book. Following the presentation, I will host a drawing session with the audience (have the children draw something they are bigger than, and also something they are smaller than….). For the younger audience, I prepared some printouts of an illustration from the book that they can colour in. My work will also be displayed around the store for people to view. In the end, we'll have a Q&A session for people to ask me anything they want!
For additional event details and to RSVP, check out the event's Facebook page HERE