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‘It was like a silent comedy’ Chris Haughton on the making of DON’T WORRY, LITTLE CRAB

I’ve been a fan of Chris Haughton’s work for a while, so when I had the opportunity to chat with him about his upcoming book, Don’t Worry, Little Crab, it was a no brainer.

Travis: Your illustration style is so distinct. How did you create the art for Don’t Worry, Little Crab?

Chris Haughton: I create various pieces of art by hand and kind of combine them all together in the best way I can. I like getting the facial and body expressions by doing very small, rough sketches. If I do them very quickly it retains the emotion. 

I use collage to work out poses to make sure they are the simplest they can be. I just try to make everything very simple and clear so that it can communicate well to the youngest children. I also try to make it as colourful and eye-catching as possible so I think those two things give it a distinct look.

Travis: Related to Q1: What are your favorite digital and physical art-making tools?

Chris: I always have a sketchbook on me at all times just in case I have an idea. Just a plain sketchbook with a HB pencil in it.

I use Photoshop to create the final art from those sketches. By the end usually I have spent more time tweaking things on the computer than sketching I the sketchbook but the sketchbook part is the most fun for me.

Travis: Were there any specific events or emotions from your life that inspired Don’t Worry, Little Crab?

Chris: Pretty much all of them. Usually I am a bit reluctant or hesitant with anything new to begin with. But usually once I do jump in I find it hard to drag myself away. 

This book was unusual for me because it was actually inspired by watching crabs. I was in Mexico on the Pacific coast where the waves were enormous. I was just lazily watching them and after a while you can begin to see their personalities. You can see some are more nervous than the others. It was like a silent comedy watching them when a very big wave comes. They all freeze and brace for the impact. That’s where this story began!

Travis: Who are some of your favorite picture book makers?

Chris: I don’t know where to start. 

Like everyone I love Maurice Sendak. Especially for the beautiful  otherworldly atmospheres he creates. I love the simplicity of Eric Carle and Leo Lionni. I always look at their work when I feel my images getting too cluttered. It feels like a breath of fresh air to see how simply and clearly they can communicate. There is some great younger picture book makers working today too. Jon Klassen, Christian Robinson, Beatrice Alemagna, Carson Ellis.

Travis: The Big Question: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode? Or what snack powered the making of Don’t Worry Little Crab?

Chris: It would definitely have to be strong coffee. I like to work as hard as I can and then take a break and come back to it after a coffee break. It gives me fresh eyes on the work.

Thanks, Chris! How about we take a look at the trailer for the book?

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.