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Illustrations and stories: Interview with artist and author Barbara Mason Rast

Illustrator, artist, and children’s book author Barbara Mason Rast has etched out quite a name for herself in the creative world. Her joyful and detailed illustrations have graced the pages of several children’s books and they have also been exhibited in many libraries, galleries, and businesses in several states.
A recent creative endeavor Barbara has partaken in is her collaboration with an author named Shanequa Davis. Together, the two women worked on a book for kids titled “Chloe an Her Two Red Shoes” which was subsequently used as a teaching resource in Rowanda and Haiti.
In a recent and exclusive interview, Barbara discussed her career and her hopes for its future.

Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: When did you know that you definitely wanted to be an illustrator and why did you focus on children’s books?

IMG_8754bBarbara Mason Rast (BMR): I can remember at about the age of six feeling a connection with the work of some of the golden age illustrators in children’s books my mother had collected, and knowing that I wanted to do that someday.

MM: You also write children’s books, so how did you make that decision and what inspires your characters and plots?

BMR: The writing came a bit later. After I had illustrated a few books for other authors I began to form ideas for stories from personal experiences. Nature is a big part of the inspiration. My fascination with “Phantasy Realism” has also been a driving force. I also like to have a lot of things going on within the illustrations, things not necessarily reflected in the text, but the added elements become another story within the story.

MM: How many projects have you worked on so far and do you illustrate books for other authors too?

IMG_8753bBMR: I started out illustrating for other authors. After the first few, I began experimenting with my own dual creations; writing and illustrating. About fourteen of these projects have been for children’s books.

MM: Can you tell us a bit about the books you’ve written and the characters?

BMR: “Watermelon Afternoon” is about a young girl who watches her garden grow, and subsequently discovers the magical and harmonious transitions of nature. “Woodland Wonders” is a collection of verses about the flora and fauna of America, which is depicted in magical settings. “A Frog Went A-Wandering” is about a young frog who finds himself lost in a magical medieval world where he has many magical encounters in his quest to find his way home.
Out of all the books I’ve written/Illustrated,the frog story has become a favorite because it’s the most recent and I’ve grown so much artistically in the illustrative process.

MM: How did you find publishers for your books? For example, have you self-published them all or have you also worked with traditional companies?

IMG_8750bBMR: I’d like very much to work with a traditional publisher, given the right circumstances. At present, self-publishing has been the best option for me so far.

MM: What is your illustration project–““Chloe an Her Two Red Shoes” –about and how is it used as a teaching tool in Rowanda and Haiti?

BMR: The book is about a little girl named Chloe who loves to go on adventures. One day, she finds a trunk in her mother’s closet that is full of old clothes. Later, on her fifth birthday, she receives a pair of beautiful red shoes that she does not want to take off ever. With her shoes on, she embarks on a journey that leaves her very appreciative of the hand-me-down clothes. The author, Shanequa Davis, has connections with the Education Assistance Programs for Haiti and Rowanda.

MM: What do you think are the biggest challenges associated with working as an author and illustrator?

IMG_8752bBMR: As an illustrator, one of the biggest challenges has been finding uninterrupted time toward the illustrative work. As an author, finding a publisher can prove to be a bit daunting, but I believe that perseverance pays off.

MM: Typically, how long does it take you to complete a story and/or illustrations for a story?

BMR: I may work on writing a story for several months. The illustrations sometime require many weeks for each piece, and possibly as much as twelve months to complete the art for a picture book.

MM: Your art is currently being exhibited at the Manhasset public library, so how did that exciting opportunity arise?

BMR: Mary Glynn, the Art Coordinator, contacted me after seeing my website. It’s a very nice opportunity and I’m very grateful! I have twenty-two pieces displayed in the children’s library until the end of November.

MM: What exciting new projects are you currently working on and what advice can you offer to aspiring children’s book authors and illustrators?

BMR: Right now, I’m launching my most current picture book, “A Frog Went A-wandering”, over the next few weeks. Then I’ll be catching up on my portrait and still-life work which can be previewed at my website “L U MIN ART”. My children’s books are a focus for family unity and encouragement for the appreciation of nature; it’s magic and it’s wonder. I like to create worlds for children where they can enjoy a bit of whimsy, beauty, and inspiration and I encourage all aspiring writers and artists to focus on what they love. I believe that perseverance is a key factor in being successful in whatever we desire to do. I think it’s also very important to have a web presence. Displaying your work, contacting publishers with samples, and joining support groups can also be effective.

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To learn more about Barbara, visit her official websites here and here.

Meagan Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner and AXS. She is also a stop motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
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