KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Qin Leng

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to illustrator, Qin Leng!

Qin Leng is a designer and illustrator known for her illustrations of children books. She graduated from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and has received many awards for her animated short films and artwork.

Throughout her career, Qin has illustrated picture books, magazines and book covers with publishers around the world. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, written by Chieri Uegaki, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, and received the APALA Award for best picture book.

She lives in Toronto, with her husband and her son.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

I am currently deep into a very exciting project. Probably one of the most challenging I’ve had to do. It is a wordless picture book written by Jon Arno Lawson, called ‘Over the Shop’, to be published by Candlewick press in 2020.

With the lack of word, there is a huge importance in conveying the story with the images. I have done a lot of research, looked at movies and comics. I am finding myself thinking about pacing more, creating the right flow with various succession of panels,  playing with different compositions that are closer to a ‘cinematic’ approach. Something I had never really attempted in my previous works.

What are you reading right now?

I am currently reading Haruki Murakami’s “Men without Women”. Murakami has been one of my favorite authors since college. I have collected every single one of his novels and short stories.

I often enjoy reading fiction books that inspire me to illustrate them. The mood in Murakami’s work is quiet, a little dark, and often feels strange and surreal. As if, although seeming like reality, the characters are actually walking in the world of dreams. Maybe this atmosphere is a healthy departure from the more whimsical and colorful world I create in my picture books.

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

Isabelle Arsenault is the first name that comes to my mind when I think of a Canadian author and illustrator. It may seem odd to have her as my choice for ‘more people to discover’ as she is widely known…not just in Canada, but across the globe. However, I am always shocked when I meet anyone who is not familiar with her work and I find myself compelled to get them as hooked as I am to her wonderful pictures.

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

I come from the animation industry and there is a clear structure and without meaning to sound too negative, a certain divide between the ‘artists’ and the various departments that make our industry.

When I started working in picture books, I was pleasantly surprised at how much importance the publishing industry pays to the authors and illustrators.

The warmth and friendliness of the people who are involved in picture book making, from the editor, art director, publicist, and other fellow artists and illustrators is incredible. I have found this industry tightly knit, respectful of each other. Illustrators are open to discuss with each other about their work, get feedback and share their experiences. Art directors, editors, have a real appreciation and value tremendously the work of authors and illustrators and are so supportive, making us feel like our opinion and vision really matters.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

I have always loved to observe children. To see the way they interact with others, paying attention to the subtleties of their body language and facial expressions that are so unique to kids. It is something we often have lost by the time we reach adulthood. There is a spontaneity in the way they express themselves that is so refreshing and endearing.

I love to capture that in my illustrations as I create my characters.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

I was lucky enough to be approached by Scholastic a couple years back, to collaborate with various Canadian illustrators on the book “I am Canada”.

For my piece, I decided to dedicate it to my first experience arriving in Canada, walking in Mount-Royal park and discovering the luscious colors of Canadian Fall as well as Montreal’s iconic street pet: the grey squirrel. Having previously lived in China, then France, I was shocked by the beauty and how much nature you could find right in the middle of the city.

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

I think the Canadian Children’s book industry is in great shape right now. It is such a booming time for children book making and I am always amazed at the incredible talent we have in Canada.

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

I would pick “The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy” by Beatrice Alemagna. Her work is incredibly imaginative, creative, rich and tactile. Her style describes so skillfully the essence of childhood. I would love to spend a day in her book and be a 4 year old all over again.

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

If you want to get published, go to the source and contact publishing houses directly. Getting approached by an individual with a great story idea may sound promising, but unfortunately more often than not, these projects go nowhere.

Yes, get paid for your time, creative folks! Thank you so much for joining us, Qin!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Qin’s books on Goodreads!

Connect with Qin on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or through her website!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

Qin Leng Prize Pack – a copy of THE BETTER TREE FORT

Groundwood Logos Spine

Other available prizes:

Sarah Everett Prize Pack – a copy of NO ONE HERE IS LONELY

Nhung Tran-Davies Prize Pack – a copy of A GRAIN OF RICE

Cale Atkinson Prize Pack – a copy of OFF & AWAY

Nafiza Azad Prize Pack – an ARC of THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME

Melanie Florence Prize Pack – an ARC of JUST LUCKY

Erin Bow Prize Pack – an ARC of STAND ON THE SKY

Natasha Deen Prize Pack – a copy of IN THE KEY OF NIRA GHANI

Charlene Chua Prize Pack – a copy of THE WIND PLAYS TRICKS

Tanaz Bhathena Prize Pack – a copy of THE BEAUTY OF THE MOMENT

Philippa Dowding Prize Pack – a copy of OCULUM

Mahtab Narsimhan Prize Pack – a copy of EMBRACE THE CHICKEN

Mireille Messier Prize Pack – a signed copy of TELLEMENT SAUVAGE!

Jennifer Mook-Sang Prize Pack – a signed copy of CAPTAIN MONTY TAKES THE PLUNGE

Regan McDonell Prize Pack – a copy of BLACK CHUCK

Carmen Mok Prize Pack – a copy of GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of THE WATER WALKER

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the EFFIGIES series

Join us on Tuesday, April 16th when we chat with author, Wade Albert White!

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