Tony Siema is an artist, cartoonist, and children's book illustrator. Among the books he's illustrated is Bundle of Secrets: Savita Returns Home, a winner of the 2014 Children's Africana Book Award. He lives in Kenya.
Q: How did you end up working on Bundle of Secrets: Savita Returns Home?
A: First I was contacted by a friend who works as an editorial cartoonist [who put me in touch with] a graphic designer, and he gave me the contract.
Q: How did you work with the author, Mubina Hassanali Kirmani?
A: We used to communicate via e-mail because of the distance—she lives in the U.S.
Q: How did you come up with the type of illustrations you used for the book?
A: I did research. This story is about people at the coast of Kenya, so I had to do research. How people live around that site, how the architectural structures are, domestic things like furniture, things like cutlery.
Q: Did you show the illustrations to the author or the publisher—how did the process work?
A: I came up with some of the illustrations first, and later on we agreed that’s the way we should go. Then we continued with the coloring.
Q: As you work on your illustrations, what part of the process do you enjoy most?
A: What I really enjoyed most when I’m doing illustrations is sketching—when I’m putting sketches on paper, that’s where I’m most comfortable.
Q: How many books have you illustrated?
A: I’ve done quite a number for different publishers. This one is the first with an international publisher.
Q: What age groups do you focus on?
A: Most of what I do is targeted to younger people. I specialize in children’s books.
Q: What got you interested in doing illustrations for children’s books?
A: It’s just that—I just love it! I don’t have a reason for doing it, but I’m doing it because I love it. I really want to make a beautiful place for children by doing really colorful pictures.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a sign language book for deaf children.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I also do cartoons and paintings. Right now I’m working on paintings, and also a cartoon strip that runs in the Sunday Nation monthly.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb