Joan Waites is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book A Purr-fect Painting: Matisse's Other Great Cat. Her many other books include A Colorful Tail: Finding Monet at Giverny. She is based in the Washington, D.C., area.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Purr-fect Painting?
A: I previously published a book with Schiffer Kids titled A Colorful Tail (2019), about a fox that lives in Monet's garden in Giverny. The editor I worked with mentioned they would be interested in more animal/art titles, so I began researching famous artists and their pets.
Matisse is one of my favorite artists, and I was delighted to find out that he was fond of cats, and always had them by his side when he was working. From there I started playing around with ideas on how the cats might have inspired him to make his cut-paper works of art.
Q: Did you work on the text first or on the illustrations, or did you work on both simultaneously?
A: With this book, I wrote the text first.
Q: How much did you try to model your illustrations on Matisse's actual work?
A: I knew when I was writing the book that I wanted to try and illustrate the story in a cut-paper style, mirroring Matisse's cut paper designs. I painted papers with the same colors he used in his paintings, and used many of his cut paper shapes throughout the book.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: My hope is that the book will be used to spark children's interest in the art of Henri Matisse, but at the same time, help them to learn that sometimes, happy accidents can happen when creating art.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am currently illustrating another artist/animal book I wrote about Georgia O'Keefe and her chow dog named Bo, which will be released in 2022.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I feel very fortunate to be able to have these books published, as I have also worked as an art instructor for children for many years. I love to use art themed picture books in my class lessons, and now I'm able to use some of my own!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Joan Waites is participating in the Read Local Challenge, organized by SCBWI's MD/DE/WV chapter.