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Interview with Annie Poon

Annie Poon Children's Books Illustrator Interview Philip and Phoebe

Annie Poon

I recently had a chance to sit down with the illustrator of one of my new favorite books, Philip & Phoebe. Her name is Annie Poon and she is such a delightful person! I loved meeting her and getting to talk about her illustrations and the inspiration behind them.

How did you first become interested in art?
My mother gave me a journal when I was three and she directed me to draw pictures during our Monday family nights. She was trying to introduce me to journal writing but also created an interest in drawing. By kindergarten, I had decided I wanted to grow up making books and illustrating them.

Who were the inspirations for Philip & Phoebe?
Phoebe was designed as a portrait of my niece, Maya. I gave her the same curly hair and Indian features as Maya. In my mind Phoebe was adopted, and so it is a mixed race family. Philip was mostly designed to represent Anne’s concept of a little tousled child with bright messy hair. But for me to really wrap my mind around the character I chose a little boy from my church named Paolo. He was around five at the time and so full of fun and energy. He is one of my favorite little friends.

Can you tell us about Philip’s friend the cat?
Charlie the Cat lives with my friends, Chris and Keith. He’s a seal point Himalayan. When I visit my friends in upstate New York he always sleeps with me in the guest room. I have depicted him here just after his summer haircut when he is shaved to look like a lion with a pompom tail.

What was the most challenging part of creating the illustrations?
The biggest challenge was representing Philip’s hair! I had a hard time showing it from different angles and keeping it messy but consistent.

Tell us about your work that’s in the Museum of Modern Art.
“Runaway Bathtub” is about a fantasy my twin and I had when we were kids. In our dream, the bathtub would overflow and drift to sea. The whole earth would be covered like the flood in the Bible. We pretended to survive on raw fish and rainwater tea. This film is a black and white stop-motion piece made from cut paper. The MoMA saw it at the KidsFest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and approached me about buying the piece and have shown it several times.

What advice would you give other illustrators starting out?
The work you make from your heart will draw people to you and provide opportunities for making more of it! Be sure to always have a ‘passion’ project going, even if you can’t devote all your time to it. Clients have told me they always want to see an artist’s personal work too because it is consistently the best work.

Annie told me that her favorite book is The Custom of the Country by Edith Warton. Next time we chat I will have to ask her who her favorite bear is.

For more info, visit anniepoon.com.

Your friend,
S.Bear

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