In Discussion with David Ouimet


What was the inspiration for the first book or did the two come together?


One of the darkest periods of my life was the seed of the first book. An individual who I am extremely close to went through many years of their childhood struggling with isolation and anxiety. Books were a fundamental doorway out of that confinement, as was the electricity of the imagination and creative expression. The longest process of creating I Go Quiet was constructing how to tell a story that was so interior that children would be able to relate to. The second book emerged out of many letters that I had received inquiring what had happened to the girl at the centre of the book with her new-found voice. I Get Loud was my response.


What was the inspiration for the first book or did the two come together?


One of the darkest periods of my life was the seed of the first book. An individual who I am extremely close to went through many years of their childhood struggling with isolation and anxiety. Books were a fundamental doorway out of that confinement, as was the electricity of the imagination and creative expression. The longest process of creating I Go Quiet was constructing how to tell a story that was so interior that children would be able to relate to. The second book emerged out of many letters that I had received inquiring what had happened to the girl at the centre of the book with her new-found voice. I Get Loud was my response.


How do you create your illustration, what is your process and are they done in line with the text or does one come before the other?


Although my first published works were as an illustrator, my picture books always begin with the text. Once I have the first draft of my text completed, I make a very rough storyboard so that I can see the entire book from a birds-eye view.


Being able to see the arc of the story visually helps me to see the flaws in the structure; even at the initial stages the textual and visual elements start to dance with each other.


My illustration process is a hybrid between traditional mediums and digital mediums. I always begin all my artwork with pencil and paper, where the essential elements of each illustration are developed. Once I have reached a refined point of this drawing, I scan it and input the image into my iPad. I use a program called Procreate to build up blocks of colours from the original black and white sketches. When I am ready to concentrate on light, shadows, and intricate details the image is transferred from Procreate to my Mac.


The final step is printing the digital image onto large sheets of watercolour paper, where I work with paint and coloured pencil for the final details. The black and white images in the books are a much simpler process, graphite pencil on watercolour paper.

Continuing the subject of illustration - how do you decide on single- or double-page spreads and why?


The decision of single, double page spreads, and panels are dictated by the rhythm of the text. The storyboarding stage is essential for getting a sense of whether the tempo, transitions, and sustains are effective.



The stories are about introversion (and friendship). Are they a reflection of yourself? They beautifully and evocatively capture emotions and feelings perfectly for readers - how do you think you have achieved this?


I didn’t recognize myself in the first book until I had finished it. I was quite introverted as a young child, but I was always very creative, and secure. What I did share with the character in the books was a feeling of not fitting in. In terms of achieving emotions that are typically difficult to convey to children, it was not easy. I believe that picture books work best when the text and art could not exist without each other. The images should never show us what the text already does but shed light on what the text is expressing. There is an indescribable and magic moment in picture books, between the words and that light, where something else emerges. For me, that “something else” is what I strive to capture as an author/illustrator.


Was your aim to help readers feel empowered and/or strong? The books left me feeling reassured.


Both books deal with predicaments; I Get Loud with the external struggle of displacement, and I Go Quiet with the internal conflicts of isolation. My goal was not to make my readers feel strong. Instead, I wanted to illustrate that we emerge through difficult times with small steps towards something better than where we were. Telling a child or an adult to “be strong” is like asking the sky to “be sunny”.


As a street artist, what is it about the power of art that made you want to write?


I love the immediacy and ephemeral pulse of street art, yet I believe that picture books are an art form that has yet to be fully recognized. There is an inherent power to express difficult emotional junctures-especially those liminal spaces that are so hard to define with words alone-in picture books. A large part of my readership are adults, which is a confirmation that children’s books are not just for children.


Can you paint a picture of yourself and your workspace for us, so we can imagine the creator of the books in a context?


Two years ago, I moved from my old studio and into my new workspace. They have a few things in common; they are both in Brooklyn, and both filled with light and music. Most importantly, they both have outdoor terraces, where I get a lot of my work done. This is how you would find me painting in my current space:

As I had described, my process is a hybrid of traditional and digital mediums. The iPad allows me to work on my artwork outside of the constraints of a studio. The ability to work anywhere, anytime, has re-defined the way that I can create, and how I define my workspace.

If I was to sum up these books in 3 words I would say Powerful. Unique. Inspiring. What would your 3 words be?


Enigmatic. Introspective. Necessary.


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