Allison's Book Bag

Hansen’s Re-Imagining of California

Posted on: May 10, 2016

Doug Hansen picThe oldest of six children in an artistic family, Doug Hansen was born in California. He received both his BA and MA in art from California State University and was awarded the Dean’s Graduate Medal in the College of Arts and Humanities in 2001. He teaches illustration at his alma mater, California State University.

Hansen’s professional career as an artist developed during his 23 years as a staff artist in the Editorial Art Department of The Fresno Bee newspaper. He received the Fresno City and County Historical Society’s Historic Preservation Award for two published volumes of Fresno Sketchbook that collected hundreds of his pen-and-ink renderings of Fresno. Other highlights of his freelance career include: Fresno’s centennial poster in 1985 a collaboration with family members to complete the artistic work The San Joaquin River: Gravity and Light, which is installed in the Woodward Park Regional Library.

Mother Goose in California, an ABC book , was his first attempt at a children’s book. At Curling Up With A Good Book, He credits his editor at Heyday for instilling in him the confidence to write. As for what inspired his most current work, California The Magic Island, his publisher at Heyday suggested a California history book. In additional, Hanson was “reading some tales from the Arabian Nights at that time and the Scheherazade story inspired the twist of animals telling stories to save their home state from the angry queen”.

Thanks to Doug Hansen for answering a few questions about his life and his newest book. I’ll review California The Magic Island tomorrow. Save the date: May 11!

ALLISON: Have you always wanted to be an artist? Why or why not?

DOUG: I always have been an artist. From my youngest days I drew pictures.  Pictures in certain books fascinated me as a young reader – the more complicated the better. I always wanted to be the person who made those pictures, and now I am.

ALLISON: Who influenced your decision?

DOUG: My mom is an artist and has always encouraged and nurtured us. Out of six children, three of us have careers as visual artists.

ALLISON: What has been your favorite illustration project?

DOUG: I am perhaps proudest of my Mother Goose in California book. It was my first children’s picture book and I labored on it for years without even having a publisher involved. When it was ultimately accepted and published I felt like I had won the Golden Ticket from the Willy Wonka story.

ALLISON: Why did this project interest you?

DOUG: I love history, and I love California. Each book I complete reveals new landscapes, animals, and stories I want to tell. This book took me to new locations in the Golden State and allowed me create a series of little stories illustrated in an epic, luminous kind of way.

ALLISON: What kind of research did it involve?

DOUG: Heaps of research. My two decades as a newspaper artist at the Fresno Bee taught me that readers will notice if you get something wrong. Plus I am intrigued by the way things work and I have to understand everything from the brakes on a logging cart to the harnesses for a twenty-mule team. so I checked out piles of books, did lots of image searches on the Internet, and took road trips to many of the places pictured in the book. That was fun.

ALLISON: How did you tell an entertaining story but also make it fact-based?

DOUG: The key for me was to have the animals tell stories from their animal point of view. This compelled me to look at things with fresh eyes. The juxtaposition of an animal with a historic event (a pigeon describes the Tower of Jewels or a flying squirrel encounters a Pony Express rider) generated surprising storytelling dynamics.

ALLISON: Why did you decide to tell your story as a fantasy?

DOUG: It had to be a fantasy to get all those creatures from different times in one cave on the magic Island of California and – oh yeah – animals don’t usually speak in a language we can understand! Plus the legend of Queen Calafia just begged to be retold and how else could I account for those griffins?

ALLISON: What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators/authors?

DOUG: My advice is the sappy-sounding advice that aspiring illustrators and authors probably don’t want to hear: Write or draw the kind of book you have dreamed of, not what you guess might be in demand. Will it get published? Who knows – but at least you will have created something meaningful and personal and wonderful – a book to be proud of.

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4 Responses to "Hansen’s Re-Imagining of California"

Allison I enjoyed our interview. Your pointed questions gave me the perfect chance to talk about my approach to telling stories with pictures and words. Doug Hansen

Thank you for the interview! I always love to hear how authors (and illustrators) come up with their creations, as do I’m sure many of my readers. I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions.

Some folks love to draw and paint. I’m terrible at both. I would love to be able to though. Great interview.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

They’re not my forte either. 🙂 Have a great week!

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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