P1020139This is my interview with Melissa Sweet.

melissa sweet photoAs a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be an artist. I grew up drawing comic book and cartoon characters and making stuff constantly.

What other jobs have you had? For a short time after art school I thought I wanted to go onto cooking school. After cooking in kitchens for a couple of years, I illustrated a cookbook for the restaurant I was working at and that was it. I preferred making art and never looked back.

What’s the hardest part of your job? Deciding on how I’m going to render a book. Each book is so different and the process of discovering what materials to use and how it will look can take a lot of persistence.

What’s the best part of your job? There’s a lot of great things about my job but in a nutshell: It’s quiet, I work alone in a beautiful space in an inspiring setting with everything I need, including my dog.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered when illustrating this book? When I first read a facsimile of the original Roget’s Thesaurus and saw how it was organized by ideas as opposed to alphabetical, I was so amazed I had to sit down. In the The Right Word, Jen Bryant describes how this was similar to the way Linnaeus categorized plants and animals and I hadn’t really understood what that meant until I saw it. The first Thesaurus reads like poetry.

How long did it take you to illustrate this book from start to finish? I researched and worked on The Right Word in between other projects for about a year. Once I started working on it full time, it took another 4-5 months until the art was complete.

What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? Holding Roget’s original handwritten word book in my hands. (This book is in the collection of the Karpeles Manuscript Library). I liken it to holding a hummingbird– delicate and powerful at the same time.

What would you most like to ask Roget? May I have this waltz? Roget was quite a good dancer and I would’ve wanted his name on my dance card.

What are your favourite products? Faber–Castell GRIP 2001 pencils. I’m not a gadget person, but I love good tools. There is no such thing as too many pliers.

Do you collect anything? Rusty bottle caps and old plumb bobs.

Read my review of ‘The Right Word’ here.

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