Bernie Goedhart, in her Montreal Gazette review of A Family Is a Family Is a Family writes: "Her art first drew my eye because it reminded me of two favourite illustrators — Britain’s Quentin Blake and Australia’s Bob Graham — in that they all share a loose line, colourful palette and distinctive detail work." High praise, indeed.
So who is Qin Leng? Let's start with the basics:
Qin Leng was born in Shanghai, China and as a child moved to Bordeaux, France. She studied film at Concordia University in Montreal and currently lives in Toronto where she works in the animation industry.
And here's a lovely little self-portrait.
I'm very grateful to Sheila Barry at Groundwood Books for bringing Qin and I together on this book. I think the lightness of touch and sheer exuberance of the illustrations lifts what could have been quite heavy subject matter. In celebration of working together, I asked Qin if she'd answer a few questions for me to share here.
What was your favourite book as a child?
That's a tricky question, there were so many books I loved when I was little. More than anything, I would love to spend my days reading...I loved to read at the mall when my mom was shopping, at the library, in my bed, during the day, at night under my covers (which, I think, is partly why I've needed glasses since I was 8!). I think my all time favourite, which still remains a huge source of inspiration to this day, are the Petit Nicolas series by Jean-Jacques Sempé. The illustrations were drawn with such spontaneity and the lines kept so simple, it's always something I strive to achieve in my own work.
What do you like about making picture books?
I love inventing worlds and characters. I grew up as a really shy kid, but I was very observant, and the best way for me to express myself was through pictures. Even now, I love people watching and taking in stories I hear around me. On beautiful days, I like to go out and sit at a café or a park and looking at passers by and imagine what kind of characters they are and what lives they lead.
What are you working on now?
I am always working on multiple projects at once. I dislike long breaks, it makes me anxious and I feel like I am wasting my time...I constantly want to be accomplishing something! I just wrapped up a new picture book with Comme des Geants, written by Céline Claire, called "L'Abri." I am really excited about this one, because it was entirely done with ink and watercolour, no digital painting (which I normally do). So that was a challenge I really enjoyed. I am also currently illustrating the 5th chapter book in a series written by Ellen Potter called "Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Pie Girl," for Random House.Then there's a new picture book with Harper Collins about the childhood of Jane Austen. It's called "Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen" and is written by Deborah Hopkinson. Finally, I'm working on a board book of Dennis Lee's bedtime poems for HarperCollins Canada. And for the next coming year, there are a few more things in my agenda, such as the very first picture book I am going to write AND illustrate!
It's hard to get an accurate count on just how many books Qin has done, so here are covers from a few of my personal favourites.
Qin is represented by Shannon Associates.
And you can find her online here: