Last year, I had the pleasure of teaching Mrs. Alexandra Swenson’s lovely daughter, Nikita. She was a natural with measurement and drawing and the youngest at Pastimes for a Lifetime to complete both the Drawing with Graphite 101 and 102 courses, back to back.
She is on hiatus while her parents build their new creative business, Picture It! Kids. I was intrigued and had to learn more. Alexandra graciously accepted my invitation for a blog interview. I hope you will find it as enjoyable and informative as I did.
Q. How did you start Picture It! Kids?
It all started with my children. My daughter, Nikita, who was 7 years old at the time, and her little brother Diego, 5, would always ask me to make up stories centered around them. They loved when I told tales of fantastic adventures they had, like defeating dragons or casting magic spells. I always wanted to write picture books for them, but never did because I feel I have no gift for drawing and illustrations. So I had an idea: I would start creating a story for each child and read a page to them every week. If they liked their story, they were tasked with drawing an illustration for that page and the story would continue.
It turned into a wonderful game for all of us. The kids were so impatient to hear the next part of their story every week and often couldn’t wait till morning to draw their illustrations! Several months later, as their first adventure came to a close, I gathered the stories and artwork and turned them into a book for each of them to keep and cherish. They were very proud of their books and showed them around to everyone.
A friend of mine pointed out how special the books were, not just because of the concept, but from an artistic point of view. Children are incredibly creative. Their illustrations have a raw beauty that expresses the unique way they see the world. My friend encouraged me to bring this experience to other families and kids, and that’s how Picture It! Kids was born.
Q. What is the inspiration behind the stories?
Fairytales. Making sense of the world and building character through the power of story. I really believe stories have a tremendous influence, especially the fairytale genre centered around myth, symbol and the “hero’s journey”.
Q. How does the website work?
Children receive a kit in the mail to make their own book. They use the templates in the kit to organize their story pages and illustrations, and personalize the book with their name, picture, bio and dedication. When their project is finished, everything is uploaded to the website. Within 7-10 business days, the young artists receive a hardcover book featuring them as the author and illustrator. Kids can either make a book from scratch, creating both the story and the illustrations or, as we grow our library, pick a story that resonates with them to illustrate.
Q. What age range are the books for?
From the start, we felt it was important to create books for kids of all ages. Children like to express themselves through art at a very young age. It’s not easy to face a blank page, though, so the bookmaking kits for younger children have a lot of guided creative activities. As kids get older, they want more creative freedom, and hopefully, will eventually want to make their own book without any guidance.
Q. Do you offer any classes?
We plan to start workshops in Los Angeles in the spring, with different classes for different ages. Young children will create books while experimenting with paints, pastels and other mediums. Children 6-8 will work from a pre-written story they personalize and illustrate through the course of the class. Finally, kids 9 and up will create their own original book through games centered around the different aspects of fiction writing. You can find out more information about classes on the website.
Q. What do you feel is the most important thing kids get out of the books?
Empowerment. When they see their name on the cover as the illustrator or author of a book, there’s a real sense of pride and a feeling that they can be creators, regardless of their age or any obstacles in their way. Often, we repress our initial drive to create because we think we can’t draw, or can’t write, etc. I’ve seen even young kids not try something because they say they can’t do it well. When a child sees their words or artwork published in a hardcover book, they realize they can do it, that they don’t need to be perfect for their creations to have value.
Alexandra Swenson started www.pictureitkids.com in the fall of 2016. The website allows kids to create their own personalized hardcover book. Ideal for budding authors and illustrators.
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