Author and Illustrator Matt Myers hosted a meet and greet at Beach Books on Sunday, Sept. 15, for his book “Hum and Swish.”
Although he currently lives in North Carolina with his family, Myers has ties to the Pacific Northwest having attended the Portland Museum Art School, now known as Pacific Northwest College of Art, for design and fine art.
A large part of Myers’ career was in advertising before he switched to illustration nine years ago and hasn’t looked back. His most recent book is his first with both illustration and author credits.
“I was in advertising for 25 years in New York before I was a fine art painter, but people weren’t seeing my work,” Myers said. “I’ve illustrated 30 books, but this is my first book as both an illustrator and author,” said Myers.
“Hum and Swish” follows an introverted child through her trip to the ocean.
Each page is illustrated with a downsized version of an original oil painting. The protagonist, Jamie, is happily playing in the sand when a variety of beach goers bombard her with questions like “what are you making” and “what is it going to be,” to which she answers “I don’t know” with growing frustration. Finally, a painter sets up an easel next to where Jamie is playing and quietly starts to paint the ocean.
Intrigued, Jamie echoes the questions she had heard all day to which the painter only replies cryptically “I’m not sure yet.”
At the end, the painting is revealed to be a study of Jamie herself playing in the sand.
“As an illustrator I never got hung up on anything, I found it harder to illustrate my own book,” Myers said. “I started this in watercolor but I wanted the richer colors of oils. Originally I had her in her room drawing but that was kind of boring, so I put her on the beach because you can create things with things you find. I just wanted to create a story about a girl who does her own thing and doesn’t want to be bothered.”
The protagonist is inspired by a fellow illustrator who Myers met at a recent American Library Association conference.
“One of the illustrators was there and she was really shy,” he explained. “I’m an introvert but I can put it on if I need to, but she was just painfully shy. She was sitting there at a dinner where we were supposed to be schmoozing, and after a while she just had to go to her sketchbook. I thought about what that must be like for her and about my own childhood and my youngest stepdaughter, who is also an introvert, and thought that there just aren’t that many books out there for introverts.”
The book is beautifully illustrated in rich oils with deep, sea green offsetting the glowing, golden sand. Each page is a work of art and the story itself is masterfully crafted. The originals are for sale on his website.
“Most of my stuff is a little zany,” he said. “My next two books are a little more comical than this one, so this is kind of a quieter book.”
One is about the world’s longest licorice rope and a sneaky girl who sells it to two different boys. The story ends after a long journey around the world where the two boys discover the mischief. They all three become friends in the end. The second project is about a little dino sponge that won’t stop growing once water is added. He grows so big that he’s banished from the house until the giant sponge saves the kid from a rainstorm. They also all live happily ever after.
“Now that I’ve done both illustration and writing, I know that paintings may take a lot longer but what the author is getting paid for is the idea,” he said.
In addition to the two books that are nearly completed, Myers would like to do a book focused on pacifism in the vein of “The Story of Ferdinand,” a children’s book written by American author Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. It’s a story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights.
“Hum and Swish” is available for sale at Beach Books, 616 Broadway in Seaside.