Fairy Tales Do Come True: An Interview with Ruth Sanderson

Just One More Book illustration fairy tales dragon
Curl Up with a Good Book

You may recognize Ruth Sanderson’s name. She is an award-winning illustrator of children’s fairy tales (and more).

If you don’t remember her name, you may recognize this wonderful Curl Up with a Good Book dragon she created for Mark and Andrea’s Love of Reading Gallery at Just One More Book!

In a wonderful August 2008 interview with Mark Blevis Ruth talked about her art and illustrations.

Now, in a visit to the Family Bookshelf and The Reading Tub®, Ruth not only shares more of her art (it’s amazing!) but also brings us up to date on all that she’s been doing these last four years.

RT: A number of your children’s picture books retell fairy tales. My personal favorite is your retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses! This scene from the woods is just mesmerizing.

FP306_GoldenWood fairy tales

As you’re doing research on one (e.g., Cinderella) do you ever find ideas for stories that you’d like to write?
Ruth: Often in a retelling I’ll combine elements from stories that have similar themes, and add little twists, so it becomes more like an original story.

Retelling a fairy tale is both challenging and fun. For Cinderella, I wove elements from both the Grimms’ version and the French version, as one was very dark, and the other way too light for my taste.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is also a combination of those two versions, as there were elements that I preferred in each version.

Rose-red-snow-white fairy tales        cinderella-sanderson fairy tales        snow-princess-fairy-tales       12-dancing-princesses fairy tales

RT: What do you say to folks (usually parents) who say we have too many princesses / princess stories? Is there something about fairy tales like The Twelve Dancing Princesses that sets it apart from all of the princessy-story out there?
Ruth: To me the theme is universal, about being female, not about being a “princess.” It is a story about growing up. It’s about choosing love, not money or privilege.

RT: As our readers can see, your children’s illustrations for Cinderella, The Snow Princess, and other fairy tales are done in oils. Yet you are now creating digital versions of your picture books, too. Do you find that they transition easily to screen imagery?
Ruth: Essentially I crop and reformat my existing art to fit the dimensions of the iPad tablet. Sometimes I extended the art digitally to accommodate the words, which had to be proportionally larger than they were in the book to be easily read on the tablet. Another tricky part was adding “bells and whistles” – things that move, etc.

cindy-app fairy talesFor the Cinderella app, my older daughter Morgan, who is an animator, added “fairy dust” that sparkles when you tap the fairy godmother’s wand. PicPocket Books, who produced the app, added lots of sound effects, narration, music, etc.

RT: Cinderella isn’t your only book to be made into an app for the iPad. You also write for a cooperative blog eBoks.com. What is it about this new “medium” that appeals to you?
Ruth: There is an opportunity to make out of print titles available in this new medium. I am waiting for the technology to get a bit easier though, as it takes different formatting for each product tablet out there, and it is hard to be “found” online.

RT: Going back to “traditional” art for a moment, in your interview with Mark at Just One More Book you talk about your scratch board illustration and oil painting. Do you think that technology will make these techniques obsolete?
Ruth: As long as there are artists, I believe some will be working in these traditional techniques. Having a work of art to hang on the wall will always be desired. If digital back-ups fail, there goes your creation.

RT: I’d like to ask one more question before we go. You told Mark back in August 2008 that you would like to create The Golden Key in scratch board. Have you made any progress on that idea?
Ruth: Yes, I’ve done a number of illustrations for that, and am planning a 144 page book illustrated with over 40 pictures. Here are two images from that book.

Golden Key_Mossy finds key         Golden Key Rainbow

RT: They are stunning, Ruth. There is so much to explore in each image. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

To learn more about Ruth Sanderson’s work … including her collaboration with her daughter Whitney on the Horse Diaries series and other fairy tales, gallop on over to The Reading Tub®.

All illustrations courtesy of Ruth Sanderson.
Copyright Ruth Sanderson. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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