Meet the “Master of Sketchery,” an interview with Aedan Peterson

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

Wondering who created the delightful covers and interior illustrations of the Tree Street Kids series? It’s Aedan Peterson! I’ve loved working with Aedan and know you’ll enjoy hearing more about his art, his process, and an exciting new project you and your family will love (link at the end)!

Describe the first time you realized you loved drawing/art. How old were you and what were you making?

When I was 8 or so, my dad had a meeting with a character designer to go over ideas for a project. I had shown some interest in art, so he decided to take me along. The meeting was at one of those Italian restaurants where you could color with crayons on the paper tablecloths. I don’t remember much about it, except, at one point while they were talking, the character designer started drawing. Right before my eyes, I saw Mickey Mouse come to life on the table. There was nothing but the tablecloth, then there was Mickey. I immediately thought, “That. I want to be able to do that.” And from that point on I knew I wanted to be an artist.

Aedan Peterson, illustrator

What is your favorite medium? Favorite subject matter?

I love pencil, watercolor, and gouache! I always have fun drawing trolls, magic forests, old people, creatures, clouds and anything in between.

Some people may think illustrations simply “repeat” what is being described in the text. Can you explain how illustration is far more complex than that?

This is a great question. The beautiful part about illustration, which is also the hard part, is that it is meant to serve the text. It’s inherently connected to the words, which limits a lot. But those limits are actually really helpful, because it gives a framework. The question then becomes, how can I clarify, emphasize, or elaborate on the text? My goal is to help reader’s use their imagination even more, to make the world feel even more alive. So as much as I can, I try to include little details, expressions, or even more story details that might not be explicit in the text.

What was your favorite part about illustrating the Tree Street Kids (or what was your favorite illustration and why)?

Doing the cover for Mystery in Crooked Creek Woods was a blast! It was fun technically, but also, that moment captured a lot of what I dreamed of doing as a kid. We dug a hole for weeks one summer (it never got deeper than a foot and a half) because we wanted to build an underground bunker just like in this story. These books do a really great job of capturing what it’s like to be a kid.

In what ways can authors best help their illustrators do their work well?

Honestly, what you did with [the Tree Street Kids] books! Having a clear vision while also leaving room for the illustrator to try stuff. I really appreciate when authors know what they want, because that means there is far less backtracking. I’m always really humbled when an author trusts me to be a steward of their creation that they’ve been working on for a long time. Like these books! It’s been awesome being a small part of helping them coming to life!

How does faith play into your work?

I think God made us to make things. So part of the way I try to live out my faith in my work is to attempt to just create really good and beautiful art. My hope is that I can make art that makes people wonder more, pay attention, and ultimately be inspired to make beauty themselves. 

More about Aedan . . . and an exciting animated series coming soon!

Aedan Peterson is an illustrator and visual developer born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s been busy for the last few years, illustrating the new edition of Pembrick’s Creaturepedia, The Tree Street Kids books, and Dead-eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid. He’s also delved into the world of animation working as a character designer and background artist for The Wingfeather Saga animated series. When not drawing, he can often be found bird watching, or eating chips and salsa, or doing both at the same time. 

Discover more at aedanpeterson.com.

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