It’s the 25th anniversary of Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping! Amelia Bedelia and Mr. and Mrs. Rogers leave the safety (or disaster zone) of their house in this book but, naturally, chaos travels right along with them. To celebrate the anniversary, illustrator Lynn Sweat agreed to answer a few of my questions about this title and his long association with Amelia Bedelia.
LA: What was it like, working with Peggy Parish? Did you talk to her about your art ideas?
LS: Peggy sent in the manuscript and I would do a rough dummy with type in place. Peggy was easy to work with and only occasionally would have suggestions about how things worked with the text.
The hardest part of any book is the first rough. Fitting the text and illustrations to the allotted number of pages. It seems best to put the text in place and then go with the first idea, let things come naturally with the images.
LA: Amelia Bedelia is certainly a character, but she’s very likable. How do you manage to make her goofy without making her ridiculous?
LS: Amelia Bedelia has changed a bit through the years. The early Amelia Bedelia in this book was drawn a bit more simply and a bit looser. Now I draw her more carefully, a slight bit more realistically. I have always tried to keep her in the same costume for instant recognition. Happy and active is my idea of Amelia Bedelia.
LA: Is it true that you could only use a few colors to create the art for Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping? I’ve heard that you had to draw the art and then tell the printer what percentage of color to mix to get the right effect. Is that right? Can you give us a simple explanation of your process back then?
In the original Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping, I had a choice of black and two colors. I picked yellow and orange red. I did a basic black line drawing with three acetate overlays. A black screen acetate of 10% over a solid yellow would give me green for foliage. A red plate acetate mixed with solid yellow gave a nice orange. A yellow plate acetate for the solid yellow. These plates all had register marks to keep things in exact position.
LA: My favorite illustration is the one of Amelia Bedelia carrying the “sleeping” bags, on p. 47. But the scene of pitching the tent (on pp. 28-29) is a close second. Do you have any favorite pictures in this book?
LS: The “pitching the tent” drawing is my favorite illustration to show when reading this book to students. It has a lot of action as the tent lands in the bushes with leaves flying.