Adam McCauley makes sense of an odd pair of friends with his otherworldly illustrations in June and August, written by Vivian Walsh. After a chance meeting one night under the moonbeam, June and August share their love for all things that twinkle and gleam. Unaware that one is a snake and the other is not a snake but an elephant's trunk, they are drawn together like magnets and plan to find each other the next day. They soon discover their miscalculations after their true identities are revealed in the bright daylight. Despite their differences, they choose to celebrate their likeness and become the best of friends.
Adam's celestial artistry in June and August illuminates the pair's ability to overcome their fear of discrimination and to become a beacon for imagination, self-discovery, acceptance, and most of all, great friendship.
"We are very different," said August.
June looked at their shadows.
She noticed the both started and ended the same way.
"It's mostly in the middle that we're different," said June.
Diskursdisko: Hi Adam. To start things off, what’s your background? When did you start doing illustrations?
Adam McCauley: Both my parents were/are fine artists and arts educators. Nancy, my mother, was an art history slide librarian (at Stanford) and an artist in the tradition of Judy Chicago. Gardiner McCauley, my father, is from the abstract expressionist group of artists that came out of the San Francisco Bay Area in the 50s, a painter, teacher and arts administrator.
They always encouraged us kids to draw and make art from day one. Although really talented, my sister Caitlin (born in Heidelberg btw!) was the rebel – she didn’t want to be an artist. My older brother Kevin was a young star in town (we lived in Columbia, Missouri in the 70s), he was an accomplished artist as a young boy and painted murals downtown and stuff. He was also a big Dungeons & Dragons guy, so he made Conan comics and paintings of wizards and Star Trek and historical figures…he was a nerd. The mayor lived on our block, so Kevin and I painted political signage and stuff for him. Kevin passed away at 19 from cancer, otherwise I’d wager he’d have gone on to be a big star.
I eventually went to Parsons in NYC and much to my mother’s chagrin majored in illustration. She wanted me to be a fine artist! She passed away before my career took off, she did worry about my future back then. But that’s what mothers do.
Diskursdisko: How do you mainly produce your art?
Adam McCauley: Analog. Sometimes, processed later digitally.
Diskursdisko: What inspires you?
Adam McCauley: Great writing. Visionary and/or easygoing art direction. Making light of the darker things, allowing the strange and ridiculous in the front door whenever possible. Avoiding trends, like antlers and ironic bunny rabbits. Making it personal.
Diskursdisko: As you use the internet to showcase your art, are there any other websites you feel have influenced you, opened your mind or shown you new ways of creating art?
Adam McCauley: Not really. Honestly, I’m trying to stay away from the computer more these days. It’s a time suck. What’s opened my mind most is going out on the street and talking to people, laughing with friends, exercising. I get a lot of good ideas on the treadmill.
I pulled the following bits from his more thorough interview on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast where I also learned Adam is a musician and wrote the music for June and August's book trailer below:
7-Imp: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?
Adam: I’ve come to enjoy illustrating for an older age group in general, although the only truly young-age-group book was the only one I’ve also written, My Friend Chicken. I’m not sure if I could shed light on the uninitiated about illustrating for different age groups. As far as I can tell, that’s the editor’s job to tell me what isn’t working for a given situation. If it were up to me, I’d probably be bringing on the heavy stuff for the young’uns, for better or for worse.
7-Imp: Describe your studio or usual work space.
Adam: I’ve taken two of the top floor bedrooms in our house as studios: one for artwork; the other for computer work. They’re smallish and often a wreck, but work fine for me right now. On a book project, I’ll essentially circle around and procrastinate for hours/days/weeks and then eventually dig in, which means holing up in my drawing room listening to the radio and drawing, occasionally going to the computer for reference/fact-checking/distraction, then returning to the drawing room.
Purchase June and August here (ages 4+)! Now that his worked has peaked my interest, I'm looking forward to seeing more in these titles too!- My Friend Chicken, Monsterologist, Halloween Night (21 Spooktacular Poems), Swimming with Sharks and Baseball Bats (from the Gym Shorts series)!
If you're a teacher looking for June and August lesson plan ideas, you're not alone. I was unable to find any legit plans, but you could use animal cutouts and a flash light or overhead projector to explore various shadows and discuss their similarities or differences. Students could be randomly paired and fill out questionnaires to reveal their common likes or dislikes. Or, you could discuss food pairings like peanut butter and jelly or french fries and ketchup and then challenge them to mix and match some of their own ingredients.
Lastly, I'll leave you with his "monster stamps" he created for the endpapers of The Monsterologist which earned a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators. It is possible that I'm still in the Halloween spirit, but you cannot deny that these rock!