Maybe it’s our close proximity to the prestigious art school Rhode Island School of Design, or perhaps it’s because our towns are situated on their own little corner of the “sparkling sea”–but the East Bay of Rhode Island is a mecca for children’s books authors and illustrators.
One jewel among working artists in our community is none other than the gracious and talented author-illustrator Mary Jane Begin.
I have the great good fortune of being Ms. Begin’s neighbor–and friend, as well as the event-planner for Barrington Books, so when she pitched me the idea to host a launch party for her all new picture book, My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea at the store, she barely got the words out when I said, “Yes, yes, and YES!” my wheels immediately turning about how to make it a magical event.
After all, a brand new original My Little Pony picture book is a BIG DEAL!Â My Little Pony characters are held dear in the hearts of children. Their stories of friendship and adventure have captivated fans across the globe, from the hugely popular line of toys to the highly acclaimed “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” animated series, created by Hasbro Studios currently airing on The Hub TV Network in the United States.
The new book, My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, brings to life a new underwater My Little Pony realm, “Aquastria” where an Annual Race is underway. Â The book incorporates many best-loved My Little Pony characters, and introduces some all-new under-the-sea friends.
Each page is a feast for the eyes, with vibrant color and Begin’s signature stunning detail.Â Readers will pour over every page of this gorgeously illustrated book, which officially releases on April 23, 2013.
As fans eagerly await its release and the fabulous launch party planned at Barrington Books on Saturday April 27, 2013 from 1-4pm, Mary Jane opened the doors of her sunlight-filled Barrington studio to talk about her creative process with Anika Denise, and how this magical My Little Pony adventure came to be.
ANIKA: What initially drew you to the project?
MJB: “This idea of creating an original story for some of the Hasbro branded characters was the brainchild of a classmate from RISD, Ed Lane, Senior Art Director at Hasbro. He told me he had this idea about creating a unique, beautiful series of picture books…and he thought I would be perfect!Â That was seven years ago over lunch at the Providence Art Club…things in life take twists and turns, but finally, that conversation turned into a reality two years ago and now the dream is about to land on the book shelf !!”
ANIKA:Â What was it like to approach the story and art for such a well-known, well-loved brand and cast of characters?
MJB: “My initial concern was that I wouldn’t be able to bring my own voice into the world of My Little Pony…I feared that my artistic vision would run headlong into the expectations of the fans, and I thought it might be too restrictive to work with a corporation on a tightly controlled property.
What I discovered, in working with the Hasbro Publishing team, was that they were so supportive of my work, and trusted me as an artist and writer so very much, that I was allowed to explore with utter freedom. I read all of the scripts for the show, looked at both the toy and the animation style for the ponies…and then, quite literally, fell asleep. I was camping, napping in a tent a few feet from the lakes edge…and the water sound and the ponies merged! I woke up, jotted down the story in my head on a wrinkled piece of paper…and knew it would be a wonderful adventure, both the book and the story.”
ANIKA:Â How long did it take you to complete the art? Â
MJB: “The whole project took about 18 months, from writing the story, laying the book out, creating the sketches and then final paintings.Â The paintings for the double pages are quite large for my detailed style and each one took from one week to three weeks to complete. All of the paintings were made in my little sunny studio in Barrington…a stone’s throw from Barrington Beach.Â If I needed watery inspiration…I would just take a walk!”
ANIKA:Â What materials did you use?
MJB: “I used watercolor, pastel, colored pencil and some acrylic gloss medium on colored pastel paper to make the paintings.Â I wanted the colors to pop and shimmer, like a jellyfish in the sea, iridescent, sparkling and jewel like. I wanted the book to feel like a place you’d love to visit! I created characters in colors that would play off the brand’s bright hues…that’s why Nar Wally, the Narwhal character is shimmery white, to reflect the ponies vibrant tones. The paintings will be on exhibit, opening the last weekend in June at the National Museum of American Illustration…http://www.americanillustration.org. My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea will be on display in Rhode Island’s City-By-The-Sea seems like a good match to me!”
MARY JANE BEGIN is a Rhode Island—based award-winning illustratorÂ known in particular for her acclaimed and much-beloved pictureÂ books, including Before I Go to Sleep, The Wind in the Willows, A MouseÂ Told His Mother, Little Mouse’s Painting, and The Porcupine Mouse. SheÂ has also done work for Hasbro, Milton Bradley, See’s Candies,Â The Franklin Mint, Celestial Seasonings, Disney, and many otherÂ companies, and she is a professor at Rhode IslandÂ School of Design. Visit her website www.maryjanebegin.com for more information on her books.
Premiere Book Launch Party of My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea by Mary Jane Begin
Saturday, April 27 from 1-4pm
Where: Barringotn Books, Barrington, Rhode Island
- A signing by the author
- My Little Pony face-painting
- A special collectible My Little Pony for our guests (while supplies last)
- The chance to win a My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Walking-Talking Pinkie Pie
- For more information, visit event page on Facebook.
HASBRO and its logo, MY LITTLE PONY and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission. Â© 2013 Hasbro. All rights reserved.