Mies van Hout
(The Netherlands, Eindhoven, 1962)

I live in Zeegse, a small village between the forrests and the meadows in the north of the Netherlands.
I an married with Jan and we have 3 children Anna, Auke and Koen

I grew up in a village in the south of Holland called Hapert. My father allways told us stories. When he was telling we were all sitting around him. I also liked reading, but most of the time I was drawing.
When I was very young I knew that I wanted to become a drawer. And I didn't know what to do otherwise.

After highschool I did two art-educations:

- 1980-1985: teacher education drawing and textile arts in Tilburg
- 1985-1989: eveningschool grafic design at artschool in Groningen

Sinds then I work as a free-lance illustrator and designer.

I specialised myself in illustrating children books.
Making picturebooks is what I like most.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to make a book?
That depends. Some books I make in a week.
A picturebook takes about 5 to 9 months.

What is the material you are working with?
I used to make my picturebooks in gouache. But I work with acrylics as well.
'Happy' and 'Friends' are made with oil pastels. I also work with acrylic ink.
I never make my drawings on the computer. It is all handwork.

Do you find it difficult?
Yes, but that doesn't matter.
Lots of drawings end up in my trashcan.
Sometimes I think my drawing is allright. And when I look at it an other day it isn't anymore.Then I make a new one.
So it never gets dull.

Questions about the picturebook 'Happy'

Why did you take fishes? Are they for example less stereotype than other animals?
There are two important reasons. A fish is in fact a face with a tail. That makes it easy to give it a feeling.
A fish is also a neutral animal. You don't associate them with feelings. That makes them very suitable. For exemple : a very angry fish is no problem . A rabbit you don't associate with rage.

Which different techniques did you use while creating the pictures? And why did you choose these techniques?
I used oil-pastels. I didn't try other techniques for this book. It was perfect for it.
It is an very expressive material. Which is convenient when you have to draw feelings.
Sometimes I made little sketches on an other paper. But when I began to draw the drawings were made directly. I couldn't correct them. It had to be right at once. If a drawing wasn't good I had to make a new one. And sometimes the new one became very different.
I drew hundreds of fishes for this book.

How have you been able to achieve such a significant expression with bold pencil strokes?
I drew hundreds of fishes. For a fish like 'astonished' it is very important that the line of the face and the eye are at the right place.
When they aren't, the drawing isn't right. So sometimes I had to draw the fish lots of times. You need a bit of luck. I was always looking for that bit of luck.

How did you find the correct mimik-expression for your fishes? Did you copy them from human faces? How did you avoid stereotypes?
I just tried to feel the way I wanted them to be feeling. I never tried to copy anything.

It's very difficult especially with strong feelings not to overdo them. When did you know that you found the right expression?
When you overdo it, it doesn't work.
I hung al the fishes om my wall. When I could feel the feeling of the fish in my stomach the drawing was good.
But sometimes I was enthusiastic about a drawing and I still had to throw it away a week later.
When I had doubts I made a new one. And - as said - sometimes the new one became very different.
When I didn't get doubts after weeks, I knew the fish was alright. Then he could stay.

What was your main target while creating the book? Does it have a statement? What do you intend that children learn from it?
The main target was the book itself. I didn't want to fill in what you can do with it. Though I hoped that it would be usefull and helpfull for children to talk about there feelings.
I get a lot of reactions on the book from schoolteachers and people who work with children who need extra care.
They use the book to talk with children about feelings. They told me that children talk more easily about there feelings with this book. It helps them. It is a bit scary to talk about your own feelings. With the help of a picture it's more easy.
It's amazing that my book can help children.

Do you think the book invites readers to create their own story and why?
Yes, because you can make up your own story.
You can also make your own feeling-story about something that has happened to you.
At first I was afraid. Than I got angry at myself. Bravely I got to it. I am amazed that I can do it. So now I am proud of myself. That makes me sure and glad.

What is your favorite colour?
Cobalt blue.