Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Get a sneak peak at Astrid's beautifully painted characters as we launch the first title in her four-book series following the adventures of Hector Fox and his woodland friends.
Astrid Sheckels is a native of western Massachusetts and grew up in an artistic family, spending much of her childhood playing outside, using her imagination, and drawing. She has also spent time in her mother's homeland of Denmark, and her Scandinavian roots are evident in her artwork, which she has described as a “mix of classic realism and whimsy.” She studied fine art at Greenfield Community College and works as a full-time artist. She is a member of the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild and The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
We are excited to launch Astrid's new picture book, Hector Fox and the Giant Quest, on September 28, 2021. Hector Fox and the Giant Quest is the first in a series of four books from Astrid, and is on sale now.
Take a look below at our Q&A with Astrid, as well as a few sneak peeks at her amazing artwork. For more from Astrid be sure to check out her website!
What is your favorite animal to draw?
Foxes are currently my favorite, no surprise there. They have so much personality and visual appeal, with their pointy ears, sharp noses, red and white fur, and elegant sleekness. I’ve drawn foxes so often that I don’t need to use photo reference any more and simply draw from my memory and imagination. I actually enjoy drawing all woodland animals and the challenge of tackling more exotic ones. Book-loving dragons, for example, are becoming quite a common sight on my desktop and last year I painted my first snow leopard.
What do you like best about writing and illustrating for children?
I love creating for children because they are not tied to reality or limited by adult logic. Children are explorers at heart and, in the safety of a book, can embrace the unexpected with ease. They are also some of the toughest critics out there and a story has to ring true for them to follow it. Keeping the creative process fun is also important. If I’m not actually enjoying an illustration, that mood will somehow seep into the painting and show up for the child. So, even when I have a looming deadline, I only paint while I’m still having fun. This sometimes results in shorter days, but better illustrations in the end. Getting to share my stories and imagination with young children is such a joy and keeps me on my toes and my creative wheels turning.
Are there any creators that have influenced your work as you continue to grow as an artist?
The anthropomorphic animals of Beatrix Potter and John S. Goodall have been favorites since childhood. I really appreciate the stylized illustrations of golden age Scandinavian artists like John Bauer, Louis Moe, and Elsa Beskow. Garth Williams and E. H. Shepard continue to inspire me with their expressly charming ink drawings, as does Trina Schart Hyman.
Hector and his friends all have distinct personalities. Do you base them off people you know? Are Hector’s friends similar to your friends or family?
Hmmmm. I’ve actually put a bit of myself into each of the characters. I guess that keeps them relatable to me!
As you created the world of Hector Fox, did you draw inspiration from any other fictional realms?
Well, I guess it’s no surprise, but Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Woods and the world of Wind in the Willows were big influences. I think Winnie the Pooh was the first book my dad read to me as a child that had a map and I was instantly hooked.
To discover more about Hector Fox and his friends and to find fun activities visit the Hector Fox website.