Behind the Scenes with Christopher Silas Neal

Get ready for some fun animal mashups, we’re celebrating the book birthdays for Animal Shapes and Animal Colors with author/illustrator Christopher Silas Neal! And for more fun, check out out Animals Activity sheets!
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and illustrator?
When I was a kid, I was really into drawing, music and movies and had always assumed one of these activities would be my profession as an adult. At age 7 I loved cartoons and thought I might make animations. At age 10 I loved movies and thought I would make special effects for film. I started playing drums at age 13, studied percussion at a University, and played in bands in my twenties. I worked as a graphic designer too and learned a lot about picture making by moving around shapes and typography. It wasn’t until I moved to New York and met a few working illustrators that I discovered illustration and writing.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Animal Shapes and Animal Colors?
It started with an illustration I did for a magazine. It was an essay about best friends and I drew two cats cuddled together in a ball forming a Yin and Yang symbol. An art director friend thought the idea might make a fun book and encouraged me to keep exploring. I began fitting other animals into other shapes and then eventually began playing with colors, too.
3. What’s your favorite part of Animal Shapes and Animal Colors?
It was really fun to draw and I really enjoyed coming up with fun and goofy word combinations. My favorite picture in Animal Shapes is the frogs forming an Octagon; my favorite word combination is Neck-tangle.  My favorite picture in Animal Colors is the Orange Elephorilla (a combination of an Elephant and Gorilla) and my favorite word combination is a Chartreuse Kangamoose.
4. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or illustrating?
I like to ride my bike, go to the beach, watch and read Star Wars, and I enjoy playtime with my family.
5. What was your favorite book to read as child?
Frederick by Leo Lionni. It’s still one of my favorites. The pictures are so wonderfully simple and I like how you can see his art making process within the final art. It’s a quiet and emotive book.
My other favorite as a kid; Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I would laugh until I had tears in my eyes reading his poems.