Interview with James Melvin

4 weeks and counting. . .

2nd Annual Pamlico Writers Conference & Competition

The Art & Craft of Writing!

Washington Civic Center
100 Gladden Street, Washington, North Carolina
March 8, 2014, from 9am until 6pm

Last years conference was a great success and we’ve planned this years to be even better. You won’t want to miss it. If you haven’t already registered,  it only takes a minute or two, so you’ll need to move it up on your to do list to get a seat.  To make it easier, here’s our website:

Now, let’s begin this weeks interview.

James Melvin

James Melvin

Our Keynote Speakers for the 2014 Pamlico Writers Conference are Suzanne Tate and James Melvin. They comprise a writing and illustrating team that has shared years of collaboration on award-winning children’s stories.

Their most celebrated books belong to a nature series begun in 1988 and now include thirty-one titles and seven teaching guides. The first of the series, Crabby & Nabby, was chosen to be read in every kindergarten class in Virginia. There is also a history series.

James Melvin brings visual life to the characters of Suzanne Tate and other writers. He is the creator of the Pea Island Lifesavers Series at the NC Aquarium in Manteo. He has a studio on Nags Head where he paints in various mediums and teaches art. He shared some of his past and philosophy in the following interview:

Interviewer:     Is there a singular event that led you to become an artist?

 James:              There wasn’t a single event. As a youth, I was always  interested in art. Colors fascinated me, and drawing was exciting. At age ten, I knew that art was God’s gift to me and my gift to others.

Interviewer:     How did your art career begin, and what is now your art passion?

James:              My career began as a Peace Corps art teacher with two years in Botswana, Africa. That was followed by several years in advertising and sales at a publishing firm. I began illustrating children’s books in 1988 with Suzanne Tate. However, studio art is my passion. I most enjoy painting scenes of nature, working in oils or pastels.

Interviewer:     Considering your home is on the Outer Banks, is your illustrating influenced more by environment or by personal experience?

James:              More by environment, painting scenes that express peace—whether locally or in other countries.

Interviewer:     I imagine you may be remembering your time in Africa. As a painter myself, I have always thought that continent would be a painter’s dream. On a more practical level, do you consider commercial value when choosing subjects and colors for your paintings/illustrations?

James:              As a professional artist, I paint themes that inspire me. As an illustrator, I work with and for the author to produce art that meets their expectations—and mine.

Interviewer:     What is your favorite of all your illustrated works? Why?

 James:              I don’t have a favorite. All are equally important characters. I do have a favorite story, “Spunky Spot”, a tale of one smart fish. Suzanne created a timeless message in this story. Children are taught the importance of learning, and to obey what they have learned as it may save their lives. It also teaches them to respect their teacher and that sometimes they have to stand alone.

Interviewer:     What or who has been the greatest influence in your art?

James:              God has been the greatest influence by giving me guidance and perseverance. Although I’ve illustrated for other writers, Suzanne Tate’s nature and history series and our longtime friendship have had the greatest influence in my book illustrating career.

Interviewer:     Is there a particular humorous or touching story in your experience as an illustrator you can share with our readers?

James:              In earlier years, Suzanne and I did many school presentations and book signings for book stores, aquariums, science museums, and gift shops. It was always heart-warming to receive letters from students expressing their favorite book, story , or character—sometimes including a drawing of me or Suzanne.

The most humbling letters were those where the students stated they wanted to be an artist like me.

Interviewer:     Children have a way of doing that, of making us appreciate the gifts and opportunities we have been given. How wonderful you have chosen to use those talents to enrich their lives.


Doris Schneider

For conference information, presenters, workshops, panels or lodging links, visit our website at:



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