"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, June 5, 2017

Storytelling is an ART(form)

Back in early May, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of children's book illustrators at the MSLA Conference, Beyond the Binding

The panel included these fabulous four people:

These four illustrators represent a diversity in style and approach that made for an interesting and informative discussion, but it was also incredibly fun. There was frequent laughter and a great rapport among the panelists. 

There is never enough time to get to all the questions, so Raúl, Ekua, Scott, and Vita nicely offered to answer the remaining questions by email. 

Raúl's answers are in blue
Ekua's answers are in red
Scott's answers are in orange
Vita's answers are in deep purple

What is the wildest question 
a kid/student has ever asked you?
Raúl: The wildest question has always been, Do you have to draw every single book? As in every single copy of Lowriders in Space ever printed!!

Ekua: I haven't had any wild questions yet but the most unexpected and thoughtful from a 4th grader was, "What was your childhood like?"

Scott: Did you come here in a limo?

Vita: "Do you make a lot of money at your job, is it enough to drive a cool car.” I continue to ask myself the same question. I drive a used station wagon so. .  . you be the judge.  

What is the most important tool or skill 
you employ as an artist?
Raúl: Working with my team which means that I enjoy listening and learning from them. The rest is perseverance and a sore hand.

Ekua: Patience and faith, and willingness to reconsider.

Scott: My iPad Pro. I sketch on it, create some final art with it and it connects me to the world to handle the business aspects of my job as an artist. And I can play the occasional game with it to get my mind off of stuff for awhile. ;)

Vita: Cooperation. hands down. listening and cooperation. It takes so many people to bring our stories and art to life, I have to be a good listener and up for cooperating with others. 

If you could spend an afternoon 
with a book character, 
who would it be and what would you do?
Raúl: I really love the gang from Lowriders in Space. All three of them, Lupe, Elirio and Flapjack. I feel that we would get along. Working on awesome projects together, painting cars. I don't need much more than that to be happy!

Ekua: The Nana in "Don't Call Me Grandma."

Scott: Harry Potter and a tour of Hogwarts Castle which would include sitting in on a class or two and a meal in the Great Hall under its enchanted ceiling. I mean…right?

Vita: Oh it's a toss up between Lauren Child's Soren Lorenson and Neon Pink crayon from the day the crayons quit/came home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. We just have the same sense of humor that crayon and I.

Tell us about a children’s book 
that you are excited to get into the hands 
of young readers.
Raúl: I really enjoyed Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson. I loved the bus ride and the varied characters that they meet there. I think its nice to recognize that the people around you are unique with their experiences and talents.

Ekua: I recently signed to do "Beach Ladya debut picture book by author Heidi Tyline King. I can't wait to get started.

Scott: Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Its based on the true story of the Boston Marathon bombing survivors' life—with Jessica's black lab assistance dog, Rescue. We want the book to demystify physical disabilities and to showcase the talents and positive effects of service dogs. For me, Jessica, Patrick and Rescue are an inspiration—and I am at once proud, humbled and thrilled to be a part of this project; I’m just about to complete the art. The book will pub in Spring 2018—the 5th anniversary of the marathon bombings. The art style is more realistic that I’ve worked in before but I think its good to get out of my comfort zone. I give many thanks to Candlewick Press for signing up this ambitious book. I can’t wait for people to read it.

Vita: Oh love any book that is weird or unusual or does something weird and unusual. And I'm obviously an unabashed pusher of wordless and limited word books. Right now on all my author visits I've been bringing along Orvind Torsetters The Hole. It has a hole all the way through it! And of course our next book Zero Local coming next year through Candlewick.

Who has had a positive impact 
on your reading life?
Raúl: My Mom. Olga Gonzalez. She took us to the library at a young age and the books and librarians did the rest.

Ekua: My aunt, Barbara Elam. A visionary librarian who was ahead of her time. She made reading a part of my daily life while in her care from age five to thirteen. She recently passed away. I will carry her with me always. And of course my mother. Without her guidance and belief in me I might have had a very different life.

Scott: My grandfather and grandmother. My earliest and fondest memories of reading were on their knee. Funny, but now that I think of it—both memories involved either reading Sunday funnies or comic books with them. I guess my fate was sealed very early on!

Vita: Currently my kids for sure. And my book club; they keep me challenged, open and healthily cynical. I'm incredibly grateful for the social connecting that reading has brought into my life. It used to feel solitary now it means gathering together.

Wow! These answers are just like the day of our panel: interesting, inspiring, funny and thought provoking. I wish our conversation could continue. I so enjoyed getting to know you all better during our panel discussion and I look forward to sharing all I have learned from you with my students.
Thank you, Raúl, Ekua, Scott and Vita!