Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Mentor Text Talk with Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch

If you peek inside Julie Rowan-Zoch's portfolio, you'll see that she creates precise characters, each with its own identity and unique personality. You can see the heart of each character on the page! LOUiS is no exception.






I learned this about Julie way back in 2013. After I posted about my daughter on Facebook, Julie was inspired to create her as a character, too.  Today, we are lucky to learn from Julie's illustration perspective, and celebrate the October release of LOUiS, written by Tom Lichtenheld, and preciously illustrated by Julie. 






How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts (in relation to illustration?)

I read a lot of picture books, and collect many (mostly in paperback), for illustration inspiration as well as for writing. But also because I am a bookseller. I use them for themed story times, and I review just about any F&Gs sent to the store. So although I may not seek out picture books for the creation of a specific dummy, I am storing and utilizing visual information through picture books all the time. 

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you while researching and creating the artwork for LOUIS by Tom Lichtenheld? 

Though I may not have sought out specific books, I did look at the line work in the books of many illustrators whose work I admire, like STANDING IN FOR LINCOLN GREEN, by David MacIntosh and NEVILLE, illustrated by G.Brian Karas. 








But as I was just starting work on LOUiS, I was asked to give a talk for a local museum fundraiser during a Charles M. Schultz exhibit. In preparation for the presentation, I realized how very much I had been influenced through the artwork in The Peanuts and the Pogo books. My father had a number of them in a very reachable spot on a bookshelf in our home (we had bookshelves in every room, even the garage - but none in the bathroom!). I examined the changes in Schultz's style over the years which forced me to look at my own work more intensely. And I am sure there are those who will be able to see the influence on LOUiS!




How has reading/studying art in picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer? 

To articulate 'how' studying the art (and writing!) has helped feels intimidating! My mind's eye wants to put it in a pie chart, but clearly it's more of a Venn diagram of things that are still useful in my approach in creating PBs. The three big circles would be Studying PBs, Critiquing, and Writing. But each circle has elements that at times weigh more than others. When I first started trying to learn I read even more PBs than I mentioned in the reply to the first question! For three years (at least) I read 100 PBs a week. I actually attempted to start with the 'A' section in the library, but immediately realized I'd never manage due to circulation! I did spend a lot of time on the floor deciding which to bring home for a closer look though! At home I would make 3 piles based on the covers: 1) these I will really like, 2) these could be pretty good, and 3) these are probably so-so. I enjoyed finding out how very wrong I was in my original assessments! I may not have answered the question as asked, but I do believe the all the time I invested early on paid off, and I've not stopped, just slowed down my efforts!

What do you feel is the best way for picture book writers and illustrators to utilize mentor texts? 

I would not attempt speak for others. Finding what is comfortable and doable for oneself is "best".

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers is offering a copy of this book as a giveaway! Please enter below:  (US only)


Author, illustrator, bookseller, and activist: Julie Rowan-Zoch grew up collecting freckles and chasing hermit crabs in NY, and spent years slicing rich breads in Germany before waking up to 300 days of blue Colorado skies. If she doesn’t answer the door, look in the garden! Julie is on Twitter @JulieRowanZoch, Instagram @JulieRowanZoch and her blog





45 comments:

  1. Looking forward to reading Louis. Thanks for the peek into your process.

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  3. Julie's background work is impressive, and intimidating! Coincidentally, I was also heavily influenced by Peanuts and Pogo ("We have met the enemy and he is us.") Thanks for this informative piece.

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  4. I love looking at any illustrations by G. Brian Karas. Simple genius always. Can't wait to see Louis on the shelves!

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  5. So excited for Julie! She is a wonderful artists, superb debut group partner, and LOUIS will make you laugh out loud! Enjoy!

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  6. I like your Venn comparison - the circles can vary in size depending on my current work/needs/interests! Bravo Julie!

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  7. I’ve been wanting to read this one! Congrats, Julie!

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  8. As an educator, I love the idea of using a graphic organizer—a Venn diagram for comparing and contrasting picture book mentor texts.

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  9. If I was judging books by their covers, as you described, I would place Louis on top! And I look forward to exploring inside the book as well.

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    1. Thank you, Claire! I also kept a diary of PBs read, but that didn’t last long - not even a week!

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  10. Congratulations on LOUIS! From what I've read about it, it has the feel of two other books that I absolutely adore...I Am a Thief by Abigail Raynor/Molly Rattan and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DeCamillo. I loved hearing which illustrators influenced you, Julie! This book looks AMAZING...sorry I missed shouting out when it launched earlier this month...but it's never too late to feature you/the book on my blog.

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  11. and what amazes me...well, besides LOUIS and a few other things...is that you remember so many of those PBs specifically!

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    1. Favorite blooms in the garden of my mind!

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    2. Sounds like you and Tara Luebbe have that in common. I often only recall books that knock my socks off. I often forget the details about books I've read and am left with how it made me feel.

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  12. Thank you. I just reserved LOUiS at my library.

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  13. I love your Venn diagram vs pie chart analogy. And I think that approach is useful to think about writing PBs and how different books influence the story of a new creation. When selecting comp titles, that may be a good way to think about them, too.

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  14. I'm so excited to read Louis! I've been loving the illustrations of Jerry Craft and Remi Lai.

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  15. Oh, my! Reading 100 PBs a week for three years and categorizing them the way you did> brilliant! Really enjoyed this interview with Julie and looking forward to reading LOUIS!

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  16. I’ll admit, I tossed a few aside pretty quickly - a good sign you’re learning to “read”!

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  17. I love the cover of LOUIS!It says, pick me up and see what's inside!

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  18. Looking forward to this one. Looks adorable!

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  19. Darling cover! I can't wait to read this one. Congrats!

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  20. Congratulations Julie :) I'm looking forward to reading LOUIS!

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  21. Great interview. And definitely a cover for the Favorites pile!

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  22. Great interview! Congrats, Julie! I can't wait to read LOUIS -- I requested it at my library.

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  23. I love getting an illustrator's perspective. (Also, just last week a friend mentioned that her teenagers were not familiar with the Peanuts cartoons. I was surprised and a little sad. It's neat that Schultz's work is still influencing artists like Julie.)

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  24. LOUiS is adorable Julie! Wonderful work!

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