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