Melissa Seymour: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for speaking with us today. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Elizabeth Zunon: I am a children’s book illustrator, working mostly in oil paint and collage. I love bright colors, funky patterns, and hearing stories about people and their passions. I lived in the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), West Africa, where my Dad is from, until I was twelve years old, and many of the books I have illustrated take place in Africa.
MS: When did you know you were an artist? Did you draw as a child?
EZ: I think I always knew I was an artist- I’ve loved to draw, paint, color, create, and use my imagination ever since I was a child. I knew I was an artist maybe the first time that I drew something and felt very proud of it.
MS: How did you get involved in illustrating picture books? What do you love about them?
EZ: I studied Illustration in college at the Rhode island School of Design. After that, I submitted my portfolio to book publishers in New York, all the while attending author/illustrator conferences and events. Eventually I met my agent, who has helped me get published! I’d always loved the format of picture books, having being read to by my Mom and grandmother as a child (and loving to watch “Reading Rainbow” on TV!). I love that the images in a picture book often tell a story all on their own without the words, and the words of course tell a story, but when you use both words and images together, the depth of the story is reinforced into one complete and very unique package.
MS: What’s your favorite type of picture book? Why are you drawn to it?
EZ: My favorite type of picture book is non-fiction, because I love learning about real places and real people I might never get to experience in person.
MS: What’s your process for creating picture book illustrations? Do the characters appear in your mind or does it take some work to create them?
EZ: The characters are usually the first thing to appear in my mind when I read a manuscript. I feel if I can see them, if I can draw them, it helps me get to know them and try to put myself in their shoes. I plot out the picture book into a storyboard first, where I doodle and play around to figure out which images will go on which pages. Next, I look for reference images of certain things in the story, like clothing, houses or animals. Sometimes I take photos of myself to use as reference, posing in various situations from the story. Then, I create larger drawings, one for each page of the book, with more detail, and transfer my drawings on to the final paper I will paint them on. Finally, I break out the oil paint and get to work! Sometimes, once my paint is dry, I will add collage elements of cut paper onto the illustration.
MS: What motto do you live by?
EZ: “Don’t worry about it. Just do what you do- And do it good.”- Bill Withers
MS: Who is your hero/heroine?
EZ: Hmm… I admire many different people, artists, musicians… I would say my hero/heroine is anyone who pursues their passion.
Check out more of Elizabeth Zunon’s work here: http://lizzunon.com/