Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!
Where we celebrate new books by Michigan's children's book authors and illustrators
Congratulations to Lori McElrath Eslick on the release of her new book, GOODNESS GRACIOUS: A GRATITUDE BOOK FOR CHILDREN!
Q#1: Congratulations on your latest book, Goodness Gracious, A Gratitude Book For Children! Like all of your work, the illustrations are gorgeous and add so much life and movement to the book. Other than the text, what inspired your illustrations?
I am a grateful person! And so this was a book for me, waiting to happen. Often I paint for me as a way to be grateful, but this picture book gave me an opportunity to allow kids to get into illustration/paintings in order to enhance the gratefulness story/words of this manuscript. To inspire me, prior to painting, I have a page of 'inspiring paintings' on Pinterest, and this is a go to now prior to painting. It is not current trends in illustration, just masterful paintings. By known to me artists, and unknown to me artists. This jazzes me up to paint too...to look at inspiring paintings.
Q#2: When did you discover your passion for painting? Has is evolved at all?
I discovered my passion for painting way back in college as an illustration instructor coined it for me, he said, after I did my first painting in oils, "You look to me like a painter." It was one of my last assignments in illustation so I didn't have extra help with learning anything about this painting with oils thing. Of course when an illustration instructor says this, you listen. However, at the time I didn't know the difference: illustration was drawing and then painting, up to this point for me was watercolors. But the juiciness of paint, like oils was contagious (for me). I wasn't formally taught how to paint with oils, just used a set that I found of my Dads which was collecting dust in the basement, unused, he received it as a gift when he was young and I did learn from my dad to never throw anything away. Can you say: packrat? So I think of myself as self taught with oils. And I am grateful that I found that set, but didn't work in oils until later in life. As my first job out of Kendall College was at Hallmark Cards, as a greeting card artist. When we artists there worked on assignment we didn't have time to work with a slow drying medium such as oils. But I did take that set of paints with me, and found some time to explore painting on my own time. And the paintings of my early after work hours started to grow.
Q#3: How did you become involved in illustrating children's books?
My very first book, came as a freelance job while an art student. NISHNAWBE, A STORY OF MICHIGAN INDIANS was a job that illustration professors approached 2 other candidates to interview for this. I did and I got to illustrate this in black and white: Pen and ink, which happened to be what I did a lot in art college. My portfolio was full of this. However when I interviewed with Hallmark I had added watercolors and of course the one or two oils. And my second book came as I'd sent out a Hallmark watercolor cards to publishers. The creative director who approached me received a watercolor Christmas card I'd painted, since Hallmark had the name printed on the backs of Christmas cards, he found me. I have illustrated many books now in watercolor and oils, in fact my latest book was done in oils. Oh, the question was how did I become involved? Oops...I did love working on that first book, so I send my postcards of the books to other publisher's art directors and editors. I still do this. See your illustration co-chairs to participate in 4 out the door!
Q#4: Can you share your process for illustrating a book?
My typical process is to read and re-read the manuscript often and get an overall sense of the book. And this helps me to size up my 'voice' what I can and should 'add' or 'say' which helps the story. I will use my sketchbook to jot down visual thoughts/sketches. I also Storyboard in this way too. Sometimes the storyboard takes several directions...and this is good. More ideas help rather than zeroing in on one, initially. From there I will photograph or use my existing photos to draw from. The drawings will take some time, as an illustrator wishes to get across the most information in drawings prior to the final art as possible. Once the drawings are finished and approved, I can take more exacting photos. But when kids are involved, I love to be able to let them be themselves and forget about the camera, as this helps me to make the paintings authentic. And fun! My paintings will begin with a freehand drawing on the gessoed illustration board, or watercolor paper. I wish to make the paintings as esthetically pleasing as I can, if I overwork this part of the process with exacting drawings, I loose some heart in the final paintings. To keep this whole painting process fun for me, helps to make the surprising events that happen in a painting also fun for the viewer. Usually I will start an oil painting with a unifying color... and this color will sometimes peek through the areas that I let it. I paint a rough underpainting as when you paint a plein air work, you work to go from rough shapes to more and more refined. Almost like a scuptor will work to 'find the person who is bound up inside a marble chunk'. See the Bound Slaves of Michelangelo. OMG!!! Please reader don't judge me for putting a reference to Michelangelo in my description of my art process! I am smiling about this, but as a teacher wanna be, I love to also point people towards ART History as much as possible. As we didn't invent the wheel here! Cannot even imagine painting like he did, with the Sistine Chapel, on his back, with no photo reference!!!
Q#5: If you had one piece of advice to give to a new illustrator, what would it be?
Look at ART History. Not necessarily just current events, or current techniques. What came before is rich with what children and our society needs to be reminded of: Art importance. That said, Degas, O'Keefe, Michelangelo, Monet, Cassatt, vanGogh, Kalo, all teach us so much about voice. What art can say, even thought they are not current trend-ready, they are always relevant. What can we, all illustrators can and should learn from them. Illustration is art, as they are all artists and have illustrated individual points of view.
A little bit about the book:
Help children cultivate a practice of gratitude and a sense of wonder for the world around them with Goodness Gracious: A Gratitude Book for Children. Meaningful, sweet, and sometimes downright silly, Kathleen A. Green’s “thankful thoughts,” her kid-friendly term for expressions of gratitude, help children say thank you for all aspects of their lives, from the earth and their families to their pets, teachers, and even mac and cheese! Perfect for children ages 3–8.
Check out Lori's bio and work on her website! https://www.eslickart.com/bio.shtml