Wednesday, July 30, 2014

blog tour

Meet Liz Zunon

Last fall at the Autumn Leaves Book Fair in Glens Falls New York, I spent the day seated next to Elizabeth Zunon, a lovely young illustrator whose table was strewn with an impressive array of picture books including My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood JourneyA President from Hawai'i, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (winner of the 2013 Children's Africana Book Award). At the time Liz was looking forward to meeting William Kamkwamba, the actual boy who actually harnessed the wind, at an upcoming event in DC. Impressive.

Liz invited me to participate in a tour of illustrators' blogs, in which featured artists answer a series of interview questions. Despite a crazy summer schedule, of course I said YES, so, here we are! Welcome to the tour.


Interview: Violet Lemay


On what am I currently working?

For legal reasons, I'm not at liberty to say. (Ha! I've always wanted to work that line into a conversation.)

Publishers are very fussy about keeping their upcoming titles a secret. I can tell you this, tho: Two books that I illustrated last winter are just now being released. 

Texas Baby and Brooklyn Baby are part of an on-going series of Local Baby Books I've been illustrating for my favorite publisher, duopress, since we got the ball rolling with New York Baby back in 2012.

The image above—which is one of my all-time favorite creations—is from Brooklyn Baby.

Besides illustrating, I am also the art director at duopress, a job that keeps me extremely busy. Last season I provided art direction not only for Texas Baby and Brooklyn Baby, but for two other books as well:

Baby Loves Sports, A High-Contrast Action Book (duopress/2014), illustrated by Rey David Garcia, designed by Yours Truly; and PARK, A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons (duopress/2014), illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock, designed by Beatriz Juarez. Both are excellent new concepts and I'm proud to have been a part of them. To read more about PARK, click here.

This spring I was extremely busy on three large projects, none of which have been published yet, so I can't tell you much about them. A hint: two of them involve cats, which I absolutely love to draw.

This little guy is a snippet from my website—he's not a part of the projects I just mentioned, but probably helped me get those jobs!

Currently I am swimming in an ocean of very fun illustration projects, none of which I can tell you about specifically yet (I really can't!), so stay tuned.

How is my work different from others in my genre?

My work is *me*, no matter how hard I try to make it look more like the work of other artists whose portfolios I admire. (I know a lot of illustrators and I think most of us are sensitive and yes, even a little neurotic—always presuming that everyone else is better.) Perhaps my images are a bit edgy when compared to most other picture book artists. I think my pictures have a nostalgic air about them, a quality that I actually enjoy. :-)

When I was young I was a theater designer, then I worked for over a decade as an editorial illustrator (I still make editorial art from time to time), and also did fashion-based work. All of those experiences continue to affect the look of my art. I can't help it, and that's a good thing! If not, all of our art would look the same.

Why do I illustrate what I do?

This one is easy to answer: I am so busy that, usually, I illustrate what I'm assigned to illustrate. I'm almost always on a deadline, with little time to spare. When I have free time I create art for my portfolio that features things I'd like to be paid to do—like the cats! (See above.) But that doesn't happen very often because usually, I'm just too pressed for time.

How does my illustration process work?

I start by thinking about the project, both directly and also in a more dreamy, absent-minded way. I think for as long as my schedule will allow—which looks a lot like procrastination, but is a very important part of the process. Then I sketch ideas with a regular old #2 pencil on paper that I grab from my printer's tray. Not very fancy. And at first, everything looks like a big mess.

Then I scan all of my sketches (the Big Mess), open the scans in Photoshop, and spend hours—days—playing with them, moving stuff around, resizing and distorting objects and shapes until I come up with a few compositions that I like.

Here are two initial rough options that I presented to duopress for the Brooklyn Baby image featured at the top of this post.

We chose the second option, which I had to refine quite a bit before moving to final, because we ended up using a similar composition (close-up view of two baby faces) for a different spread in the book.

After sketches are approved, if I'm painting, I use graphite paper to transfer the drawing into an Arches watercolor block (hot pressed), if I'm painting with watercolor. I work in other mediums too—for example, I am currently painting a book project with acrylic paint on canvas paper—so it depends. I also work digitally, a process that's a bit less traditional and is therefore more complicated. For a quick look at my digital process, click here.

This concludes your visit at Violet Lemay Illustration. To keep the tour going...

Meet Alice Feagan

Illustrator Alice Feagan works in cut paper collage, which she assembles traditionally and digitally. Her playful creations can be found in children's books, magazines such as National Geographic Kids, educational products and games. Her newest book School Days Around the World will be released by Kids Can Press in the Spring of 2015. She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her finacé and their two dogs.

Click here to get to Alice's awesome blog.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tooning In: Ring of Fire

Tonight was a blast from my past—and in general, simply a blast!

Here's the thing: before I was an illustrator, I was a costume and set designer. Only God knows how much of my youth I spent in the dark, prowling the catwalks or sitting in a mostly empty theater "house" with a notepad during tech rehearsals. After an absence of more than twenty years, tonight, at the invitation of Jenny Hutchinson of LARAC (Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council), I was back in the catwalks of a local theater. What a treat!

I met Jenny in February in Glens Falls NY at Art in the Public Eye's Go APE for Art! small works show, in which we both participated. Jenny, a talented artist (who is the Gallery Curator and Program and Shop Coordinator for LARAC), slipped me her card and invited me to participate in 'Tooning In, a theater sketching event she was organizing for LARAC, which was scheduled for the summer. At the time we were in the middle of a harsh upstate New York winter—summer seemed an eternity away. But here we are, at the end of July already!

'Tooning In came to upstate New York via Christopher Baldwin, a sequential artist whose work can be seen in MAD magazine (and whose first book, Little Dee, will be out soon). He took the idea from the Portland Opera and adapted it with the help of Jenny and others here in New York State for the Adirondack Theater Festival. The basic idea is that artists attend dress rehearsals at which they sketch like crazy. The resulting art is displayed and sold, gallery-style, in the lobby of the theater. 

Many area artists were asked to participate, and there were several productions from which to choose. I signed up to sketch Ring of Fire, a review of the music of Johnny Cash, because I am a die-hard fan! Tonight was the last dress rehearsal before tomorrow night's preview performance. The show opens Friday night—and if you live anywhere near the Wood Theater in Glens Falls, New York, you need to be there! The show is fantastic, and absolutely family-friendly. If you go, look for my art in the lobby... I sketched as many of the cast as I could from my once-familar perch in the catwalk.