Friday, February 22, 2008

Elizabeth Dulemba's Book Blog Tour for Paco

Elizabeth Dulemba has a new book out! It is called Paco and the Giant Chili Plant and has been touring the blogosphere for the last few days. I am happy to be hosting the tour today.

First, a few things about Elizabeth. She likes to be called "e", but don't be fooled by that little letter, she is a big letter talent! Her illustrations are always beautifully drawn with exciting points of view and amazing color. I've known "e" for several years through emails and various list serves, so we were already friends when roomed together a few weeks ago at Kindling Words. As well as being a great illustrator she is also an amazing writer and while at Kindling Words, I had the great fortune to read the first chapter of a novel (her second) that she is working on. I can't wait to read the rest of it!

Along with Paco, e has several other books that she has illustrated coming out this year which you can read about at her website,

Recently, e took a little time out of her crazy busy schedule to answer a few questions about
Paco and her work.

1. Tell me a little bit about how you work-- Is everything digital? Do you sketch on paper or digitally?

I sketch by hand onto regular drawing paper, can't seem to duplicate that free feeling digitally. (I use a mechanical pencil with a decent lead and keep a magic rub eraser close by.) Usually my sketched elements are all over the place and drawn every which way, so I scan them into my computer and arrange and clean up my compositions in Photoshop. Once the sketches have been approved, I lay in flat color to figure out the basic feel, color palette and mood lighting. Then I pull it into Painter where I do all my rendering. That's the time consuming part.

2. What did you enjoy most about working on Paco?

I love that Paco is a Jack Tale (an adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk"), I have a thing for those. And I love being able to introduce Jack to the Latino community as Paco. I did a lot of research to get the feel of the Chihuahuan desert just right using warm colors and light. I also loved learning Spanish. (I've been taking lessons for over a year now in anticipation of Paco's release.)

3. I love that Paco is a Jack Tale too -- It is so fun to see a cultural variation on a classic tale. Taking that same approach, what classic story would you most love to illustrate and what culture would you like to place it in?

I'm actually working on an adaptation of another old Appalachian tale right now. I'd really like to do a Jack Tale as I seem to keep coming back to those in my life. As far as geography, honestly, the story tells me where it wants to be more than the other way around. I just listen!

4. What was your favorite book when you were little?

The Golden Book of Elves and Faeries illustrated by Garth Williams. I would sit and stare at it for hours, and then go looking for the faeries in my yard. Later I became enthralled with Brian Froud's Gnomes and Faeries books. I actually made a little bed (sheets and everything) which I hid in my closet. I left a note on it saying, "If any Gnomes sleep here tonight, please leave the bed unmade so I know you were here." But they kept making up the bed, dagnabbit.

5. If you could spend a day in any illustrator's studio, living or dead, looking over their shoulder, who would it be?

I suppose Maxfield Parrish for painting technique and Brian Froud for drawing technique. And I'd love to go back and watch any of the masters work. There's so much technique they used that we don't today. (Especially working digitally!) I've really enjoyed (and learned a lot from) James Gurney's blog as he addresses a lot of the classic methods.

6. Describe a typical day in your life.

Ha! No such thing. Although I am usually in front of my computer by 7:30 going through emails and following news in the children's publishing world. I try to work out somewhere in there, and spend the biggest chunk of my day writing or illustrating depending on my deadlines at the time. I spend a lot of time marketing as well. I work at home (love, love, love my office) but leave to have lunch with friends, run errands, or go to Spanish class. On Spanish days, I get home about nine o'clock then collapse. Other days I'll keep working until my hubbie gets home or the doggies won't leave me alone. If hubbie is working late (he's in his busy season right now) I just keep working until bed time (or until my eyes refuse to focus any longer).

7. What has been your proudest moment so far in your illustration career?

I was named the 2007 Grand Prize W.I.N.NER for an illustration from my dummy "Lula's Brew." I even have a trophy, the first in my life. I still smile every time I see it (it's displayed prominently in our hallway). Although, that moment fights powerfully with the first time I saw a little girl (who I didn't know) enjoying my first book. I almost cried.

8. As well as being a wonderful illustrator, you are also a fabulous writer. How do you balance the two? Do you ever feel torn between the stories you want to write and the stories you want to illustrate?

Thanks! I don't balance the two at all. I feel like I have two muses in my head fighting for all my time. I just try to work as much as I can to keep them satisfied, but I definitely feel torn. I don't have time to create dummies the way I used to and I have several projects begging for attention. It's what gets me out of bed each morning, rarin' to go!

9. Is your career turning out as you had planned or has it taken any interesting and surprising detours?

I have to say this career is turning out completely unlike what I expected. The internet has made it much more social than the writer/illustrator life used to be. And the public aspect is just bizarre. I love talking to kids and crowds, thank goodness, but I wasn't expecting the publicity. I thought I'd just be locked in a room somewhere creating and every now and then I'd come out for some nice dinners with my peers. Wowsa, was I in for a surprise!

10. What was the first moment you realized you had made it as an illustrator?

I've been a corporate in-house illustrator most of my life, but I attribute the moment I felt like a "real" illustrator to my trip to New York for the SCBWI portfolio show a few years ago. When I went through school, illustrators still had to pound the pavement in NY to get work (pre-internet) and I knew I wouldn't feel bona fide until I did it too. It was a profound moment for me. I returned home feeling like I'd crossed a threshold, even if it was mostly symbolic.

11. What haven't you done yet that you would like to?

I haven't seen my name on the cover of a book as author and then as author/illustrator . . . yet. (I'm still working towards that one.) I haven't earned an MFA and taught at the college level . . . yet. I haven't learned to speak several languages fluently . . . yet (I scrape by with French and Spanish). I haven't lived in another country . . . yet. But I expect to do all these things and more . . . soon!

Thanks "e"!

To see all of the previous stops on the tour, check out these links!

Monday: Kim Norman's Stone Stoop!
Kim is the author of "Jack of all Tails" and shares a great recipe for Tasty Tortilla Snowflakes!!

Tuesday: Barbara Johansen Newman's Cat n' Jammers Studio. Barb wrote and illustrated "Tex & Sugar."

Wednesday: Janee Trasler's Art & Soul. Janee's latest book is "Ghost EAts It All!"

Thursday: Ruth McNally Barshaw, creator of "Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel!" (If you like "Diary of a Whimpy Kid," you'll love Ellie!)

Friday: Kerry Madden, author of "Jessie's Mountain," the thrid installment in her Maggie Valley trilogy (read about it here.)

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