Magic Tree House
Junie B. Jones
“My job is one of the most creative and expressive things I can imagine doing. . . . I love making things look beautiful.”–Lizzy Rockwell
Lizzy Rockwell illustrations have been seen in magazines, on book jackets, and in children's books for many years. She studied art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has taught illustration there. Lizzy is also the author and illustrator of Good Enough to Eat: A Kid's Guide to Food and Nutrition, Hello Baby!, and The Busy Body Book: A Kid's Guide to Fitness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
How do you illustrate a picture book?
First I read the manuscript, which is the story before it is made into a book. Then I make small thumbnail sketches to help me figure out what I will draw on each page. This helps me to get the picture that is inside my head onto paper as quickly and directly as possible.
I then make a 32-page dummy by folding and stapling together eight large sheets of paper. Next, I trim the paper to be the actual size of the book. In my dummy I tape the words into place and then draw the pictures. I don't worry about it being messy because the dummy is a good place for me to make mistakes and solve problems.
After the dummy is looked at by the editor and art director at the publishing company, and changes are suggested, I start to make finished artwork. I draw on see-through tracing paper so that I am free to make more mistakes and corrections. When my drawing is perfect, I trace it onto watercolor paper using a lightbox. Now I work very carefully and slowly so that I don't make any mistakes as I color in the pictures. I use opaque watercolor paints called gouache and colored pencils. I put down flat areas of color and then give them details with colored pencil. This takes a long time, but is fun. When I have finished every picture in the book, which takes several months, I deliver them to the publisher so that they can have the book printed and bound together and sent off to book stores.
Where do you work?
I have a studio in town near my home in Norwalk, CT. My studio has two drawing tables, a flat shelving unit where I store my pads, papers and all artwork in progress, and lots of book shelves. I also have a CD player, a copier, a fax machine, an electric pencil sharpener, special lamps, my lightbox, and a file cabinet. My art supplies are stored on the various shelves in the room. The computer that I use to write is in the living room of my home.
Who is Anne Rockwell?
You will notice that Anne Rockwell is the author of many of the books that I have illustrated. She is also my mother! She has been writing and illustrating children's books since I was born. She has published books on many different subjects, ranging from Greek myths to fire engines, original stories to historical biographies, and she is working on several more at this moment. When my father, Harlow Rockwell, was alive he was an illustrator also. He and my mother collaborated on many wonderful books for children. Now I have the privilege of carrying on that family tradition.
Where did you learn to be an illustrator?
I probably learned most of what I know about being an illustrator from my parents. Their studio was in our house and I could always look in on them and see what they were working on. There were plenty of art materials around the house and my brother, sister, and I were always encouraged to be creative and to express our ideas. When I grew older, my mom taught me a lot about making a dummy and telling a story with pictures. My dad taught me a lot about drawing and painting. I also learned from my teachers in public school, college, and art school. I love to study pictures in my favorite children's books, the great paintings made by artists throughout history, and drawings by children. My sons Nigel and Nicholas are both amazing artists and I love to look at their pictures and learn from them.
How long have you been an artist?
I have been an artist all my life, but I have been an illustrator since the 1980s. I illustrated my first children's book in 1989. That book is called Apples and Pumpkins. It was written by my mother and is about visiting a farm to pick apples and pumpkins, which was an outing I took with my family every fall as a child.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get a lot of ideas from my two children, Nicholas and Nigel, by seeing what they are interested in and how they learn. I spend time with school children because I am a parent, but I also visit classrooms as an author/illustrator and I volunteer as a classroom helper at a local preschool. I try to see the world through a child's eyes. I appreciate how fascinating the world looks to them; that everything is new and worth learning more about. I like to write about things that are interesting and hard to explain, like how the body works in Good Enough to Eat and The Busy Body Book or what a young child might wonder about when his mother is pregnant in Hello Baby!.
I notice that most of my ideas and solutions come to me when I am just falling asleep or just waking up. Driving in the car is also a good place for getting ideas. Sometimes sitting down and staring at a blank piece of paper is the worst way to get an idea.
What do you like best about your job?
My job is one of the most creative and expressive things I can imagine doing. I love carrying on my parent's tradition in children's books. I love the challenge of coming up with solutions to problems. I love doing the research involved in making pictures and writing books. I love making things look beautiful. I love the fact that my work is worthwhile and makes a difference in the lives of children.
I am also grateful that I have a job which allows me so much time with my family. I get to see my boys when they come home from school.
What else do you like to do?
I like to be with my husband and boys, cook dinners for lots of people, tend to my garden, go camping, read, walk my dog in the woods, look for seashells, paddle a kayak, listen to music, talk to my friends, make jokes, watch movies, watch birds, make cakes, practice yoga, visit family, celebrate holidays, go to museums, and see new places. It does seem as though there's never enough time in a day or a year to do all the things I like to do!
“The artwork really shines, as Rock-well captures both the skinny helplessness and surprising individuality of a newborn. Readers who have already welcomed a new baby into their home will enjoy remembering the events portrayed here while future siblings will gain insight into what's in store for them.”–School Library Journal, Starred
“In a refreshing departure from other books about siblings . . . the approach of this text is optimistic, reflected in Rockwell's bright, cheerful illustrations. An upbeat, encouraging account.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Rockwell integrates a factual approach and a down-home quality. . . . Emphasis and proportion accurately reflect a happy child's point of view.”–Publishers Weekly
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