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Interview with PB Artist Elizabeth Dulemba

Dulemba-candid200pElizabeth O. Dulemba

When did you get started illustrating for children? What did you do before?

I dove into this business in August 2001 – right before 9/11. The book market crashed as a result and my timing couldn’t have been worse. But dreams don’t tend to consider these things when they grab your hand and run off with you.

Tell us a little bit about the recent picture book you wrote and illustrated, SOAP, SOAP, SOAP JABON, JABON, JABON.

Soap-250-bilingThis is my first picture book as both author and illustrator – just took seven years! Soap is an adaptation of a classic Appalachian Folktale and my second book with Raven Tree Press. They were thrilled with the first book I illustrated with them, Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante, and asked me to come up with a follow-up. But Paco wouldn’t stay Paco – he moved ahead to present day and became a young boy named Hugo. The entire journey with this story has been a blast.

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I understand the book is bilingual. Do you speak Spanish? Are there any noticeable differences from an English only book format?

Paco-400When I got the contract for Paco, I started taking intense Spanish lessons at the Latin American Association in Atlanta. There was no way I was going to have a bilingual book and not speak the language! I’m not fluent yet, but I can get by.

There’s a lot of redundancy in the text in the bilingual version so that a reader can learn meanings through context. That redundancy was toned down in the English version. It was very important to me that each version be able to stand on its own as a strong story – I hope they do that.

What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?

I am currently illustrating The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia written by Susan R. Spain for Sterling Publishers. It’s been a lot of fun to research all the fun locations in Georgia – I’ve rediscovered my own state!

I’m also writing a new novel and have several picture books and my first novel being shopped by my agent.

Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?

Bookworm-smMy focus has always been children’s art – even in my graphic design days. I don’t know if my coloring pages http://dulemba.com/index_ColoringPages.html would count as something different? Scrapbookers and crafters have found them and seem to love them, although I create them mostly for librarians, parents and book sellers to share with their children.

Do you illustrate full time? If not, what else do you do?

I mostly write and illustrate full time. I’ve been very lucky in that respect. Although, I also do a good bit of public speaking at conferences, schools and events, and some teaching like at the John C. Campbell Folk School where I teach “Creating Picture Books.” Luckily, I enjoy everything about this crazy career.

When you illustrate a picture book how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?

Sometimes the images jump out at me. If not, I try to focus on a key emotional connection occurring in the text, either in plot or between characters. I also try to play up perspective in an interesting way.

When illustrating picture books do you include a visual storyline not mentioned by the text or include animals or people you know?

Oh yes! In The Prince’s Diary there are two mice getting into trouble throughout the story. And in all my books, my dog Bernie makes an appearance. Sometimes he’s easy to find, sometimes not so much, but he’s always there.

Can you explain your art process?

I often sketch by hand, scanning in separate elements and then arrange the composition in Photoshop. There I do color studies or lay in the basic colors. I then import the piece into Painter where I apply shading and painterly effects. Although in this new book I’ll be experimenting solely in Photoshop. Should be fun.

My portfolio can be seen at http://dulemba.com/index_illos.html.

Do you have a favorite color or palette?

I think everybody has a personal color palette. These aren’t necessarily your favorite colors, they’re just colors you continuously gravitate towards in your art or decorating or clothing. My color palette is lime green, teal, and orange, and they pop up throughout my art.

As far as a favorite color – I tend to be more of a green person rather than a blue person (I tend to think people are one or the other), but I do love mosses and smoky teals.

What is your favorite medium to work in? Have you always worked in this media? If not, why did you switch?

Digital is my chosen medium, but I only claimed it about 6-7 years ago. Before that computers just weren’t up to the task. I used markers and colored pencils (the quick tools of graphic design) but I could never get the rich colors and textures I wanted. I have never claimed to be a painter – I never learned how to mix colors with ease – but with the computer I can really spread my wings.

Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?

Yup. There was never any question what I was going to be. What type of artist was the question. I was lucky to have a strong support system around me as I tried to figure it out.

Do you use models/source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?

I tend to start from imagination first – always have. But once I have the idea of what I want I sometimes look at photos to figure out the specifics of things. I’ve found that if I rely too heavily on photos, my art turns out incredibly flat and lifeless. I prefer the wonky ideas and perspectives my brain comes up with.

If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?

Well, a writer too, but I’m already working on that. If I wasn’t either, I’d probably be a teacher. I love sharing and helping others figure out what their passion or talent is.

What gets you through an illustration when you’re stuck for inspiration?

I put it off. Ha! Truly, I’ll work around it. If it’s part of a book, I’ll do other spreads first. If it’s a one-time illustration, I do a lot of sketches. I’ve found that just putting it in my head helps. It simmers in there somewhere and I can usually come up with something when I come back to it after some down time.

What book do you remember from when you were young? (list one or multiple books)

The Golden Book of Elves and Fairies, illustrated by Garth Williams. It was my mother’s book and then it was mine. The binding is in shreds from all the hours I sat staring at the illustrations as a kid. The images were magical and sucked me in completely. I always strive for my art to do that as well.

Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (list one or multiple illustrators)

There are so many! But right now I’m especially enjoying Adam Rex, Patricia Cantor, Anton Petrov, Brandon Dorman, LeUyen Pham, John Rocco, and Richard Johnson.

If you could illustrate any writer’s new work, who would it be?

Oh wow – that’s a tough one. There are so many writers whose work I truly respect. The first ones who come to mind though – Carmen Deedy, I love the stories she chooses. Charles Gigna (Father Goose) – I love his poems. Ironically, a lot of the books I’d like to illustrate are coming out of my truly talented author friends – I’d love to put illustrations to their words.

Who do you want to be when you ‘grow up’?

Do I have to? I seem to have avoided it okay so far…

Thank you for sharing your time with us, Elizabeth! Good luck with your new books.

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3 thoughts on “Interview with PB Artist Elizabeth Dulemba”

  1. It never occured to me that you would have a lot of repetition in the bilingual version, but that makes sense. I think you accomplished your goal of each book being able to stand alone. Well done!

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