Today’s illustrator, Julie Rowan-Zoch, and I share a linguistic passion, not simply the pleasure of speaking foreign languages but a passion for etymology, cultural expressions, semantics. I see this love of words in her written style, below, which I love.
- Illustrator or author/illustrator? Author/Illustrator
[JRZ] What’s your nationality and where have you lived? American (with a German brain (learned), Irish heart (inherited) and Italian stomach (choice)); born and raised on Long Island, NY; studied/lived in NYC, studied/lived in Northern Germany, now in Fort Collins, CO.
- Has any event/person/situation strongly influenced your art process?
[JRZ] Great art teachers: Fuller, Gabler and Newman, then my profs at FIT, esp. Eli Kince for Typography – 100-sketch homework assignments were common. I wish I could remember the name of my Life Drawing prof, but she was a feisty, petite and fearless molder of young minds! First day in class she said, “I bet you were the best art students at your schools. Guess what? High school is over, you’re starting out at the bottom here.” She yanked me out of my teenage ego and TAUGHT!
- Tell us a little of your beginnings as an artist.
[JRZ] Crayons and coloring books, gazillions of them. I remember a very young ‘aha’ moment when Mom helped me draw a gift card. My mom didn’t draw, but she tried and she had some ‘tricks’. That impressed on me that we are all artists – you only get better if you really want to.
- What is your favorite medium for your artwork?
[JRZ] Pencils first, I like the freedom that comes with an eraser! And after years of advertising and graphic design I learned to love the glide of a marker on smooth paper, and later the precision of digital work, though that is self-taught. I went to school with the dinosaurs, drawing type by hand. Having just started with watercolors I feel a new wave of creativity coming on. It is very frustrating to not have the tight control I am used to, but exactly that problem frees my mind in other ways, flowing into other areas – magical!
- When you create, what comes first pictures or text?
[JRZ] May sound weird, but both. After having read much by and about Temple Grandin, I now understand more about visual thinking. Everything I think of happens in pictures, so while I am writing I am seeing, then I transfer those images to paper. And, often enough, words and ideas form as I draw.
- Do you have some special almost unattainable ambitions as an illustrator?
[JRZ] I appreciate this question as I revel in discussions (German brain!). It is not possible to have any ambition while considering it unattainable – not for me, surely, but that probably applies to everyone. Dreams are rarely a question of I.Q. and always answered with ‘I will’.
- What books and/or illustrators influenced your childhood?
[JRZ] Books: Everything read to me, especially from our wonderfully inspiring elementary school librarian (Next to becoming Julius Irving, librarian was the first profession I aspired to). Later I suffered from what teacher’s dread, a lull in reading pleasure from 10 to18yrs. Artists: Chagall, Picasso, DaVinci (prints on the wall at home), Garth Williams, Joan Walsh Anglund, Charles Schultz, Roger Duvoisin, Maurice Sendalk – remembered from books on the shelf.
- What does your workspace look like?
[JRZ] With 972 sq. ft. of living space this is my shared desk for writing and digital work. Artwork sometimes gets done in bed (!), but mostly at the living room coffee table.
- Can you share a piece or two with us, and the process of producing them?
[JRZ] Just something simple: the illo for Rena Traxel’s poetry month for the word ‘empathy’. Drew in my sketchbook, scanned it, placed that file into Adobe Illustrator app, and sort of trace with new lines (with anchors to adjust curves) created by dragging the mouse. (I want a Wacom tablet real bad!). I join some lines, creating objects, which can be filled with color. Surely this process is archaic, as is the app version I have, but I never did take a class. I like to think my digi-work remains unique because of it! Silly old bag!
Here is a watercolor ‘lesson’: I look at picture books (read approx 75-100/wk – no joke), choose an watercolor illustration to emulate (in this case from Valeri Gorbachev), then draw freehanded with a pencil onto a postcard size block of watercolor paper, use my kids’ set of Prang colors and fine line markers, and give it a go!.
- What has 12×12 brought to your illustration and writing?
Incredible joy! From the unexpected support and education, I am soaked with energy and motivation. Daily FB contact acts like an electric outlet, just plug-in for more! The otherwise depressing and frustrating task of self-discipline seems effortless now. Not just from knowing others are ‘out there’ at their desks, but from knowing them. And because I like to talk about the process, it is refreshing, like water in the desert, to have others who like to do that too.
- Five Fun Ones to Finish?
- What word best sums you up?
- If you could live anywhere for a season, where would you go?
[JRZ] Mallorca (not the tourist areas!)
- What do you do for non-art related relaxation?
[JRZ] Gardening, reading NF, talking with friends over a beer, watching films (penchant for British classics)
- Cats or dogs?
[JRZ] I love both so much I couldn’t bear their eyes (esp. dogs) on leaving the house – so no pets of our own, but we do sit for and spoil others!
- If you could spend a day with one children’s book character, with whom would that be?
[JRZ] Hands down – Pippi Longstocking!
I have to confess I have never read Pippi! I absolutely love your “I will” attitude, Julie, and it’s going to carry you far. If I ever get to have you over for dinner, I will be sure to knock up some lasagne or gnocchi for you! Do you play scrabble in German? Love your bunnies with the kids’ watercolors! Thank you so much for sharing with us today and to you success!
PS I am very honored to be interviewed about SNOW GAMES on Darshana’s blog today, Flowering Minds.