- Illustrator or author/illustrator?
[CER] Pre-pubbed author/illustrator, but I love working with other writers, too!
- What’s your nationality and where have you lived?
[CER] Born and raised in the USA, mostly Irish with a generous splash of English and Italian. Basically, I’m a freckle-faced mutt with a fondness for beer, wine and starchy foods.
- Tell us a little of your beginnings as an artist.
[CER] In high school, my dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was dying. When he passed, I missed him terribly. Sad and angry, I had a hard time relating to the other kids in my class and went from being an athlete and good student with high marks to having almost zero interest in sports or academics. I had four poems published in my schools literary journal, but my grades were dribble.
My art teacher played a huge part in pulling me through. I would miss a lot of class time and spent most of my study hall and gym sessions in the art studio. Many times, I would skip the majority of the day and only show up at the end of it for my art class.
Unlike the other teachers, he didn’t hand me a detention or report me to the principle. He just allowed me to work out my pain through drawing, painting and pottery. I think he was just happy that I wasn’t doing drugs and showed an interest in something. He capitalized on that and it was art therapy at its best. Eventually, he nudged me towards turning my grades around and getting into college. I will always be grateful for his compassion, wisdom and talent.
On a lighter note, I always loved, loved books of all kinds and Disney movies. The magic poured from them and definitely sparked my early interests in art and words.
- What is your favorite medium for your artwork?
[CER] I’m a digital diva and work mostly with watercolor and chalk/conte mediums, plus various pencils and ink. When working traditionally, I love watercolor pencils.
- Has any encounter/event in your life has a significant impact on your art?
[CER] When I got pregnant with my first daughter, I was working as a nurse in a cancer center. I loved it, but I loved being home with my daughter more and was lucky enough that I could do that. I had always kept a journal and wrote poetry, but now the voices in my head were finding their way onto the pages, too and soon I had written several PB’s, a chapter book series and a few rough draft MG novels. I began researching, polishing and learning as much as I could about publishing and the children’s writing world. Life was wonderful, I spent my days playing in the sun with my little one and my nights tapping away on my computer.
Soon we were expecting our second baby. Our little girl Charlie was on her way. At our 18 week appointment we were happily discussing Charlie’s birth plan with our OB. I had a previous emergency c-section, so this one would be planned. Charlie was due right around Christmas and the doctor set her latest arrival date for the 22nd and promised he would have us both home safe and sound on Christmas Eve before the big guys arrival. We were over-joyed.
Seconds later everything changed when the doctor realized I was dilated, my cervix was very weak and giving out. I spent weeks in the hospital trying to save her. I cherished every kick and watched her peacefully suck her thumb on the daily ultrasound and listened to sweet sound of her heart. We lost our battle and she was born too early, she lived and died in my arms at 20 weeks old. She was beautiful with big eyes, sweet lips and tiny piano-friendly fingers.
Again I turned to art to pull me through, soon image after image of angels landed on my sketchbook pages, all my dreams for her poured into my artwork. Sometime had passed and we were once again blessed with the safe arrival of my son, before I knew it humor found its way on to the pages too and I was healing.
I had made a promise to Charlie to live my life full of hope and wonder with passion in my heart and a fire in my soul, the way I imagined she would have lived her life, too. I knew then the only way to do that would be to pursue my dream of becoming a children’s writer and an illustrator.
My children are my life-changing event and their impact on my art is huge. Once, I realized how much I needed art, the way it weaved itself into my life in so many ways. The way it heals. I knew I had to put aside any self-doubt. I had to dig in deep and have the courage to live the life that I always wanted. Life impacted my art and art impacted my life. I count myself lucky.
- Do you have themes/characters that you return again and again to in your art?
[CER] I think in some ways most of my characters are always a hair mischievous.
- What books and/or illustrators influenced your childhood?
[CER] I still have my copy of Charlotte’s Web and absolutely adore Dr. Suess and anything by Judy Blume.
- What does your workspace look like?
[CER] This is my tiny, nook in the corner of our kitchen. I use two screens to help me view multiple images at once and keep character/color consistency etc. My biggest worry is that my son will sneeze baby food on my computer or my daughter will take her crayons to my tablet. I long for the day when I can build my studio in a sun room and have all the space to myself and my imagination.
- Can you share a piece or two with us, and the process of producing them?
[CER] This is an in-progress piece I am working on for uTales. It is not fully finished, I still have to add the text, check the layout overall and run it by my collaboration partner, Jodi Sousek. Plus, it has to pass through for approval by the uTales editorial team (fingers- crossed). So, it has a ways to go, but I am having a blast working on it. Jodi wrote a really fun rhyming story about a kid who is struggling with the “itchy scratchies” aka the chicken pox. This is what I have on my desktop currently.
In this scene, the boy is basically told by his mom that his condition is worsening and that he is not allowed to go out and play. In the picture, I have him leaning on a double-paned window-sill. He is sad, bored stiff and itchy on top of it. There is a still clock on the wall, symbolizing that time feels frozen to him and of course, he can’t keep his eyes off of it. He could care less about the talk radio chattering away in the background, while the flowers outside happily play in the sun coaxing him to join them, the one thing he can’t do.
I read the MS over and over again and let it simmer and stir for a long while before sketching on tracing paper and in my sketchbook. I decided on a loosely-inspired 1950’s theme and began fleshing out the characters and creating a strong sense of how they would interact with each other on the page. I filled out my smaller thumbnail template and than moved on to bigger, individual scene work to iron out the details. I didn’t scan any of the sketches, so I wasn’t overly careful, plus my style is sketchy and loose to begin with.
Once I began working digitally, I used my sketches as a visual guide only. I used Painter 12 and worked within multiple layers. It allowed me to make changes easily without disturbing the whole picture. In this double-paged spread, I used a combination of ink, pencil and conte for the line work, followed by a chalk/conte medium on textured paper for the rest. I wanted the whole thing to have a somewhat scratchy feel.
You don’t see it here, but the relationship the boy has with his grandma in the book is really fun and what drew me into wanting to work on this project. The boy ends up being cared for by his strict, no non-sense grandmother and is miserable. You don’t read it in the text, but through the illustrations I basically turned her into a complete germ-a-phobe adding another layer of conflict and humor to an already playful MS. It has been great fun and I hope you all get to read and see the finished project on uTales. 😀
- What has the 12×12 group added to your creative life?
[CER]I love being surrounded by other artist’s/writer’s with similar interests and goals, plus they are a wealth of invaluable information and inspiration. And, from time to time, I get to stop by and chat up some artsy, writerly peeps on some great blogs. 😀
Five Fun Ones to Finish?
- What word best sums you up?
[CER]To quote my husband “interesting” lol. Apparently, my hubby hasn’t figured me out, yet. We’ve known each other since the 6th grade. 😀
- If you could live anywhere for a season, where would you go?
[CER]Switzerland in the winter.
- What do you do for non-art related relaxation?
- Cats or dogs?
[CER] Love them both, but neither – severe asthma and allergies for me and my littles = not a great mix.
- If you could spend a day with one children’s book character, with whom would that be?
[CER]Fern or Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, I would love to step into that world and be graced by Charlotte’s wisdom.