[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[LW] I worked for close to twenty years as an illustrator but am now working on my third authored book. I guess I can now officially call myself an illustrator/author. I usually begin with the words when working on my own stories. That’s the hard part for me. Once I have a story, or at least the beginning of one, I work back and forth between words and pictures.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
[LW] Wherever I have lived, I have had a strong interest in nature. I have always found time to observe animals and the outdoors. Though I am not a nature illustrator, animals are my favorite subjects.
I grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island. I was able to walk to the beach and to a local pond. I spent a lot of time playing outside.
After college, I lived out west in Wyoming and Colorado. The beauty there is entirely different than in the east. I have a story that I am working on that was inspired by cowboys and the mountainous and rocky landscape.
Before moving to Vermont, I lived in Boston where I could run and walk in public parks.
Currently, I live in Vermont in a little town that borders Lake Champlain. It’s easy to get outside and see amazing birds and animals that live nearby. I think the long and cold Vermont winters have nurtured a love for cozy and snowy scenes in my work.
[JM] My best friends moved last year to Bristol, so I am getting to know it. Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[LW] When I was young, I loved making art. My drawings and paintings were not particularly exceptional, but art was something that I enjoyed and worked at. Through high school and college, I spent more and more time working on my skills and eventually I made progress closing the gap between what I saw in my mind and on the paper. My art school professors really helped me develop the tools I needed to work as an illustrator. I began work as a children’s book illustrator immediately after graduation.
After working as an illustrator for many years, I decided to try writing my own stories. This was entirely new for me and I have many terrible ideas and drafts stashed away in file folders. With the help of books, workshops, articles, critique groups and classes I eventually learned how to create stories that worked, but I still find it incredibly hard work.
[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?
[LW] I love to work with watercolor, pen and ink, and colored pencil.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two for us, maybe from a Work in Progress, and the process of creating them?
[LW] These pieces come from a book that I am working on that will be out in summer of 2019. The first piece is a sample that I submitted with the manuscript. For this piece, I drew the line with a crow quill pen and waterproof ink and then painted over it with watercolor. Because I always prefer my sketches to my tighter finished work, I tried to work more loosely than I am used to.
The second piece is from the same book. It is a more developed piece from the interior of the book. I am still not finished, but you can see the evolution from the first to the second piece. I worked again with pen and ink and watercolor, but the rug is a block print that I scanned and placed with Photoshop.
[JM] Which book do you remember buying with your own money as a kid?
[LW] As the youngest of three, I had a number of books in our house to enjoy and don’t remember buying books on my own. My mother was also a librarian, so we would visit the library to check out books. One book I do remember cherishing, I received as a birthday present. It was called BABY ANIMALS and contained only photos and descriptions of baby animals.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
[LW] Rest assured that my workspace hardly ever looks this neat. Imagine this space covered in papers and paints and you’ll get a more accurate picture.
[JM] Do you have themes or characters that you keep returning to?
[LW] The stories that I often tell feature the triumph of the underdog who usually possesses a quiet and overlooked quality that turns out to be of value.
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your home?
[LW] My husband and I met in art school. We have some of his abstract art hanging as well as pieces we have collected or been given along the way.
[JM] Why did you study French and how was your semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence? 🙂
[LW] French is a beautiful language and France is a beautiful country. I began studying French in high school and loved learning about all of it- the food, the culture and the people. My semester in Aix was great. Being abroad and living with a French woman in her apartment really opened my eyes to how other people live. If I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would have really immersed myself- shopping only at the weekly farmers’ markets, mingling more with the locals, and traveling whenever I had a free moment.
Five Fun Ones to Finish?
[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?
[LW] I am not sure this is technically a park, but the town beach in Islesboro, Maine is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. After biking around the whole island, my husband and I hung out watching a seal while he watched us.
[JM] Gorgeous. I have been to Little Cranberry and Peaks Island in Maine. Cats or dogs?
[LW] Dogs!! Angus and Emerson
[JM] Please recommend a coffee shop or restaurant for me to visit in your city/town!
[LW] My favorite coffee shop is a short walk from the bookstore where I work—Village Wine and Coffee, in Shelburne. Their lattes and orange scones are the perfect mid-day snack.
[JM] What was your first paid job out of high school?
[LW] I wish I had a more interesting answer, but I worked at the Gap.
[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
[LW] Nutter Butters and chocolate milk.
You can follow Liza on:
Facebook: Liza Woodruff Wright
Liza Woodruff author/illustrator @lizawoodruffillustration
or twitter: @lizawo
her website is: www.lizawoodruff.com
Liza, thank you so much for sharing your life and art with us today, and I wish you continued success as an author-illustrator!
I had the ultimate pleasure of having Liza’s beautiful work in my first trade book for children! So happy to follow her success. (And I adore that studio!)
Ah, what a great partnership to start your picture book career, Donna!