Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Interview Adventure series—Julia Gorton • 5

Julia Gorton is the illustrator and designer of many books for children, including Abrams’ Score! 50 Poems to Motivate and Inspire and Harpercollins's I See Myself by Vicki Cobb, the MathStart book Super Sandcastle Saturday by Stuart J. Murphy, and Ten Rosy Roses, by Eve Merriam. She teaches design at Parsons the New School for Design. Julia Gorton lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey with her husband, author-illustrator Daniel Kirk, and their three children.

Julia Gorton with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth

CW: How would you recommend to other illustrators to get there work published?

Get out of the studio and make an effort to meet people. Be friendly and send lovely mailers that will be memorable and useful. Follow up and don’t give up. Volunteer to do work for your friends, their bands and any local spots that need updated graphics and images. Think of making small editions that use a narrative theme to show someone how you might work on developing a story across many pages. Do something different, but not so different that there is not a place for it in the market.

CW: Who are your influences.

JG: Hmmm. Lots of graphic designers, they’re great at creating understandable images, Alice and Martin Provensen and Charlie Harper for their stylization, Eloise Wilkin for creating the books that I remember from my childhood, Maurice Sendack for the perfect Little Bear, those classic Golden Book illustrators like Leonard Weisgard and Garth Williams, my husband Daniel Kirk, as well as my creative kids.

CW: Do you have any rituals that you go through before you can get to work?

JG: I look at the things that I’ve collected over the years; like books, fabrics, vintage packages as well as favorite photos of my family. I spend time thinking and remembering, trying to get into the right frame of mind. I procrastinate and do laundry. I look at typefaces and design the text for the book so that the words have the right visual sound. I have coffee and watch CNN.

CW: What process did you go through to develop your styles.

JG: I think about methods to help me save time. Having my first child lead me to move from painting with a brush to using the airbrush. By the time my third child was born, I was working on the computer.

CW: You have a variety of styles all equally good as the next how do you manage them. Do art directors ever get confused?

JG: Thank you. I am not sure if art directors get confused. They generally seem pretty pleased with the finished work.

CW: I find with young illustrator the question of style is a confusing prospect.
Which can take some time to work out so it flows with out frustrations.

CW: What style did you use for Just Like Mama and why?

JG: I spend time in meetings at Parsons, the school where I teach. Usually I sketch in my notebook during meeting as this helps me concentrate and makes the time go more quickly. My friends at work are very supportive of this sketchbook work. At the same time, I observed my 18 year old son become very adept at working with markers. Watching him work looked like so much fun. He fills in his pen work with the most beautiful colors. I combined these two approaches into a style that I felt would have warmth and heart and give me the opportunity to try something new and free myself from the computer where I spend too much time.

CW: What did you find most challenging and most rewarding about working on Just Like Mama?

JG: Working with a new medium was stressful at first. There were even some tears of frustration in the beginning. But once I got the hang of it, I loved watching the saturated colors seeping into the paper. Of course, the color selection is more limited and some markers don’t cover large areas [like walls] very smoothly so I had to be thoughtful before the markers ever touched the paper. The original drawings were done with micron pens and then scanned, enlarged and printed on cheap sketch pad paper. If I made a big mistake, I just printed out the original black line art and a new piece of paper and started over. If I made a mistake or changed my mind about something later on, I just made a patch and glued it on.

CW: You teach at Parsons and from what I hear you are a very popular teacher there. What kind of classes do you teach?

JG: Believe me, teaching is really hard and all the students are unique challenges. I hope by the end of class they understand that design is a process and that you learn from your failures. That getting involved, doing your research and working with people is a crucial part of your work as a designer. I teach Graphic Design, Print Design 1 and 2 and a class called Laboratory which introduces first year students to team work, designing for a specific user, utilizing New York City as a resource, and working within a budget.

CW: What do you feel is the biggest difference between picture books today and picture books of 20 yrs. ago? How have they changed? Has the process changed?

JG: Publishers are much more concerned with every part of the book, as the market has become more competive these days. There is no room for vanity projects. Books need a specific bridge to an audience, occasion or holiday. Everyone at the publishing house is more involved in the entire process, so if you aren’t good working as a team member this is not the job for you! Editors and Art Directors are actually brilliant at what they do, and they help you do the best job possible. Listen to them and learn from them. They’re great teachers.

CW: Do you also have time to do your own personal work? If so what is it all about?

JG: I don’t have currently have time for personal work. My family is a wonderful work in progress that I am part of each and every day.

CW: What makes an extraordinary picture book in your eyes?

One that your child and you both love to read again and again. That’s it.

CW: What is next for you? Have you ever thought of writing as well?

JG: I’m writing something right now that was inspired by a friends daughter.
So hopefully I’ll be able to write, illustrate and design my next book.

Julia and Her Family

CW: You just illustrated a picture book called JUST LIKE MAMA so what do you do that is Just like your Mother?

JG: I am sure that there are many ways in which I am like my mother that I am not even aware of. But here are a few . . . she’s good at talking with strangers, and I find myself talking to just about anyone and everyone I run into. People are endlessly fascinating and are treasure troves of experience and information. I love history, old buildings and old stuff. Now it’s called vintage shopping, but back in the day we went antiquing. My parents took me to country auctions, flea markets and during high school my mother would take me out of school on Friday’s when there was an Estate sale on the fancy side of town! We’ve taken our kids to explore old cities, scouted out abandoned factories, traveled to estate and rummage sales and been to auctions at Christies.


Just Like Mama is a beautiful testament to the love between mother and daughter, and especially how, in a child’s eyes, a mother does everything perfectly, from cooking to playing to simply loving. There are some things that no one can do as well as a mom. “With a pile of pancakes shaped like moons, and cocoa with a cloud of cream, no one can cook breakfast just like Mama.” Nor garden, host tea parties, cook supper, or tuck her child into bed. No one does it just like Mama can. And in the end, nobody loves Mama just like her little girl does.

Authors: By Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Julia Gorton
Imprint: Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 0-8109-8393-1
EAN: 9780810983939
Availability: Prepublication
Publishing Date: 4/1/2010
Trim Size: 9 x 9
Page Count: 32
Cover: Hardcover with jacket
Illustrations: 32 pages of full-color illustrations

1 comment:

Traci Bixby said...

Lovely interview! Such great advice. Thanks!