Yuyi Morales’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to feature one of my favorite illustrators Yuyi Morales.  Yuyi is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books and has won the ALA’s Pura Belpré Gold award four separate times—the most times this award has ever been given to one artist. It’s exciting to see her winning awards for her work, which is filled with dream-like scenery, lovable characters, and sometimes, multimedia approaches. For her newest book Viva Frida, Yuyi created three dimensional characters and sets. She sculpted the figures, sewed their clothes, and even welded together props. Her husband, photographer Tim O’Meara photographed the scenes. This approach was used by Yuyi once before in My Abuelita, written by Tony Johnston. I’m a huge fan of artists who go beyond the traditional modes of illustration, experimenting with cutting edge ways to bring stories to children through art. My family’s all-time favorite book illustrated by Yuyi is Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng. My daughters ask for this book again and again and they’re captivated (as am I) by Yuyi’s ethereal illustrations that offer us a small entrance into the magical unknown.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I make children’s books. I dream them, write them, illustrate them, and love them. My most common medium for creating my illustrations is acrylics on paper, but I am very experimental. My latest book I created with 3-D illustrations utilizing puppets and figures.

I love how you experiment with art, and even when you create something with very different mediums, I can always tell it’s your work. 

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My current studio is pretty new to me, although it is a very old construction. It is in the city of Xalapa, Mexico, where I was born. I remodeled what is called in spanish as a casa antigua, or an antique house. It was in chambers. But now it is my favorite place in the world. I just began working in this space in February. ventana_rain

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Breakfast at my desk is how I start my work. I check emails and do most of my communication at this time. Then there is always african dance class, either in the morning or in the evening. The dance studio is only a few blocks away from my place, so I am quickly back at work after a shower. Most of my administrative work is done  during the first part of the day, I take several short breaks, mostly for meals. I go to the market just down the block and bring fresh produces for the day. I usually eat at my desk so that I can keep creating at any time. My studio is by the street and I have a large window where many visitors, sellers, and neighbors stop-by. The rest of the day I create, I draw, I paint, and do a lot of daydreaming until the evening. I might run errands, or see friends, or walk my dogs, but I usually go back to work for a few more hours until it is time to go to bed, never before midnight and almost always past that hour.

I’m a night owl as well, which isn’t always so easy when my daughters wake me up at six in the morning!


Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Since this studio space is new to me, I have had only a short experience working here, but I am in love with what happens at this place. Construction work is still happening these days, and I often sit work with the street-doors open so that material and workers can come in and out (my dogs tide to my side). During several afternoons, while I am distracted working, I realize that people have come inside my studio. They are usually staring at the books on the wall, holding them open, or looking around trying to figure out what this place is. It is my dogs who  alert me of a visitor. Mothers with children, old men, teenagers, kids coming from school, and all sorts of people are there when I lift my eyes from my work. What is this place? They always want to know. Is this a restaurant? Is it a cultural center? How much are the books? Do I have books about electricity work? Do I have puppies to sell? You name it! The questions are wonderful, I always make new friends, some of them come back next time.

'Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased' written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

‘Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased’ written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

That must offer you some great inspiration for future stories!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
Music is the beat of my work. The first thing I do when I get up from bed is to come to my computer to start the music. In my playlist right now is the Cuban musician Silvio Rodrigues, Alt-J with their album an Awesome Wave, The Colombian group Bomba Estereo, the local Son Jarocho group Ensamble Marinero, LCD Soundystem, Natalia LaFourcade, the California group Quetzal, and also my son with his creations at Wax Poetic.



What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My original source of inspiration was my son. He was just a little baby when I began dreaming of making books. He was my model, my audience, and my whole inspiration. I had a great desire to pass onto him all the stories I had brought with me when we immigrated to the USA. Nowadays, now a young man studying in NY, he is still my inspiration, but I am also very inspired by celebrations. And so I set up to start my day as if everyday is a fiesta. I celebrate the view from my bedroom window that looks at the rise of the sun, the lush wildness of my garden, the frolicking of my dogs as we start the day, the children who stop at the window to pet my dog Mojo, the sunlight coming trough the skylights in my studio, most days we celebrate the rain too. And surrounded by all this light and all these colors, I set to create.

estudioIs there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Oh, yes, I live off yogurt, pineapple, and peanuts. There is also a man who comes to my window and sells me fresh cheese. At the organic store around the corner they sell me tangy arugula which I ate by the bunch. These day we are in prickle-pear season, so I eat it while I work, sprinkled with chile powder and lemon.

What are the three best things about your studio?
The window to the street where a lot of my daily social life happens, the stone walls that make me feel like I am inside a castle, and the high ceiling with its giant wood beans and the skylights that let both the light and the rain drizzle in.library

Yuyi--use this image for ladder
‘Ladder to the Moon’ written by Maya Soetoro-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
A place and equipment to do fire. An oven, or a melting station. Until now, both here in Mexico and before in California, I have had my studio inside my home, simply occupying the living room and making it my working space; as you can imagine that creates limits of what I can actually do in those spaces. But what I want is to have a space where I can do all kinds of rough and messy work, and perhaps even bake ceramic or melt metal. I also want it to be a place where other people can come and join me to create. That is why I am in the process of building a new room in my backyard where I will be doing all kinds messy work.

I’ve also found that working out of a home can create limitations, but I love your plan for an outdoor space! If I lived in a warmer climate, I might give it a shot.closet

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?My favorite color is Mexican, hot pink, and yes, I incorporate it in my space as well as in almost anything I do.sirena

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
The very first studio I had was in my apartment in San Francisco where I lived with my husband and our son. For a long time my working space was the dining table, which needed to be cleaned and used in so many different ways during the day. I would put away my materials when we would eat and then when we were done I would bring them out again. Later, we moved to an slightly bigger apartment and my husband helped me to condition an small closet space with a drawing table and a stool. My first book, Harvesting Hope, was created in that tiny space. What I have learned from going from minimal working places to having the studio of my dreams is that what really maters is how I feel inhabiting such a space. And so, I would tell any one who wants to make a personal space where they can be creative, is to make sure that it is a functional space, but also an inspiring one. Have all what you need to create physically, your furniture, your tools, but also have the colors or even things that simply make you smile when you are in their presence. Creativity is already a place that we inhabit. No matter how tiny or limited it might be, make sure that such a place is the most amazing place in the world for you.

Great advice! Inspiration is a huge factor in creation, and having a space reflect that makes a tremendous difference.


Yuyi’s husband, photographer Tim O’Meara shoots a scene from Yuyi’s newest book ‘Viva Frida’.


What are you working on now and where can we find out more about you?
My latest book is Viva Frida, a picture book I illustrated with puppets, paintings, photographic work from my husband, and digital work. I would call it an ode to Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, because this is a book I created in admiration of her creativity and work. Right now at my table there are sketches for a book written by one of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexi. This is Sherman’s first picture book and I have the honor to create the illustrations for this story. You can find out more about me on my website.

Thanks for sharing your inspiring space with us, Yuyi! And best of luck with your upcoming book!

Sneak peak: Shimmerling

Shimmerling-Skybebrg-Cover-yellowA magical creature is born from a feather that’s been sowed into the soil. As it grows, it discovers that it has characteristics of both a bird and a tree. The mighty oaks, only tall enough to see the creature’s trunk, believe it’s a tree and that it should stay grounded. The birds above, only able to see the creature’s mass of sparkling feathers, believe it’s a bird and urge it to take flight. The creature struggles between the two worlds until it sees itself as it really is—a new kind of being, a Shimmerling.

‘The Making of Shimmerling’ is a behind the scenes look at how, with funding from Arts@Large, I collaborated with students in two Milwaukee Public Schools—West Side Academy and Bethune Academy to create the illustrations for my newest book the Shimmerling. The main character is a wearable sculpture adorned with over 300 metal engraved feathers created by the children.

Jesse Klausmeier’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, we are joined by Jesse Klausmeier the author of Open This Little Book2013 Boston Globe-Horn Picture Book winner. Jesse, believe it or not, wrote the first draft of her award-winning picture book when she was only five years old! This weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival, Jesse is a featured speaker, kicking off the event on Friday night with a presentation of her book followed by a book signing. She’ll also be presenting throughout the weekend and closing the three-day event with a writing workshop for adults and teens on Sunday afternoon. If you’re near Sheboygan, I’d highly recommend checking it out.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hi, Andrea! I’m thrilled to be featured on your blog and share my creative space with you and your readers. I’m the author of the picture book, Open This Little Book illustrated by Suzy Lee. I used to work at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio and after that I was an assistant editor at Penguin Books for Young Readers. I have always loved to read and write, sing and dance, and host and attend costume parties.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve had this space for past two years, ever since I moved from NYC back to Madison, WI where I grew up. My writing area is generally organized and pretty sparse. If my workspace is cluttered, my head is cluttered. I do a lot of thinking about my stories while I clean, organize, and file.

It’s that way for me as well—an organized space equals an organized mind :)


Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I stock my space with water and snacks (usually nuts, fruits, and veggies – ok and jerky. I love jerky) so that I can hunker down for a while and focus. Right before I start writing, I do some light stretching (arms, neck, back) and set my intention for that session.

CoverDo you listen to music while you work? 
I can’t listen to music when I write because I’ll either start singing along, or I’ll want to dance. I do, however, love the sound of rain while I write. It sets a cozy, snuggly scene that helps me focus. I use http://www.rainymood.com, which is awesome and free. Yay free!

That’s a great sound to work to. Thanks for the link!

When you write, do you type your ideas out on the computer, start on paper, or storyboard/map out your text? Walk us through your process.

It depends on the project and where I am when I get an idea. I keep a small notebook with me pretty much all the time now, which is much more sanitary and less smelly than my prior method of writing on napkins. I’ll write down initial thoughts in the notebook and then let the story simmer in my head for a while before writing a first draft on the computer. For manuscripts that use unique formatting, like Open This Little Book, I use color-coded text to track what’s happening on each page of each spread.



Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have my original version of Open This Little Book that my grandmother made for me when I was five-years-old. I had this grand idea for a book about books and I just started writing and drawing in the book she mocked-up. I didn’t worry about making mistakes, if it was good enough, or if anyone else would ever see it. As an adult, I’m constantly trying to shed the need for external validation and find that magical child-like sense of creating just for the sake of making something in that moment. Lynda Barry’s book, Picture This is one I come back to again and again when I need this reminder.

What is your favorite book?
GAH! This is an impossible question, Andrea! One book from my childhood that shaped me into the person I am today is Eve Bunting’s Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust. It should be required reading for every human being.OfficeMedium

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Beth Kephart’s Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir. This book is an immense gift in my life right now and I can’t recommend it enough.

NeverAlonePrintWhat colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space? I’m not an artist, so I’m probably butchering the term (is it even a term?), but dusky colors have always inspired me. They’re soothing and hold a bit of magic. It isn’t until the sun goes down that we can see the stars, even though they’ve been out all day long. These colors hold the promise of secrets about to be revealed, and that’s how I feel when I’m creating. There is a print in my office that perfectly captures this magical quality called, Never Alone by Christy Andres.

I love that description and comparison of dusk and writing! What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
First and foremost, invest in a comfortable chair. Next, pay attention to what’s in your line of sight. Get the bills, paperwork, and that pile of stuff you need to go through far, far away (preferably in another room). If you don’t, it’ll stare you down, demand attention, and suck out all of your creative juices. Third, surround yourself with items that inspire you on an emotional level. I have loved the works of Beatrix Potter ever since I was a young child. Having some of my Potter figurines on my desk takes me back to that enchanting world where anything could happen.BeatrixPotterandJaneyCoverArt

What would you say is the greatest source of inspiration to you as a writer?
My greatest source of inspiration (and I know this could sound saccharine) is children. Their joy and optimism, their (sometimes brutal) honesty, their resilience and capacity to evolve is completely inspiring. I feel most inspired when crafting a story that centers around a topic or character that resonates with me on a deeply emotional level. In these moments, my goal is to create a book that certain kids will feel was made specifically for them. Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle is a picture book that accomplishes this beautifully. FanMail


What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I’m working on a couple new picture book projects that I’m super excited about and a memoir about my struggle with endometriosis. Hopefully I’ll be able to share news about them soon! You can find out more about me at my website or on Twitter @JesseKlausmeier.

Thank you, Jesse! I’m excited to hear your presentation this weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival!

Join us next Tuesday when we get a look inside the studio of Yuyi Morales, who just released her beautiful new book Viva Frida!

Mary Sullivan’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, we’re fortunate to get a tour of award-winning illustrator Mary Sullivan lovely Texas home and studio. Mary’s book BALL was a 2014 ALA Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book and has also landed on the Notable Children’s Books list. BALL is such a fun book, it’s impossible not to smile while thumbing through the pages. And after seeing the fun things that surround Mary as she works in her studio, it’s no wonder the book is so light and energetic—it’s reflective of the beautiful space where Mary creates her work. In addition to Mary’s children’s book illustrations, she has worked with Highlights for Children, Scholastic, Innovative Kids, School Zone, Oxford Press UK, Pearson, and many more. skyberg-tuesday-tours-logome
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

This is a job Mary did for Highlight's High Five Magazine.

This is a job Mary did for Highlight’s High Five Magazine.

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. While I raised my two kids I made a little money here and there doing random illustration jobs for logos, T-shirts, brochures and stuff like that. When the kids were grown and my life was less chaotic, I decided to hone in on children’s illustration and in about 2002 I got my first job was with Highlights Magazine.
Since then, I’ve done tons of educationaI illustration, several PB’s and finally published my own book BALL in 2012.  It won the 2014 Geisel Honor. I begin most jobs in pencil on Strathmore drawing paper.  I color digitally in Photoshop.

Welcome to my studio

The entrance to Mary’s studio/home.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have been in this space since 2000. I knew right away that it was going to be special.  I went on a creative binge immediately after moving in. I am sensitive to light and sound. Lights must be low and sound must be almost nonexistent. My home/studio has that and more. My studio is not one room. It is spread out into the whole of a tiny house.

Where Mary has her morning coffee.

Where Mary has her morning coffee.

I flow throughout the spaces that surround me, indoors and outdoors. Each space plays a crucial role in nurturing my creative mind. The pics I’m sharing are not of trinkets and what-nots or books or special toys. They are big things. Things that I can put body into. A cozy chair, a sauna, a soaking tub, an outdoor shower. These are the things that I absolutely must have. The things that get me to that place in my mind where I can let go. The place in my mind where creativity happens.

What a great way of talking about your space! It really is in the entire space that the work is created. The small things add comfort and inspiration, but the spaces we can, as you said, put body in, are highly influential to the creative spirit. desk

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I took a bunch of giant newsprint and charcoal. I put on some Rammestien (totally opposite to what I normally listen to) and made a huge charcoal mess. It really helped me unclog. I think i should do that again!

Yes! Freestyle art hour—a great way to get unstuck :)

Mary's favorite place to sit and draw.

Mary’s favorite place to sit and draw.

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
I listen to Brian Eno Radio on Pandora or some Mantra music pretty much all the time.  Towards the end of the day, after work, I might switch to something more upbeat. But while I work, I really have to have quiet music.  Some days I just can’t listen to anything.  My thoughts can get really quiet. They almost whisper and any sound is is distracting.


Who are some illustrators that have influenced your work?
As a child, I was completely enchanted by the illustrations of Arthur Rackham. Also, Norman Rockwell and Denise Holly Ulinskas had a huge influence on me.  

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Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
For drink, I start my day with a small cup of coffee with cream, then I move on to Earl Grey tea, which is my most fave drink.  Fave food is definitely curry tofu and toasted nori seaweed. And no, i am not a vegetarian.  :-)

Mary's very own unsafe playground equipment! She LOVES this piece from the trash at a daycare. She says, "Just having it around makes me feel happy. And anything that makes me smile, helps me create.

Mary’s very own unsafe playground equipment! She LOVES this piece that she rescued from the trash at a daycare. She says, “Just having it around makes me feel happy. And anything that makes me smile, helps me create.”

What are the three best things about your studio?
My space has two doors that are opposite each other.  I love opening them both and letting the breeze blow through. I love having my animals around me when I work. I have easy access to the outdoors….which is my main source of inspiration.

Mary's outdoor shower--sometimes a quick rinse outside is all she needs to reenergize.

Mary’s outdoor shower–sometimes a quick rinse outside is all she needs to reenergize.

When she needs to solve problems she takes a soak in her tub.

When she needs to solve problems she takes a soak in her tub.










This is where stories happen. At 140 degrees they just back out of Mary's brain.

This is where stories happen. At 140 degrees they just bake out of Mary’s brain.

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?Right now, I have everything I need!  But that may change tomorrow.  :-)

She's currently working on a book of spaceships.

She’s currently working on a book of spaceships.

What colors inspire your creativity.  Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I do love Yellows, Oranges, Pinks and Greens. I do not care for blues.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
My space sort of formed itself around me.  I didn’t really plan any of it.

A page from Mary's book BALL!

A page from Mary’s book BALL!

I love when that happens! And especially when it happens so beautifully. 


Sketches from Mary's book about Frankie.

Sketches from Mary’s book about Frankie.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My next book FOOD (a sorta sequel to BALL) will be out in Spring 2016.  I have another book called Frankie that I have “almost” sold that I’m really excited about.  And, I may be doing one more one-word book titled TOY, similar to BALL and FOOD.  But that will be the last of the one word books I think. You can find me at http://www.marysullivan.com.

Thanks, Mary! I look forward to seeing your upcoming books. Frankie looks so lovable!



Book an author visit!

I’m currently booking for the 2014/2015 school year. If you’re interested in having me visit your school, please contact me to schedule a program.

I love visiting schools to share my experiences as an author and an illustrator. I have a number of presentations, workshops, and art residencies available. Below is a preview of some of my programs, but a higher quality PDF of my full program listing can be viewed here — Andrea Skyberg Author Visit Program Sheet (Full Version) 2014

Author visit_Andrea Skyberg

Andrea Author Visit Image_4Andrea Author Visit Image_2Andrea Author Visit Image_3Andrea Author Visit Image_1


Todd Mrozinski’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours Milwaukee-based artist Todd Mrozinski offers us a look inside his studio The Nut Factory, which he shares with his wife, artist Renee Bebeau. It is in this expansive studio space that most of Todd’s series live together, allowing him to see their relationship with each other. The studio is also a location that Todd and Renee offer art classes and workshops. Todd’s art is sprinkled throughout Milwaukee in various shops and restaurants, including my neighborhood favorite, Juniper61. He’s currently represented by the Woodman/Shimko Gallery.                       
Todd Mrozinskui6Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am a full time artist and teacher. I mainly work in oil paint because of the luminous and textural qualities it has. Above all else I follow inspiration. There are two subjects that currently hold my fascination, shadows and articles of clothing. For the past 2 years I have traced my subject’s shadow directly onto the canvas and used this drawing as the framework for the painting. For the last 15 years I have painted symbolic portraits of people by painting their clothing.

Todd Mrozinskui8

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have shared a 1,200 sq. ft. studio space with my wife, Renee Bebeau for about 2 years. Before the large studio I had a small, 80 sq. ft. living room studio, where I still do much of my work. I like to be close to the work and live with it. So much of it has been about my family, friends, yard, home and light. The quote about a Velazques painting being “not art but life perpetuated” has resonance with me. The bigger studio is great for larger work and is essential to seeing each series together. The home studio is the incubator and I can get into “the zone” there quite easily, especially during morning light.
Portrait people
Todd Mrozinskui13Describe a typical work day in your studio.
On a usual studio day I get up early and paint at the home studio. Eat lunch, nap, paint more or do computer work, go to the larger studio in late afternoon, paint or hang work, have dinner, correspondence, paint at either studio until bedtime. Recently, studio visits have been a wonderful way to connect and get to know other artists.
Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I light incence or a candle, lay my brushes out and prepare my palette. I calm my mind to focus entirely on the painting in front of me.
Todd Mrozinskui9
Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you? 
The items that inspire me most are the house plants because of their stillness and lush beauty. I’m also inspired by the recent paintings that hang around the studio which inform and encourage the next work. Todd Mrozinskui7
What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
The most useful tool in my studio is the brush I am holding. As a series progresses, the brushes and tools that I use become my daily companions.Todd Mrozinskui10
What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Make whatever space you have into a space to do your work. It is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself, and the others around you, because in the space of timeless play, life is enhanced and the spirit is uplifted. Make sure the space is well lit, comfortable and a place you want to spend time in. Todd Mrozinskui11
What colors inspire your creativity.  Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I’m intrigued by the secondary colors, most of my current work consists of orange, purple and green, with occasional alizerin and white. The mixing of these colors and the way they interact continuously mystifies me. We have warm brown walls in both our home and larger studio space. I like to view work on warm, neutral, walls because it is soothing to my eyes and sensibilities.
If you could share you studio with a famous artist, who would you chose?
David Hockney, he seems like a kind and enthusiastic man with a great sense of humor, from the interviews I have seen. I admire his intensity and passion for art.
Todd Mrozinskui12
What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I was chosen to be part of the Midwest Artist Studio Program. I will be showing at The Hide House during Bay View Gallery Night on Fri. Sept. 26. The Libations! and Shadow Portrait Series will be shown at LuLu Cafe in Bay View from Oct. 17 thru the New Year. Paintings from The Clothing Series will be in a group show, The Glass Menagerie: A Visual Dialogue, at 10th St. Gallery in Milwaukee from Sept. 22 – Nov. 7. Shadow Portraits will be at Bella Salon in Shorewood thru the New Year, and The Bouquet Shadow Series is showing at Juniper61 in Wauwatosa thru the New Year. You can visit me at http://toddmrozinski.com.
Thanks for sharing your studio with us, Todd! Seeing all of the shadow work together is really stunning. Best of luck with your upcoming shows!
Join us next week when we’ll get the chance to step inside Texan illustrator Mary Sullivan‘s studio where she created her award-winning picture book Ball!

Deborah Gross’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours we get to take a peak into Wisconsin illustrator Deborah Gross’s studio where she produces illustrations for a number of publications such as National Geographic School Publishing, Compass Publishing, and Humpty Dumpty’s Magazine. Deborah is  the SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator for the Wisconsin chapter. She’s been illustrating for ten years and was recently chosen as a finalist for the Tomie dePaola illustrating contest through SCBWI! She’ll have a chance to enter a final round of illustrations, competing against fifteen other artists for a chance to win a free trip to New York City for the annual SCBWI NYC conference. We’re wishing her loads of luck and would love to see her fly out to the Big Apple come February!


DebraGross12Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’ve been working as a children’s illustrator for about 10 years. Most of what I do is for the classroom, such as early readers, foreign language dictionaries, and testing materials. I work both traditionally, with watercolor, colored pencil, ink, and digitally.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process
I’ve had my studio space for around 15 years, but it is definitely not the only place I create art. While raising my five kids I learned to work in all areas of the house, during lots of noise and activity, and with endless interruptions. Though I do all of my painting and digital work in my studio, I still prefer to sketch and work on initial ideas in my favorite recliner or on the front porch.

I bet your children and grandchildren provide lots of inspiration!

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Definitely, my day always starts with a mug or two of coffee! If I have the time, I like to check the news and weather, maybe even get dressed before I get to work. If my deadlines are tight, I just grab my coffee and go to work in my jammies.

Being able to go to work in your PJs is definitely a perk :)

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I can spend a lot of hours drawing and painting, so I need to vary what I’m listening to in order to keep my sanity. I listen to a lot of Pandora, with some of my recent favorites being my Ed Sheeran, Amos Lee, and Celtic Radio channels. If my project does not require a lot of concentration I’ll watch television, mostly random talk shows or HGTV.

DebraGross7I can see HGTV being an inspiring station to watch while working.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have the first painting I ever did as a child, a print of Mickey Mouse painting himself as Walt Disney and a few things my kids made when they were young. My space doesn’t leave much room for collecting things, which is both a tragedy and a blessing.

What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
That’s a hard question, since there are so many parts of the illustration process that I use tools for. I would say my newest acquisition, a Cintiq tablet, is probably the tool I use the most. Even if the illustration is created traditionally, it will be delivered digitally, and the Cintiq makes that process easier and faster. You can hardly beat that!


What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Find a space where you feel at home. It can be simple or fancy, whatever suites your taste and your budget. As long as your art materials are at hand, the lighting is good, and you feel relaxed and creative, it will be perfect.

Yes! Let the creative spirit move you, no matter where you are!DebraGross6


When Deborah isn’t working on her illustrations, she’s most likely holding one of her 10 grandchildren.

What is your greatest source of inspiration to you as an artist?
I am constantly inspired by the work of other amazing illustrators. I have a very large library of children’s books by some of my favorites and I spend countless hours looking at images online, mostly through the black hole known as Pinterest. I’m also very fortunate to have 10 grandkids to play with, read to, and draw with. DebraGross4

What colors inspire your creativity?  Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I don’t really have specific colors that inspire me, I guess I would say that I’m more inspired by color groupings. I like to study the use of color in illustrations by some of my favorite artists. I also go to http://paletton.com/ to play around with color palettes.


If you could transport your studio to another geographical location, where would it be and why?
My wish list here is very simple, I would love to transport my studio upstairs. The current location in my basement tends to be cold and lacks a view of the outside. For the time being I do all my initial work upstairs and head down to the studio to paint.

DebraGross3What are you working on now and where can we find out more?
I continue to work on illustrating educational materials for the classroom, which will be seen by countless students, but is really impossible to plug. The most exciting thing I’m working on is the Tomie dePaola illustration contest. I was chosen as one of 15 semi-finalists, and am currently waiting for art specs to the final part of the competition. It’s a great example of what the SCBWI has to offer! You can see more of my work on my website http://debgrossink.com/.

Thank you so much, Deborah! And congratulations on being a finalist for the Tomie dePaola illustration contest. Good luck–we’re rooting for you!

Join us next week when artist and teacher Todd Mrozinski gives a look inside his studio in The Nut Factory, which he shares with his wife Renee Bebeau.