GUEST POST: Glean Frogs with Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch

FrogSleepwalkingToday it is my pleasure to have talented picture book illustrator and writer, Julie Rowan-Zoch, as my guest. Julie and I first connected when she was inspired to create the “Picture Books That Pack a P.U.N.C.H.” badge displayed on my sidebar after reading my post on that subject back in 2012.  Since then, she’s been busy, busy, and busy and just last month celebrated the publication of three board books which she illustrated:  You’re Here!, You’re One! and You’re Two! written by Karla Oceanak and published by Bailiwick Press. Congratulations, Julie!  Today she’s with us to share some creative thoughts on gleaning.  Take it away, Julie!

During hobby-time when I was in 2nd grade, Ricky Spiro brought in a live frog to dissect. It was so cool to watch him pull out the guts and examine them. Finally he pulled out the beating heart. Kinda gross, but I was totally into it! (I brought in my gum wrapper chain, by the way.)

And my interest in examining things beyond the surface remains. After I watch films, I watch the director’s commentaries. They reveal what had to be taken out, or left in to keep the heart of the movie beating. Interesting, and sometimes minute details can click with me and a story I’m working on.

Recently I watched Philomena (again!) on dvd and the interview with Judi Dench. She told of three pieces of advice she had gotten during her career, and my ears perked: Hal Prince had cast her as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, and said to her, “Do remember, if you speak in one way, you musn’t stop and sing in another.”

Days later I watched a high school kid doing a great job portraying Lester in The Addams Family musical, but he sang in a different voice. Beautiful, but completely different, and it stood out like a very sore thumb. As a viewer, I was thrown completely out of the story.

BUT that’s when it clicked into place for me: speaking and singing are forms of communication, just like text, dialogue, and illustrations. Year-by-Year Board Book Series:BailiwickI need to develop my character illustrations, to ‘sing’ in the same way as they speak too!

What else did she say? Interest piqued? Peter Hall told her, “Never think you have to play all of a person in one scene, just play an aspect of a person in each scene and with any luck, it will add up.” The third thing didn’t click, but maybe for you: “Don’t fret over what anyone says about you.” I stopped that a long time ago!

Now back to the frog and my own advice: don’t look away, perk your ears, and you might glean something!

Julie Rowan-Zoch Julie is a reformed graphic designer, turned picture book maker. Originally from New York, she spent a big chunk of her life in Germany, and transplanted to Colorado. Three board books she illustrated for Bailiwick Press released in October 2014.  You learn more about Julie and her work on her blog, Facebook and Pinterest

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19 thoughts on “GUEST POST: Glean Frogs with Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch

  1. I wish I could remember where – I recently read a blog post about watching film commentaries featuring directors who agonize over cutting favorite scenes but realize that doing so makes for a better movie. Advice for PB writers who are constantly trimming and tightening. Like the way that dovetails with your advice Julie. Ribbit!

  2. We often watch the interviews too (though renting DVDs from Netflix often means you don’t get the extras portion of the film). Good advice gleaned from Dame Judi! Thanks for sharing with us, Julie!

  3. Just chiming in here as well. I am LOVING these comments just as much as I enjoyed Julie’s post. I, too, like to watch the DVD extras and dig into the “behind the scenes”. Happy gleaning all!

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