Of all the alphabet stories out there, S is for Story written by Esther Hershenhorn, has to be the most inventive. It's a picture book for writers, young and old. And while still a picture book, it offers some downright good advice. Add to that, it's visually stunning and it's a must read.
     Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the illustrator of S is for Story, Zachary Pullen...

Q. I'm completely intrigued by your style. Do you use photo reference?

A. I do use photos to achieve my paintings. I try to not rely on them too much though. Just as a reference to draw from and then I put them away to start the paintings with fresh eyes.

Q. How do you end up with your wonderful angles, proportions and faces?

A. I like to think of pictures as writers think of characters. Three Dimensional and full of life. I want to see every scene from every angle before I decide on one. Sometimes this gets me in trouble though when it comes to shooting and trying to achieve the angle.

Q. What is your medium?

A. I work in acrylic to start, just to achieve my color scheme. I then overwork every painting with oil. None of the acrylic shows through. This is why I question even using acrylic to start although it is comfortable for me.

Q. How did you break into illustrating picture books?

A. I did a few covers for the NYTimes Book Review. One that caught a lot of eyes was a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt. The characterization of him, made an editor at Simon and Schuster take notice of my work. He then researched my work a little further and offered me a picture book within a few weeks of that cover printing.

Q. Do you do illustration work in other genres/areas?

A. I have always done a fair share of editorial work. I love the political realm of illustration. It seems as though my book work has taken me away from that for quite a while. I usually do a few magazine or newspaper jobs a year now though. I also have quite a few paintings just waiting for attention in all corners of the studio.

Q. S IS FOR STORY is a story about writing - do you do that too?

A. I have written and illustrated a title called 'Friday my Radio Flyer Flew'. I have about six manuscripts in a flat file waiting to be finished and accepted into the publishing world. As for 'S is for Story', I learned a lot. Every time I went to read it, I gleaned some more information to help me with projects. I see all sorts of similarities in processes. I think the best advice and tip if you want to be a writer is to read all the time. Likewise, I tell anyone wanting to do art to constantly look at art. It always amazes me the number of people that have written or want to write a picture book, but never have taken the time to read any for themselves.

Q. What's a perfect illustration day like for you?

A. I love my job. I get paid to draw and paint for a living. It's pretty sweet. Everyday painting is a great day. I usually work very late hours while involved in a book though. I usually close up the studio around 3 a.m. and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Q. Do you have any plans to promote S IS FOR STORY and what's in the pipeline?

A. I have done a few signings here and there. I am receiving visit requests from around the country and I am scheduled to speak at several fund-raisers. I always love talking directly to the audience. I love that my audience is full of hope, dreams, and energy. I'll always enjoy painting for that crowd.

Thanks Zak!

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