Shadra Strickland's LOVING VS. VIRGINIA

written by Patricia Hruby Powell
illustrated by Shadra Strickland

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it, and what is your medium?
The process is different for every book, but for Loving vs. Virginia, I used a tradigital technique by making the drawings with brush pen and adding color and texture in photoshop. The drawings were meant to look as if they had been done on the spot, so I drew with no preliminary sketches or erasing. If I was dissatisfied with the way one was headed, I would stop and start over.
      One of my favorite illustrations in the book “Gritty DC” (below) was one of those happy accident moments. I had been drawing the same city scene for a couple of days and wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it. I started drawing loosely on top of one of the drawings and really fell in love with it! I combined it with another drawing that I planned on discarding and ended up being very happy with the final result.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
“Heart Art” …hmm, for me, it is art that keeps the reader in mind. When we illustrate, it isn’t in a vacuum. I am always keenly aware of others as they experience the work; not in a pandering sort of way, but in a way that helps me add details that will hopefully show a thoughtfulness and concern while making it.

"Gritty City"
e: How did this book come to be and what was your journey with it?
Though Patricia Hruby Powell, author of Josephine, The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, wrote Loving vs. Virginia, I chose to illustrate it because I was intrigued by the idea of a documentary novel and had been hoping to work in reportage (visual journalism) for a while before Chronicle asked me to come on board. The story itself—a love story between two regular people having to fight a larger system for the right to be together—was so well written and Chronicle Books, the publisher, is known for making high quality, thoughtfully designed books.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My biggest challenge is managing creative time with life. I am a professor full time at the Maryland Institute College of Art which is an extremely inspiring career. With most service oriented jobs though, it doesn’t end when I leave the classroom. In the studio, the biggest challenge is getting started. I usually take a decent amount of time getting into the mindset of each job. It’s usually just my own self-doubt getting in the way. The best way to move past the doubt and procrastination is to draw through it.
      My favorite part is seeing how far reaching each project tends to be. Patricia and I spoke to high schoolers at The Library of Congress recently with super librarian and educator, Deborah Taylor, and Civil Rights law expert, Elizabeth Hayes Patterson. I never imagined myself speaking about my work in such a holy place of books! When librarians and teachers thank me for my work, it is the most humbling thing ever, because they are the real superstars working with young people on the front line every day.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
The most valuable and exciting resource in this book for me has been the wealth of primary source material interspersed with the story and illustrations. The timeline of events within the civil rights movement, official documents that tried rationalizing racism and hatred - everything comes together for me in this book to really show how much the law shaped people’s thinking and how they lived their lives. It was also useful to see just how long it takes to change the system.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I am working many things at once now that school is out - a couple of shorter projects currently, and in the long run, my first authored book, JUMP IN! In the meantime, stay tuned for my next picture book, A CHILD’S BOOK OF PRAYERS & BLESSINGS, by Delores Jordan, due out this fall with Simon & Schuster. The book was done completely in linocuts over the course of a year, truly my most labor intensive book to date.
      Thanks for having me!
Lastly, this is my current studio. I moved in January, so it isn’t where I made the art for Loving vs. Virginia.

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