Laura Zarrin on illustrating the WALLACE AND GRACE series

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
With Wallace and Grace, it started with the characters. I worked hard to give them lots of personality. Animal characters are my favorite. There’s so much opportunity to play and push the limits with them. For the story, I like to sketch my first impressions in the margins on the first read through of the manuscript.
Since this was a chapter book, I worked from a layout my editor provided to figure out the size of each illustration. The Wallace and Grace books have about 45 illustrations in them. They’re a mix of spreads, full and half-page, and spots. Once I have ideas for each illustration, I create more finished sketches to send the editor and art director. After revisions, I get to paint!
e: What is your medium?
Palomino Blackwing pencils on Graphics 360 paper and painted in Clip Studio Pro and a little Photoshop. (Note from e: I love Palominos too!)
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?
For me, the characters’ interactions and reactions define the heart in a piece. It’s my favorite part of the process, the part I like to push the most.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Not really, but this project was a dream since I love illustrating animal characters and I fell in love with the story. I feel very lucky.

e: What was your path to publication?
My path has been long and convoluted. It started out with a bang with eight books, then I took ten years off when I had my boys. The road back has been much bumpier and grueling, but worth it. I’ve worked hard to update my style, improve my drawing skills, and to define what I want to say with my art. I enjoy self-promotion. I send out 4-5 postcards a year and email a smaller list regularly. Wallace and Grace came in the first day I was with an art rep. My editor for these books, Mary Kate Castellini with Bloomsbury, had my postcard, so I can honestly say postcards work.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
To push through the sound of crickets (quiet times). There are so many periods of burnout and self doubt followed by excitement and joy. It’s definitely a roller coaster ride. My favorite part of being a creator is the community I’ve become a part of. I’ve ‘met’ so many great, supportive and creative people through this work. I have many close creator friends who I’ve never met in person.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
That Wallace and Grace are friends first and foremost and that curiosity leads to great things.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I’m working on writing and illustrating my own stories. I love illustrating other writer’s stories and want to continue doing that, but to be able to create the whole project, to tell my own stories would be amazing.

e: Thanks Laura!

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