Kristina Swarner's LIGHT THE MENORAH

This year, Hanukkah begins on the evening of Sunday, December 2nd and ends on the evening of Monday, December 10th. What a wonderful opportunity to share this gorgeous Hanukkah book, LIGHT THE MENORAH with you! It is written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kristina Swarner who stops by today to talk about her method. (Published by Kar-Ben Publishing.)
e: Hi Kristina! I love your illustrations in Light the Menorah. What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
I start out by just thinking a lot, especially when I’m in bed. It doesn’t look like I’m working, but that’s really when I’m working the hardest, because I’m focusing on coming up with ideas.
After a while, hopefully I get one or two that I like.
Then I draw a lot of really rough, mostly indecipherable little pencil sketches. Once I get a good one, I tighten it up and transfer it to a linoleum plate so I can print it.

After it’s printed, I paint on top of it with watercolor and then finish up with some colored pencil where it’s needed.

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?
This is the tricky part—I try, but can’t always make it on demand! When I see it, I know it—there’s a certain depth or layer of meaning that appears or even just a detail that just makes me say, “Ohhhh!” It’s different for every illustrator. For me, when I make it happen, I can actually feel a sort of warmth in my chest—your name of “Heart Art” is a good one.
(Note: Kristina says a painting just isn’t complete until her cat lies down on it.)

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
I listened to a lot of loud music and sang and danced while I worked on the artwork— I often do when I’m working, but it especially seemed to go with the celebratory nature of this book. I had a great time, but I don't think my dog is a fan of my singing.
e: HA! How do you advertise yourself?
I have a few portfolio websites, and an agent. Sometimes I send out actual printed mailers.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My favorite part is that I get to live my childhood dream of drawing ALL DAY LONG. The part I enjoy less is having to stop and be the Accounts Receivable/Accounts Payable/IT department.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
When I’m drawing people (animals, too!), I always identify with and feel very empathetic toward them, so I really felt connected to the families in this book celebrating in their different ways. I feel like I shared their warmth and closeness, and I hope the readers do, too.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I have an ongoing plan in my head for an elaborate glow in the dark book—I’m not sure if it’s even possible to make one the way I'm imagining it, but it’s fun to think about.
e: I'd love to see that! Best of luck with all!

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