I stopped in my tracks when I saw the gorgeous artwork on this wonderful biography of a scientific hero, Biologist Ernest Everett Just. Happily, Millbrook Press was able to connect me with Luisa Uribe, the illustrator, who visits today to discuss her new book...
e: Hi Luisa! I think this book is gorgeous! What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
I usually start by reading and rereading the text; I tend to work through potential images in my mind a lot, so I like to think on it first for a bit before I start sketching.I also start doing research on the subjects in the book and anything else that might be useful. For this book I had some recommendations from Mélina so I read E.E. Just’s biography and some of the history and context of events in the book. I also looked for historic photos and all the references I could find for specific people, ecosystems, places/buildings, etc.
After that I work through whatever ideas I have by sketching them and then making thumbnails when I feel like something could work. This is the messiest part, as I’m not worrying about drawing well but more focusing on what the picture should show.
When I have a better idea of each spread I start working on the computer, drawing first a simple and fast sketch to figure out the final composition and then a cleaner and more detailed one. After everything is approved and with a color palette in mind I start blocking out shapes and defining each element, and then add lines on top and finally some texture. I try to keep a file where I put every spread in thumbnail size in order so I can see how the whole book is working out in terms of composition and rhythm, and if the color is consistent with the narrative. After that comes small adjustments and that’s about it!
  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, what makes me love an image is, on one hand, the use of color; some artists use color in a way that connects directly to your emotional core and that is amazing to me. On the other hand, a masterful composition will keep you in the frame and lead you through the story, and that makes me want to read/look at it over and over. I think this might not be the same for everybody, specially if you have visual literacy, as it gets more specific as you learn and absorb new images, and also with time and the evolution of taste.  
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Mélina’s text is deep and has a lot history behind it, so it’s probably the hardest I’ve worked at researching before starting to draw, and while drawing as well. It was a first to have so many images and stories in my head, to have this complete of a picture in my mind as I worked on this book.

  e: How do you advertise yourself?
Not that well, actually! I have a website (, and I post occasionally on Instagram and Twitter (@lupencita) but I’m trying to improve and share a bit more.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
The most challenging part is the voice in my head saying “You’re not good enough”, “this is not working”, “it’s not nearly as good as -insert great illustrator here-“, It’s paralyzing at times and stops me from letting loose and producing more art, but at the same time it’s what keeps me improving because I’m never completely satisfied with my output. I don’t think there’s going to be a time when I look at something I made and say “Yep, did it, this is great” but I can keep working towards being a better artist every day.
  e: I can relate! Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Something I like about this story (among many things!) is that E.E. Just kept working in spite of injustice, and managed to find likeminded people who were his allies. I’d say, find your people, they’ll help you grow.
e: Good advice! What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I’ve been working on my own books for a bit. I’m still learning to approach this from the author’s side, not just as an illustrator so it’s been slow progress, but hopefully I’ll get there in the end.
e: I have faith in you and can't wait to see your next project!

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