I've covered several picture books about Ada Lovelace, the woman who invented the computer. This latest iteration is by Zoë Tucker and illustrated by Rachel Katstaller (NorthSouth). She dropped by to talk about her lovely work...
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
When I read a manuscript I usually start figuring out how the characters look like, what they wear and what color scheme the book evokes in me. Color is to me, one of the most important elements of an illustration.
      Once I’ve decided that, most of my illustrations start off as messy thumbnails, either digitally or with pencil in my sketchbook. Once I’m pleased with the idea I work out the details digitally and then print out the final sketch in the size I need it. I trace the details onto smooth watercolor paper using watercolor pencils and a lightbox. And then start with the fun part of applying color: first backgrounds with watercolors and gouache, then details with colored pencils and 5B pencils.
e: What was your path to publication?
A few months before going to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, I had taken part in a course in which Zoës story was featured. I developed the character and several scenes of Zoës text in that course. With feedback from Zoë I then went to the Book Fair and presented it to Herwig Bitsche at North South, who immediately clicked with the character and the story. Months later Zoë and I were meeting for the first time in person at the publisher’s in Zürich, it was a very beautiful experience indeed!
e: FAB! Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
While I was researching about London in the times Ada was alive, I came across a very interesting picture. It featured a carriage being pulled by zebras. Apparently there had been a gentleman in London who had brought zebras to show that they could be tamed. And I of course had to draw them!
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?
When I read “Heart Art” I immediately thought of art that touches you deeply. When a piece of art touches me deeply, is when a bit of the artist shines through the piece. You can see it in every stroke of the brush and line of a pencil. I find myself returning to look again and again at books that mesmerize me with the artists attention to detail, their use of color and unique way of working. It just tells a lot of the person behind the art.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I have a lovely agent, Abigail Samoun, who does this for me. But I also am very active on Instagram and use every opportunity of going to Fairs to show my work and meet with potential clients.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Definitely dealing with the anxiety of not knowing whether new projects will come along or not. It is quite nerve wracking, but also one of the most exciting things: you never know what amazing new projects will come along, and it drives you to become better at what you do.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Even though this story is about a strong little girl who became a woman with a genius idea, this would never have happened without an environment that supported her and allowed her to develop herself. In this day and age, where girls are still less privileged than boys, it’s important to think about how we as individuals can help support other girls to become the next Ada. And it’s not a job for girls only, it’s a job for everybody.
e: Indeed! What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I’m very much looking forward to writing and illustrating my first picture book, and crossing fingers that it happens soon!

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