E.B. I used monoprint and a little gouache to create the illustrations for The House of Grass and Sky. Monoprint is a printmaking technique in which you paint on a plate and press that plate onto paper. Each print is unique, hence the name “mono” print. In my case I did all the backgrounds using inks and then running it through an etching press. This technique produces a lot of textural surprises, which lent themself very well to the pastoral atmosphere in the book. The line work was done by painting on glass, then pressing paper onto the glass to transfer the line. My line work and backgrounds were then layered together digitally.
Sketching thumbnails at the inspiration house.
e: What was your path to publication?
E.B. A long and winding one! I studied illustration in college but was not sure that children’s books were the direction for me until I started working in a children’s bookstore. It was there that I was able to see a wide range of inspiration, and could begin to envision my work in a book format. After college I also worked as a press operator in a few different letterpress shops, the main one being Smudge Ink. It was there that I was eventually asked to design a line of cards for them, which really helped me hone a more commercial style, and began to blend my printmaking experience with my illustration background. All the while I had been sending samples out to publishers...but it wasn’t until my dear friend, Julia Denos (who I met working at the bookstore), asked me if I would want to illustrate a book she wrote, Windows. Of course I did! We ended up pitching it together to Candlewick and they acquired it. It was only after I had the contract that they showed me all the samples they had saved from me over the years! It is rare for friends to be able to pitch a story together in that way, and I’m so grateful that I got to make my first book with such a close friend, and with a publisher I deeply admire.
My grandmother’s house in the country. I wanted to capture the feeling of her house.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
E.B. Well, since I only illustrated the book, I will tell you that the reason I was drawn to the story is because it reminded me of my grandmother’s house, which was a 1700s farmhouse way out in the country. I sought out a similar style house to rent when I was working on the book, and ended up staying in a house that had records and photo albums of the family going back generations! That is what gave me the idea to use photographs as a storytelling element in the book. If you notice the border collie at the beginning of the book, that is a nod to the family whose house I rented. They were sheep farmers going back generations and border collies were ever present.
Some of the photos found in the inspiration house
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?
E.B. Great question. I think Heart Art happens when what you see on the page matches something intangible inside you. This is what makes it hard to pinpoint! I don’t have a process for making it other than intuitively waiting until something “pings” inside of me when I look at what I’ve done. Then I hope that others will have a “ping” when they see it too.
First sketch of the house
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
E.B. The main platform I engage on is Instagram. I wouldn’t say I advertise myself very effectively, but I enjoy sharing what I’m working on and connecting with readers that way.
Some line work from the book, before being added to the backgrounds digitally
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
E.B. I worked a lot of tough jobs that faced the public through my younger years, so I’m most grateful for the freedom to be alone and in control of my hours. The most challenging part is persisting through the work on days when I’d like to take a nap...but doesn’t everyone have that problem?!
A couple inked up monoprint plates, prior to being run through the press
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
E.B. I’d love for readers to take away the idea of listening to and respecting old places, even the most modest ones, for they hold their own energy. In our age of home renovation flip shows, I think a more modest way of living can be overlooked. I love that this story honors the quiet, intuitive path of restoring an old home, instead of shaping it beyond recognition.
Me in my basement print shop
My upstairs studio, where I paint and do everything else!
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
E.B. My second author/illustrated book, Also, comes out in February 2022 (HMH) and I’m currently working on illustrations for a book called Goodnight Little Bookstore by Amy Cherrix for Candlewick Press. My dream project most certainly would involve miniature books!