Sunday, September 20, 2009

Interview: Elizabeth Dulemba, author/illustrator

I’m interviewing author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba today. And at the end, there will be a chance to win her brand new picture book, Soap, soap, soap! (Update: The winner of the contest for Elizabeth Dulemba’s new PB, Soap! Soap! Soap! is Amy Baskin – yay!!)


What’s the difference between illustrating someone else’s text vs. illustrating your own?
The obvious difference is a sense of ownership and freedom to be able to tweak the text to work with the illustrations. However, in the end, I’m still illustrating a specific story the best way I can. And perhaps that’s the most difficult thing of all – listening to that inner voice and making changes (even tough ones) when I know I need to. When I am the sole creator, I have to live up to the highest and most demanding standards – my own!

What’s your process for digital painting?
 I’m evolving where digital painting is concerned. I used to do all my sketches by hand (elements scattered every which way on a page) and scan them into Photoshop to create my composition, but more and more I find myself actually drawing in my computer. It really depends on how the art wants out of me. I also used to lay in all the flat color in Photoshop then render/shade in Painter (how I did SOAP), but I’m starting to experiment with working directly on a colored canvas in Photoshop and/or Painter.

Many people think digital makes you faster, but I’m finding the opposite to be true. Since I don’t have to fiddle with mixing colors, I’m able to spend more time experimenting with method – and that has actually slowed me down. (In a good way, I like to think!)

Do you use the digital brushes that come with Photoshop/Painter or do you make your own or find them online somewhere?
 I’m in a bit of a transition with my brushes right now. I illustrated SOAP, SOAP, SOAP on my older computer using Photoshop and Painter with a Wacom tablet. I don’t often create my own brushes, but I definitely manipulate the ones that are available. On my new computer I’m experimenting with keeping everything in Photoshop – we’ll see. But I’m also wanting to pull in more texture. I started doing it in SOAP but really want to push that. In other words, I’m always experimenting and hope I never stop!

pages 14-15 from Soap, soap, soap!
pages 14-15 from Soap, soap, soap!

Do you have any tips for someone that’s starting to paint on the computer?
The main thing would be to be patient with yourself. You won’t get it overnight. Just play with it, work with it, learn something new every day and let your knowledge and comfort level grow over time. Working digitally is wonderful (and liberating) but it can also be intimidating at first. I promise you I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of what these programs can do, and I’ve been working with them since day 1.

The other point would be to experiment with media (digitally) that you don’t use in ‘real’ life. For
instance, I never considered myself a traditional painter, and yet my favorite brushes in Painter are the oil brushes. Go figure.

What’s your favorite thing about digital painting?
I came up through graphic design where everything was speedy, speedy. So I worked with quick media like markers and colored pencils. I never learned how to mix colors. And yet, with digital painting, I have the full rainbow and all its nuances available to me! I’ve often heard traditional artists complain that digital doesn’t allow for the ‘happy accidents’ that can make painting so exciting. But I can assure you, I get plenty of those happy accidents and unexpected results and they are downright wonderful.

What’s your least favorite thing about digital painting?
A finished piece of art for me is either the printed page or a giclee. I do hate that I don’t have an ‘original’ in the traditional sense. It makes me wonder if someday – way far away – I might actually play with traditional painting again.

What did you do for Talk Like a Pirate Day?
The last three years I created a Pirate-themed coloring page for my Coloring Page Tuesdays. All were linked to by the guys who actually invented “Talk Like a Pirate Day” on their main website. I hope to create another one this year to post to my blog along with pirate humor, poems, etc. Gotta love drawing pirates – Arrrrrrrr!!!!

What are you working on next?
I am currently illustrating “The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia”, written by my friend Susan R. Spain, for Sterling Publishers (Holiday 2010). I’m also writing a new novel, shopping a new picture book and have lots of other works-in-progress. I’m busy, but I love it!

Bio: Elizabeth O. Dulemba was beamed to this planet with a pencil in her hand. Once she stopped chewing on it she began to draw and write stories for children. She is an award-winning illustrator for Highlights and of several picture books: Paco and the Giant Chile Plant (bilingual); the ParentSmart KidHappy™ series (3 books); Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese; The Prince’s Diary; and “The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia” (2010). She also wrote her latest picture book: Soap, soap, soap!  “e” enjoys speaking to kids and adults about creating picture books and offers free coloring pages at

Contest to win Soap, soap, soap!: You can win your very own copy of Soap, soap, soap! written and illustrated by Elizabeth Dulemba, by commenting on this post and leaving your blog or email so I know how to get ahold of you if you win. The contest copy is bilingual (it’s really cool to see the words in both languages). The cover of the book is shown above.

The contest is open to residents of the US for comments until midnight EST on September 30th. (Sorry it’s only for US residents, but last time I did an international contest, the shipping for the book was more than the cost of the book.)