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Interview: Elizabeth Zechel

September 2nd, 2012 (09:29 pm)
thirsty

Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Leverage score music by Joseph LoDuca

When author-illustrator Elizabeth Zechel asked me to design her website last year, I happily accepted, as I was already familiar with her lovely work and was glad to help her establish a place where she could showcase it.

I stole some of her time this weekend to talk about her career and her creations.

Do you remember the first time your art was displayed?

The first time I ever had work up on display was at the Downers Grove Public library. Wasn't TOO hard to get work up in the hometown library. But for a 14 year old, it was very cool.

What do you use to create and edit your art?

I mostly use colored pencils. I started out with pencils and I'm sure I will finish with pencils. I painted in school and enjoyed it times. But drawing feels much more intimate to me. And you can take it anywhere. You don't need a million paints, canvas, paint thinners. SPACE! I just love drawing.

If someone is interested in commissioning your work or collaborating on you, how should they contact you?

People can contact me through my website!

Was Is There a Mouse in the Baby's Room? your first published book?

Yes.

How did you get the idea, and how did you get that book deal?

I love drawing kids and animals, both doing monkey(ish) things to each other and it actually just flowed out very easily. That really, really doesn't happen too much for me! I sent it out cold to several publishers. I didn't have an agent at that time. There are a few publishers that will take unsolicited works cold. Not too many but they are out there.

You've contributed artwork to storybooks, cookbooks, and articles written by others, including The Little General and the Giant Snowflake by Matthea Harvey and Bubby's Homemade Pies by Jen Bervin and Ron Silver. Did you bake?

I do bake! Love it. Apple pie has got to be my favorite. I don't really have an accurate recipe. My measurements at least for the filling part come down to "bunch" of granny smith apples, "some" brown sugar and cinnamon. But ever since my son was born I've been making a lot homemade pizza. Whole wheat crust, make the sauce, and sometimes we'll even make the cheese for the pizza, which is so much fun.

Wordbirds, written by Liesl Schillinger with illustrations by YOU - will be published next year. Do you have a favorite bird in the piece?

I have a few favorites in the "Wordbird" book, but off the top of my head is definitely the Spoonbill bird. He looks completely pre-historic! It's actually not on the website! It should be though! The Blue Footed Boobies which are on the website are pretty awesome birds! Click here to see the birds.

Have you ever had a showing at an art gallery?

I showed in galleries when I first came to New York. But through years of trying to be in that world, I slowly came to the realization that what I really like to do and what I was better at doing was illustrating. Course, if someone wants my drawings up in a gallery...sure!

Your name is awesome, by the way. Double zings. I'm sure you've heard people totally butcher it.

My name has been totally butchered over the years! It's pronounced "Zek-el." At least there aren't too many Zechels out there!

You're not only an illustrator and an author - you're also a kindergarten teacher! Do your students call you Miss Elizabeth or Miss Zechel?

My kids in school just call me Elizabeth, but sometimes they grab hold of "Lizzie," which is totally sweet.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

One of my favorite illustrators is Michael Sowa. He is wonderfully dark! He juxtaposes people and animals in strange situations and he paints these rich, gorgeous pictures of dreamlike landscapes. "Esterhazy, The Rabbit Prince" is a favorite.

Name some of your favorite books.

One of my favorite books as a child, I actually just found again on-line and ordered it. It's called Poppet written and illustrated by Margot Austin. It's about this little boy who goes hunting in the middle of the night for a bear with his cat and dog (who also talk, by the way). It had such an impression on me as a kid and I love it to this day.

Another book is a new book by Matthea Harvey called Ceil the Pet Glacier. It is wonderful! About a little girl who has very strange parents and while on their family vacation, finds a pet glacier that goes home with them. Of course!

The other books:
"Kitchen Confiedential" by Anthony Bourdain
"My Life in France" by Julia Child
"Bossypants" by Tina Fey
"Without Feathers" by Woody Allen
"Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl
"Holidays on Ice" by David Sedaris
"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris
"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck

Please check out ElizabethZechel.com and say hello to Elizabeth as well as the beautiful birds and other illustrations which were recently added to the gallery.