SCBWI Bologna 2006 Illustrator Interview: Sara Rojo Pérez

From SCBWI Bologna 2006:

Sara Rojo Pérez will be speaking at the SCBWI Bologna 2006 conference in Bologna, Italy, March 25-26, 2006. Other speakers include: Authors and illustrators Scott Westerfeld (author interview), Justine Larbalestier (author interview), Doug Cushman. Editors: Victoria Arms/Bloomsbury, Judy Zylstra/Eerdmans, Anne McNeil of Hodder UK, Mary Rodgers/Lerner. Agents: Rosemary Canter/PFD, Barry Goldblatt/Barry Goldblatt Literary, Rosemary Stimola (agent interview), and others. See registration information.

Sara Rojo Pérez is an artist working in many different media. She was for many years the Artistic and Creative Director of Sopa de Sobre, an animations studio working in both publicity and film. She has illustrated over 30 books, including La Aventura De Cecilia y El Dragón (Candela/Bibliópolis), Misterio En El Jardín (Kalandraka), Mi Gata Eureka (Candela/Bibliópolis), Manual Práctico Para Viajar En Ovni (Candela/Bibliópolis), The Free and the Brave: A Collection of Poems About the United States (Compass Point Books), and The Flying Pilgrim (Aldeasa), among others. Her picture book No Hay Nada Como El Original (Destino) was selected by the International Youth Library in Munich for the White Ravens 2005. Lawrence Schimel interviewed her in February 2006.

LS: How and why did you begin illustrating for kids?

SRP: For many years, while I was working in animation, I had been asking my writer friends to write me a story for children to illustrate, but they were all so lazy! In the end, I sent my portfolio to a young Spanish publisher specialized in children’s books that I had liked, and they responded offering me a text to illustrate.

LS: You also illustrate for adults. Is it more challenging for you to draw for one age group or another?

SRP: It is more difficult to illustrate for children, but mostly because the editors (especially in the US) have so many rules and prohibitions. Lately, I am working more in graphic novels, and it is such a relief to have that freedom!

LS: Name one book you wish you had illustrated?

SRP: I have always wanted to illustrate a book about math, but no publisher has ever offered me one—not even when I have worked illustrating textbooks!

LS: What is a favorite book from your own childhood?

SRP: Jim Button and Lucas the Conductor by Michael Ende.

LS: As an adult now, what is your favorite children’s book (as a reader)?

SRP: As a reader, I find Tamora Pierce to be quite addictive, for her lively female characters.

LS: What non-children’s book influences do you draw on for your work?

SRP: My tastes and training in art are quite diverse, and I don’t distinguish between art for younger or older viewers, but rather whether it fulfils its intentions and, most importantly, if it speaks to me in some way.

LS: And from the world of children’s literature?

SRP: Quentin Blake is a favorite. I also like how Holly Hobbie manages to be cute without being too saccharine.

LS: Any advice for new illustrators?

SRP: Look at all different kinds of art and styles. And don’t get frustrated by any individual editor’s (or art director’s) response.

LS: Any advice for more experienced illustrators?

SRP: Try new styles, both to avoid burnout and to avoid being pigeonholed as only being capable of one particular style.

LS: You work in many different media. Do you illustrate differently depending on whether you are using a pencil, a paintbrush, or the computer?

SRP: The tool itself doesn’t matter so much as the effect or tone that the text I am illustrating requires. So many people think that computers are a mystifying and alien world, but they are just another tool to be used (or not) depending on what techniques are called for.

LS: What are some of the differences in children’s publishing, and/or being an illustrator, in Europe as opposed to the US?

SRP: For one thing, these questions! In Europe, illustrating for children is not so stratified or segregated as a subspecialty. In terms of publishing, however, the market (especially in Spain) is very dominated by translations from the English, and especially for picture books, co-editions with international publishers from the UK, the US, France, etc.

LS: What is your relationship with the writers you work with?

SRP: So far I haven’t killed any of them!

LS: Do you prefer illustrating your own manuscripts, or working in collaboration with another’s text?

SRP: So far I prefer working with other people’s texts. But who knows what the future may hold…

LS: What do you have up on the walls of your studio?

SRP: Drawings of mine, photos, a poster from Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree. The list of deadlines I need to worry about.

LS: Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

SRP: Bologna is great. Not only can one see so many different children’s books being produced all over the world, but the food is always superb!

Cynsational News & Links

Marc Aronson (author interview) has been selected by the History Channel to be their spokesperson for a program called “Save our History,” which provides grants to schools that do outstanding work on local history. He’ll be filming from at least ten cities this summer.

From Blogger to Published Author, for $30 and Up by Sean Captain from The New York Times. Find out about “new Book-Smart software from Blurb.” The software is scheduled to be offered for free by the end of the month at It includes a “Slurper” tool for downloading and reforming a blog post into a book, available for purchase online. [Thanks to Jennifer L. Holm, author of Babymouse (Random House, 2006), for suggesting this link].

Uma Krishnaswami (author interview) has been awarded a 2006 residency at Hedgebrook, an organization whose mission is to invest in women writers “by providing them with space and time to create significant work.”

Author D. Anne Love’s website has been redesigned by 2 Bad Mice Design. Check it out! D. Anne is the author of Semiprecious (McElderry, 2006) and Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia (Holiday House, 2006.)