Illustrator Interview: Susan L. Roth on TLA’s “Take a Chance on Art 2010: Disaster Relief Raffle”

Interview with Susan L. Roth

by TLA member Jeanette Larson
of Austin, Texas

Take a Chance on Art 2010: Disaster Relief Raffle sponsored by the Texas Library Association. Peek: “Big white mouse and little brown mouse are tending a garden of flowers on the May pages in Susan L. Roth’s charming board book for preschoolers, My Love for You All Year Round (Dial, 2003).

The original artwork for this spread (above), donated by the artist for the 2010 Texas Library Disaster Relief Raffle, is a multi-layered collage of colored and textured papers rich in color, shading, and detail.”

Why did you decide to donate a piece of your work to the Texas Disaster Relief Fund Raffle?

There are many worthy causes, but this one seems especially important. Many times people react quickly to help acute emergencies, but after the emergency is no longer in headlines, people tend to forget. Before the victims’ lives are ever back to normal, new headlines replace old ones.

This is a small thing for me to do, but I hope that it will help someone a little bit, especially those who are still in need but whose cause is out of the front-and-center spotlight.

How did you decide on which piece you would donate?

I picked this piece because I wanted it to be a cheerful piece, and I thought it would be nice if there were a publication associated with it–and it is from a cheerful book. I wanted my contribution to feel positive and hopeful.

Several of your books, including Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea, also by Greg Mortenson (Dial, 2009), deal with people helping people. Why are causes like this fund important to you?

Most days I sit in my “ivory-tower” little studio at my little desk. As I cut and tear and paste and glue, I think about how, completely by chance, I have been blessed with amazing fortune.

I have never known hunger, cold or war; my family is close to me, I have good friends; and I am able to do professionally that which I love to do and have always wanted to do.

But when things are quiet and sometimes a little repetitious, my mind wanders from my hands. I have time to consider this business of making books for children, and I do realize that pretty books and sweet books are fine for what they are, but for me, they cannot carry enough weight to rationalize the self-indulgence that they seem to demand.

One of the most important roles that I see for children’s books is as vehicles for teaching our children about other peoples, cultures and places, leading them easily, comfortably, and naturally to understanding and appreciation of other peoples, cultures and places.

This is how I prefer to help people, using the only voice I have. My heavier subject matters seem to me to be logical choices as ways to do this best.

Besides, I do support the philosophies that I write about.

Share a little bit of information about the piece. How was it created, and what book is it from?

This piece does not have such a high-minded origin. The book, My Love for You All Year Round, is a modest teaching device, a concept book to teach children the months of the year. But I have tried to present this with warmth and love and, I hope, not too many of the usual clichés associated with calendars.

The flowers are so colorful and really speak to those of us who love wildflowers. How do you get such bright, rich colors?

Thank you! My papers and fabrics come from all over the world. So I guess I could say that I am leading the children to other peoples, cultures and places through the papers, even when dealing with more regular subject matters. I have gone to the sources to collect most of these art supplies since I, myself, am perpetually interested in other peoples, cultures and places.

In case someone who doesn’t win the raffle is interested, is your original art available through a gallery?

Most of my originals are still in my studio closet. Occasionally I do give a piece of art to a very special friend. More occasionally, I might sell a piece. If someone is interested in purchasing something, I can be reached though my website:

Cynsational Notes

The raffle will be April 16 during the second general session of the TLA Annual Conference in San Antonio. Tickets are available online (mail by April 9) and will also be sold at the conference: $5 each or 5 for $20.