Today’s stop on the tour is dedicated to the wonderful students at Glenwood Avenue Elementary School, located on an island in Wildwood, New Jersey! A great big thanks goes to these dedicated teachers who helped organize this exciting event: Mrs. Sharpe, Mrs. Cardaci, Mrs. K. Melchioree, Mrs. T. Melchiorre, and Ms. Sholtis.
As a special guest appearance today, E.B. Lewis, the award-winning illustrator of D is for Drinking Gourd, answers questions Glenwood Avenue’s students submitted for an interview.
Q: What made you decide to become an artist? Did you take art lessons?
A: I grew up in a house where art was very important. My father worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Both of my mother’s brothers were artists. One of my uncles graduated from the Tyler School of Art and then taught art at Temple. My other uncle went to the Philadelphia College of Art. Growing up in that kind of an environment made it a natural thing for me to decide to become an artist. I went to the Tyler School of Art—the same school as my one uncle. I now teach art at the University of the Arts which used to be the Philadelphia College of Art. You can see that it has become full circle.
Q: How long did it take for you to illustrate D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet?
A: It took about two entire months to illustrate it.
Q: What materials and supplies did you use for the pictures?
A: Good quality paints and brushes make a difference. I used Winsor & Newton watercolors and Kolinsky Series 7 watercolor brushes.
Q: In the Malcolm X drawing, were the people reflected in the sunglasses real or made up?
A: Those are real people! I saw them in a photograph and decided to illustrate them reflected off his glasses. Every one of the models I use for the illustrations in my books is a real person. Depending on the book and the location and the background, sometimes I do a photo shoot at a park or other various locations. If the story takes place in Mississippi, I’ll hop on a plane and go to Mississippi. If it’s in Africa, I’ll go there if I can. I’ll go wherever the story takes me. There are times when it’s not feasible to travel because of time restraints, so I will actually create those images as closely as I can. I often go to the Print and Picture Department in Philadelphia and take photographs from the pictures in their files.
Q: When you drew the pictures for this book, did you feel like you were there?
A: I always feel like I’m there when I’m illustrating a book. It’s a very emotional experience. One of the most emotional pieces for me to work on in D is for Drinking Gourd was the page “S is for Slavery, a sad part of our past.” It was very powerful.
Q: How did you get the colors to reflect off each other for the letter H?
A: That’s a great question! It’s all about being observant and looking carefully at the reference. That particular reference I was using had a shiny reflection on it, and I was able to interpret that and include it as a beautiful quality of the illustration I was making.
Q: What is the hardest part about illustrating a book?
A: The hardest part about illustrating a book is probably gathering the references. It’s not necessarily a time issue, it’s just about finding the right images that I want to use. I go to the library. I look on the computer. I ask people who are experts in their field. The reason I want to find just the right images is because when I illustrate a book, it’s a visual interpretation of the written word. It’s like speaking a different language. It’s as if I would be translating your words into French. I need to explain the story someone told me with words and it’s as if I need to translate that to my people whose language is visual. I sit down and go through that interpretation process in my head. I do thumbnail sketches and create a storyboard. I try to translate the words into images.
Q: Do you have a collection of your own artwork?
A: Yes. All over the house.
Q: Do you have any wise words for students who like to draw?
A: Practice, practice, practice. Just have fun! The other stuff comes later. What’s important now is to practice as much as you can and experience the joy of drawing!
Thank you, E.B. for joining the tour today. This was a highlight of the week!
Yesterday’s Trivia Q and A:
Yesterday’s question was:
What was a major symbol used by abolitionists to inspire people everywhere to fight to bring an end to slavery in America?
a. Liberty Bell
b. Seven candles of Kwanzaa
c. Olympic torch
The answer is: a. Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell rang out frequently in Philadelphia, the birthplace of freedom from British rule. Eventually it became a symbol of freedom from slavery as well.
Today’s Trivia Question:
What city-state in northern Nigeria became an important center of trade, culture, scholarship, and religion during the Middle Ages?
Submit your answer by posting it as a comment to today’s blog. It won’t be published on the blog, but your name will be put in a hat to be drawn for 5 prizes to give away at the end of the tour. Check back in tomorrow for the answer!
On Day 9 of my Virtual Book Tour, I’ll be visiting a delightful children’s bookstore, Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop. Only this visit isn’t “virtual,” it’s a real, live event! Mark your calendars, invite your friends, and come celebrate Black History Month with us! On Saturday at 2:00 at Mrs. Nelson’s wonderful bookstore in La Verne, California, I’ll be reading my picture book D is for Drinking Gourd. Afterwards, our younger guests will have the opportunity to create a craft from another one of my books, A Kid’s Guide to African American History.