Julia Denos150916_ReadMe0370This is my interview with Julia Denos.

Which are your favourite images in this book? I think the last page is my favorite, because it feels like Audrey’s ‘there’ the most. She is surrounded by her white tulips (she had a tulip named for her in Holland!) and the children she loved across the world. She advocated for children with such intensity and love. I remember feeling overcome by her spirit’s passion and mission when I watched her in interviews in her UNICEF Ambassador role, in preparation for drawing that scene. Drawing is probably a lot like acting in the way you let a character or story move through you, and when you are overcome in this way, work is easy. Her love was just big. And infectious. That page was my thank you note to her.

Which image was the easiest to create? That last scene, thanks to the goosebumps (they lead you in the right direction 🙂 The spread where she is in her famous outfits from her films, because she made it so EASY with her unique movement and sense of style. The copyright page with her pup, Mr. Famous, flew out easily because of the tons of photos I’d seen of her completely in love with him. Most of the fashion-based pieces were easiest really, thanks to Audrey!

Which image was the hardest to create? The scene depicting behind-the-scenes in Roman Holiday. It was tough because I loved EVERY shot of that movie, so selecting one, and then figuring out how to work everything into it was a challenge: William Wyler, Gregory Peck, her haircut, the gelato! The crew was fun, because I got to research old fashioned film sets.

What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? I was able to connect with Audrey’s partner, Robert Wolders, and send him a print. He was so gracious to reach out. We corresponded, and hearing his support of the book and his approval of my portrayal of Audrey deeply touched me. It was like a giant squeeze from Audrey herself. We got to talk about her mission with children, and her life, and what she meant, what she was like. Those conversations with Robert meant the world to me.

What do you admire most about Audrey Hepburn? Her generosity, which seems to have come easily from her open heart: easy love in, easy love out. It’s hard to do! People have a choice when faced with adversity: close up or open. She chose open, in spite of what she survived, and I’ll admire that for the rest of my life. It’s a challenge. It’s an inner goal.

What inspired you to start illustrating? When I was very small, probably first or second grade, and I just learned how to read, I decided I would do this. I think it was a perfect storm, when I look back on it now, a combination of lots of concurrent elements: We were fortunate to have visitors at our elementary school, like Jack Gantos and Steven Kellogg. Reading Rainbow (I’m a child of the 80’s!) was at its peak, too. The town library: my mother took my gaggle of siblings to the library every week to load up on picture books. Illustrators Tomie DePaola, Vera B. Williams, Barbara Cooney, Marc Simont were strong and constant presences in my life, thanks to my teachers, librarians and parents. The book The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble was an obsession of mine as a little girl. I checked it out over and over and over.

When you go into a bookshop, which department do you head straight to? Children’s! I was a children’s bookseller at the beginning of my career, so it feels like home. It freshens up my eyes to see what’s out there. I become so inspired by my colleagues and cheer inside for the new titles out. (The little-sized chairs and tiny tables don’t hurt either, which are me-sized–I’m little too!)

What are your favourite products? Dr. PH Martin’s Watercolor inks, and Hydrus colors. I also love Arches paper. And I live in Photoshop. I think the toolbar and my brain are fused partners at this point.

What do you choose to do in your spare time? I don’t really think about my time off as time off, because I’m constantly taking from my experience and letting it filter into picture book or novel form. I’m usually actually working the hardest when I’m not working! For instance, if I’m not in the studio, I’m in our local marsh, hiking on a mountain, or at the water in my town of Quincy, MA. But that’s where all my ideas come from. Nature mostly. So I make sure I’m in it a lot.

What are you working on next? My new book, Swatch The Girl Who Loved Color is my first authored and illustrated book. It publishes with Balzer + Bray, March 2016. I’ve been working on it pretty much my whole life, so it feels good she’s finally about to be released into the wild. In the background I’m working in all different directions. I’m writing some sci-fi middle grade right now, and jumping in and out of a dozen or so picture book manuscripts. I am painting a lot of fashion lately, inspired by runway designers. Fashion keeps my eyes sharpened for picture book illustrating.

Read my review of ‘Just Being Audrey’ here.

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