20 Questions with... Lauren Castillo

Image © Lauren Castillo

This morning I woke to a wonderful surprise in my inbox: an interview from Lauren Castillo. A few months ago, I asked

Lauren Castillo

to do a 20 questions interview for my blog; she said that she'd love to, but she was quite busy and might have time come October. I pencilled her name into my October calendar and forgot about it as I concentrated on other things. They say wonderful things come to you when you're not waiting for them; and this is the perfect example! :-)

I have always admired Lauren's work. I first heard her name when I was stalking the web pages of the

School of Visual Arts

in New York.

(This was my dream school, where I wanted to do a masters of illustration IF... if i could afford it.... if I had gotten in.... if I and hadn't fallen in love with someone in the UK....)

And, since then I have enjoyed reading her


and keeping up with her children's books.

And, without further procrastination, here is her interview!

1. What was your first illustrating job?

I did a small emergent reader book back in 2004. But my first actual project as a children's book illustrator was offered to me in 2005, titled


, by Emily Jenkins. Frances Foster over at Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan) was the awesome editor who took a chance on an "unknown artist", and I am so grateful to still be working with her today.

2. How long have you been an illustrator?

I've been illustrating full-time for about 5 years now.

3. Which success, either personal or professional, are you most proud of?

I think I'm most proud of myself for being able to survive here in EXPENSIVE New York City as an illustrator. I came to the city for graduate school, but honestly didn't think I'd still be living here so long afterward. I won't lie, NYC livin' as an artist is rough! But I am working super hard to be able to continue to afford it--I love this city too much to say goodbye!

Image © Lauren Castillo

4. Do you have any comfort routines to cope with rejections?

I suppose I just work though it. It's no secret that the publishing industry is a competitive one, and I am always prepared for projects/story ideas that I pitch to be turned down. While it can be hard to receive negative feedback, I like to look at it as advice to help me improve my storytelling skills. I figure that no matter how many years I am in the business, or how many books I will have published, there is always going to be room for improvement.

5. Which illustrators or artists do you admire the most? Why?

Some of my very favorite children's book illustrators are Ezra Jack Keats, Maurice Sendak and John Burningham. All three of these guys know how to create characters filled with personality and emotion, and incredible, magical worlds for those characters to live in.

6. What was your favourite book as a child? Does that book influence you now?

There were so many! But the first book I can remember buying on my own (at a school book fair) was David Small's


. I found it while going through a box at my parents' house a few years ago, and realized for the first time that one of my current favorite illustrator's was the creator of the book I wore out as a child. I was so excited to make that connection!

7. What are the essential items to take with you when you go out? (sketchbook, journal, camera?)

When I'm traveling somewhere new, I always bring along a small size sketchbook. Location drawing is my favorite kind of drawing!

Image © Lauren Castillo

8. What is your favourite medium for illustration? When did you first start using it?

I love the textured line that results from acetone transfers, which I've used to create almost all of my picture books (I first experimented with this technique in 2004). But I've recently been trying to find a less toxic method, that has a similar result. Any suggestions???

9. How good is your handwriting? Do you use your own handwriting in your illustrations?

I like my handwriting, but I know it is not always legible to others. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with a couple designers though, drawing the cover type for a few of my books. That was great fun!

10. What do you collect? Why?

I have a thing for fun patterned papers and fabrics, and save scraps for possible collage, or pattern ideas to use in some parts of my illustrations. For example: In the illustration below I used a pattern from an old piece of fabric for the wallpaper. This image is a spread from my book



Image © Lauren Castillo

11. Do you have a ‘style’ or do you vary your methods for each project?

It hasn't really been intentional, but all of my books, regardless of subject matter, end up looking like "me".

12. Do you scribble in the margins of books? Or make notes or underline things that inspire you?

Not so much now. But when I was in school I'd doodle in everything--It somehow helped me to pay better attention to the teacher and lesson :)

13. Do you have a morning routine in the studio to prime your inspiration?

I enjoy browsing through some of my favorite blogs over coffee, before I get to work.

14. When do you work best, in the morning, afternoon or evening?

This always changes. But recently my best work time is before lunch, and then in the early evening hours. I find that I'm not my most productive in the mid-afternoon. Maybe it's this summer heat!

15. What is the one art supply you could not live without?

I love my Pilot Razor Point Pen. I can draw AND watercolor with it.

Image © Lauren Castillo

16. Do you have a favourite café? Do you sketch or write in cafés?

I used to go to a place called Cup Of Joe's (here's an acetone transfer drawing I did of the café), but it closed last year. There's a really nice park a few blocks away that I sometimes take my sketchbook to.

17. When you look out the window in your studio, what do you see?

(see photo)

Image © Lauren Castillo

Image © Lauren Castillo

18. How do you like your coffee, or tea?

Coffee please! With cream and a little sugar.

19. What’s on your nightstand right now?

A Y.A. novel by Monika Schröder titled



20. Any words of advice for other illustrators in the field?

Create the kind of art and stories that interest YOU. Don't try to create what you think will please others (the market). In the end, your most honest work will be your best work.