I recently had the chance to chat with Amy Moreno, whose illustrations for The Doll Violinist make her a finalist (together with the story) at the ABC's Children's Picture Book Competition. Amy talks about the artistic temperament, the competitive world of children's book publishing, and offers advice to novice artists who want to break into the field.
How long have you been working as a freelance artist and illustrator?
I studied commercial art/illustration in Boston in the early 1980s and have been working in the field as a freelance illustrator since the early 1990s.
Did you always know you would become one?
Yes and no. I always enjoyed drawing and painting, but was not sure I would pursue art as a major until I was in 11th grade. I had also considered teaching.
Do you think artists are born?
Ah, the age old question. No one knows for sure, but I believe that more than the actual mechanical ability to draw or paint is the ability to see things and a deep drive or desire to capture it on paper, canvas, clay, music, etc.
The ability to paint or drawn can be learned by anyone who desires it deeply. The desire and drive is the key. I think that as far as having a sensitivity to things around us, that is what makes an artist. This explains the ability many writers, musicians, painters have to switch back and forth into crafts and be multi-talented in music, drama, painting, writing. It’s the nature of feeling things deeply and expressing them in different ways.
Do you have a favorite medium or style?
My favorite medium is oil paint, although I have put it aside for many years due to having small children. It isn’t an easy medium to store, or leave out with small children. I am finally able to use it again, and am thrilled. I also enjoy graphite, pen and ink, and colored pencil and gouache.
How competitive is the world of children’s book publishing for illustrators?
It is an extremely competitive field. There is an abundance of incredibly talented illustrators filling the market. Any artist who reaches the point of illustrating a picture book has surmounted incredible odds, and achieved a nearly impossible feat. I have heard one children’s illustrator clarify that this is the entertainment industry in many ways, and as such, the level of difficulty is parallel.
What are your sources of inspiration?
My faith in God is the main source of my inspiration, which brings great hope and joy. I am inspired by my own children, and my nieces, nephews, and children’s friends. Many of my childhood memories are a huge source of inspiration as well. The list could go on forever. I enjoy listening to good music of many kinds, and browsing through thrift shops, antique shops, and of course viewing a multitude of picture books.
Would you like to share with our readers a bit about any of your current or future projects?
I am working on a children’s book by Mayra Calvani at the moment. It is a delight to work on. I have been painting it in oils, and am busy finding reference materials for the period, which is the Victorian era.
What is the most fascinating part of being an illustrator? What is the most frustrating?
One of the most fascinating parts of being an illustrator is reading a story, and bringing that sense to others in the art I create. Illustrating opens the door to learning things I’d never have learned otherwise. I also enjoy learning new things when researching history and background for illustrations. I’ve been learning much about the Victorian era while creating the art for The Doll Violinist.
Describe a regular day in Amy Moreno’s life. Do you follow a disciplined schedule?
My schedule varies depending on what is going on in my family’s schedule. I have three active kids. I do most of my work during the mornings when they are in school, or late at night when they are asleep. I sometimes take advantage to sketch ideas in doctor’s and dentist’s offices, or at the pool this past summer, and in any spare moments.