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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Interview with Larry Day, illustrator of Nice Work, Franklin

It's a pleasure to have illustrator Larry Day here at The Hiding Spot this week! Though Day has worked with many different authors during the course of his career, his most recent published collaboration was with Suzanne Tripp Jurmain for Nice Work, Franklin! It feels especially fitting that Day is here during the week of President's Day, as he so often illustrates picture books that address US history.

Can you share a bit about your illustrating process and the research that goes into illustrating a nonfiction book? 
The illustrating process starts with printing out and reading the manuscript. It feels more comfortable to physically spread out it out in front of me. While reading it, I draw visual notes along the margins. This comes from my decades of drawing storyboards and drawing thumbnail sketches on the margins of scripts. 

From there, I draw another round of thumbnails, this time progressing to an actual sketchbook. At this stage, I’m figuring out the pacing, compositions, page turns, single pages, vignettes, and full-page spreads. My sketchbook thumbnails usually look like tumbleweeds stuck on the page. From there, I make a very small book dummy with quick simple line drawings. I reduce and cut the text to fit the pages of the dummy and tape it down to the pages. This gives me an idea of how the art will carry the story from page to page. I then draw tighter pencil drawings. The next step is to go to the finished pencil drawings. I draw these directly onto the watercolor paper. Changing up my mediums is not unusual for me. Sometimes I use ink and watercolor. For this series of books with Suzanne, I use a Wolff pencil, watercolor and white gouache. 

Generally, I start my research from the moment I start reading the manuscript. I try to read what the author lists in the bibliography while at the same time looking for visual reference from the period. However, I usually wait until I finish the round of tighter thumbnail sketches before I start my quest for visual reference. That way, I narrow down what I am looking for, saving time. For Nice Work, Franklin! I found the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum to be extremely helpful. I actually found photos in their vast collection that I had never seen anywhere else. I also came across the only photograph in existence of the interior of St Thomas Parish, which was burned by an arsonist in the 1970‘s. I devoted a full-spread with that one. I also have a collection of early illustrators that I look at for composition and visual storytelling. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity. 
To best answer that question: I’ve thought about three artists that are always in my thoughts at every project. With every project, there are tons of different artists from many different eras and places from around the world that inspire my art. But who are three that are always at the front of my brain? Besides Ludwig Bemelmans, I would say Winslow Homer and Ernest Shepard. 

For a place for inspiration, I go visit a wetland pond that my father and brother built in central Illinois. It’s a peaceful place to reflect. 
What can your readers look forward to next? 
Currently, I am excited about a third book with Kay Winters on the Underground Railroad, a wordless picture book, and a graphic novel. I recently finished the art for Raisin, The Littlest Cow, a second picture book with Miriam Busch.

About the Book
As one of our most inspirational and determined presidents, Franklin Roosevelt overcame his disability to lead the country out of the Great Depression.

Franklin Roosevelt idolized his cousin Teddy Roosevelt. He started wearing eyeglasses like Teddy, he spoke like Teddy, and he held the same public offices as Teddy. But then one day his life changed—he got sick. He developed polio and he could no longer walk. But Franklin also had Teddy’s determination, so after physical therapy and hard work, he ran for governor of New York and won. Then a different kind of sickness, the Great Depression, spread across the country: Banks were closing, and thousands lost their jobs.

Franklin said that if you have a problem, solve it. If one solution doesn’t work, try another but above all TRY SOMETHING. So Franklin ran for president, and on Inauguration Day, he made it clear that together they would conquer this sickness. He got to work creating jobs and slowly America started getting better.

Suzanne Tripp Jurmain and Larry Day of George Did It and Worst of Friends fame are teamed up again to tell the story of how our only disabled president saved himself and then saved the country.
About the Illustrator 
Website / Twitter 

Larry Day is an award-winning illustrator who has illustrated many books for young readers, including Worst of Friends and George Did It. He also works as a storyboardist at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Visit his website at


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