Q&A with illustrator Corinna Luyken

Q&A with illustrator Corinna Luyken

Corinna Luyken is the amazingly talented author/illustrator of a host of beautiful books.  Her work includes The Book of Mistakes, My Heart, The Tree in Me, and Nothing in Common.  Nothing in Common was the featured book in one of our subscription boxes! Corinna is wonderfully sweet and answered a few questions for us to help us get to know her and her work better.

The color palette in Nothing in Common is beautiful and so perfect.  Can you tell us about the medium you used to create the illustrations and why you used the colors you did?

Corinna: The illustrations for the book are made with ink, pencil, and an acrylic based gouache.  The acrylic gouache dries permanently, like acrylic paints, instead of being re-activated with water, like traditional gouache.  This allowed me to layer pencil and ink back over the gouache, and to put down blocks of color without them mixing.  I used dry brushes with the gouache to create a lot of the texture and atmosphere in the book.   

As for the color palate— 

In Kate’s original manuscript, there was a reference to stars, and even though the line was cut from the final book, it still strongly influenced the project.  Early on, I was drawing stars and thinking about the color palette (which is always one of the first things I try to figure out).   I was thinking about how stars, like flame, can burn red (the coolest stars) or blue (the hottest).  I was also thinking about how even though at first glance, from far away, stars may look white, they aren’t.  There is so much more— a spectrum of color— burning at the heart of that white pin-prick  we see in the night sky.  

So I began to imagine using a color palette of red, white and blue.  I liked how these were colors that exist in star light… since stars are something that we all look up to,  and star dust is something we are all made of.   Stars became a metaphor in my mind for something that unites us, no matter how different from each other we may seem.

I also liked that in the USA, red white and blue represent a flag—which can be simultaneously a uniting force (a piecing together of something bigger than any one of us alone); and also a form of separation, a way of drawing a line in the sand that places some people on the inside and some people on the outside. And also, our flag has stars! So I decided to experiment with these colors, to see if anything that I liked would come out of them. Immediately, I also knew that using red white and blue would be a challenge… because red and blue are two colors that are very difficult to make look good together, especially for more than one or two pages.  But  a little challenge can be a good thing!

Can you share a positive experience about connecting with others who are different from yourself?

Corinna: I worked on a trail crew for two summers in high school and college.  We built trail, fences, planted trees in clearcuts, and piled slash for burn piles all around Oregon and Washington.  The work was very demanding—physically and mentally.  And the crews were made up of an economically and culturally diverse group of kids.  There were kids from families that had been logging for generations.  And there were kids whose parents were hippies or environmentalists.  At that time, in the 90’s there was a lot of animosity between the grown ups in those different worlds.  But the thing about trail crew, the experience of camping and living and working in close quarters for an extended period of time,  and the way the physically demanding work pushed you to your limits, individually and collectively… was that very close friendships were formed between kids from very different groups.  Kids that in the beginning, thought they had nothing in common.  By the end of a summer session, the whole crew (crew leaders as well as crew members) was bonded in a way that transcended stereotypes.  It was a really beautiful thing to be part of.

What are your favorite things to do to connect with others?

Corinna: Sharing food is such a beautiful and basic way to connect with other people. My in-laws, who lived most of their lives in NYC and then moved to rural eastern Washington, showed me this.  They understand how you can make friends by sharing meals with neighbors, regardless of any perceived outward differences.

How do you relax when you are by yourself?

CorinnaGardening, reading, painting, going for walks… being near water also relaxes and rejuvenates me in a deep way.   I love to sit and stare at the ocean, it’s the best thing. Also, sitting with a cat on my lap.  That’s the best thing too, until you have to pee.

What has been your favorite project to work on? 

Corinna: Every project, when I’m in the midst of the creative puzzle solving, is the best. And every book, when I hold that first hard copy in my hands, is the best too!

Find Corinna and more of her books and art on instagram and twitter @corinnaluyken, and also on her website, corinnaluyken.com

 




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