Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Liz Wong

© Liz Wong

Today we feature Liz Wong, who debuts as an author-illustrator with her picture book, QUACKERS (Knopf Books for Young Readers), which comes out in March 2016. 



Tell us about your background and how you came to writing and illustrating for children.


When I was in elementary school, I decided that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Despite this early conviction, it took a long time for me to discover that I wanted to be an illustrator. I studied Ceramics and Anthropology in college and made sculpture and crafty items for years until I finally stumbled upon a children’s illustration program and realized that picture books were the perfect fit for me. Along the way I started writing as well. It took another ten years of learning and creating (and having a child in the middle of it all) before getting published.

Congrats on your debut PB, QUACKERS. Tell us about it and what inspired it.

QUACKERS is about a cat who thinks he’s a duck. After all, he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks and everyone else he knows is a duck. Then one day, he meets...Mittens.

The idea for QUACKERS started out when I drew a picture of a cat and thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if the text said that this is a duck?” From that very tiny seed of an idea I began thinking about what life would be like for this cat. I started thinking about my own childhood and being a multicultural person who didn’t fit in fully in either of the two worlds I inhabited. Eventually I came to realize that being multicultural doesn’t mean that I don’t fit in anywhere – it means that I have twice as many things in my background to celebrate. Quackers learns that it’s okay to be a cat and a duck and comes to embrace both halves of himself as well.

Who or what are some of your artistic influences?

Some of my favorite illustrators include Sophie Blackall, Jen Corace, Isabelle Arsenault, Carson Ellis, and Lisbeth Zwerger. I also love theater sets, dioramas and miniatures and tend to construct my illustrations like a theater set - with layer of flat scenery in front of which the characters act out their story.

© Liz Wong


Can you walk us through your illustration process?

I start with thumbnail sketches that are very loose and rough. As you can see, it's just to figure out the pacing of the story and get a rough idea of page layout. I'm not too concerned about being able to tell what's happening in the images, since this is just for me to make sure the story will fit in 32 pages (or 40, as this one turned out).

© Liz Wong

​​I redid the pond scene on pages 4 and 5 several times before I arrived at a style and technique I liked. Here's my first two attempts, where I liked the style but not the composition, and then I liked the composition but not the colors or the style.

© Liz Wong
I used a combination of watercolor and digital, for the most part painting the characters traditionally and painting the backgrounds digitally and assembling it all. I use many layers in Photoshop so I can move things around easily or delete something that's not working. Here's a gif!

© Liz Wong
I also hand lettered all the text and cut out little cards to go underneath the text, scanned it all in, and as you can see in the gif, layered it on top of the illustration.​

What projects are you working on now?

I’m currently working on my second picture book. It’s another unlikely animal friends story involving waterfowl, but this time about an elephant and a goose.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors and illustrators?

Don’t give up! Persistence and patience is the key. There’s a lot of rejection in this business and it’s easy to feel like you’re not getting anywhere. Just keep learning, improving and submitting. Join SCBWI and go to conferences, and join a critique group. You'll hear a lot of "no" along the way, but you'll get little seeds of encouragement, too, until you finally get a "YES!"

© Liz Wong


What is the most surprising thing you learned about the publication process?

It’s a very slow process. It took two years from selling the book to it finally coming out. I turned in my final art almost exactly one year ago. So while you are waiting for your book to come out, keep writing, drawing and thinking about your next project.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I can't whistle or snap my fingers. My sister can do both quite well but somehow I never figured out how to do either.

Where can people find you online?

My website is http://www.lizwongillustration.com, and I’m also on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lizwongart.


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Liz Wong was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she spent her early childhood painting and clambering about in mango trees. At age five she won the first place trophy in the school poster contest, which encouraged her to pursue art instead of a sensible career in finance like the rest of her family. Liz's debut picture book, QUACKERS, comes out on March 22nd from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

17 comments:

  1. Liz, I love your artwork! Great interview.

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  2. WOW! You write and illustrate. What a gift!

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  3. Love your gif! Really helps me understand how to look at the layers of an illustraion. Thanks!

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  4. Beautiful illustrations and your book looks adorable!

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Liz! I love the gif of your illustration process.

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  6. I agree with the others who say that the GIF was a brilliant way to show exactly what Liz means about layering her art. Really enjoyed learning about Liz and how she works and came to illustrate kids' books!

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  7. Love those ducks--so cute! Congrats on your debut, Liz!

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  8. Love your ducks, and the way you illustrate.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your process with us. What a precious idea for a book!

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  10. Great to see your process. Can't wait to read the book

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  11. Thanks for the great post! I love the work in progress gif and can't wait to see the final book!

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  12. What lovely interview, and brilliant illustrator. I can't wait to see Quackers in person.

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