Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Douglas Florian

© Douglas Florian

November 6, 2015

Today KidLit411 is excited to interview the very talented, award winning author-illustrator, Douglas Florian!

Welcome, Douglas!

Tell us about your background and how you came to paint and make children's books and poetry.

My father was a painter, doing mostly landscapes. It was very hard for him to survive as an artist so he went into advertising. When I was very young we would go to art museums and he taught me how to look at paintings and how to look at nature. In high school I decided I wanted to be an artist and I went on to study painting and drawing at Queens College. One of my teachers was Marvin Bileck and he taught a class called "Principles of Imagery." He illustrated the Caldecott Honor book RAIN MAKES APPLESAUCE. He encouraged me to do children's books.

Your books are so fun and witty. Where did you hone your "wordplayfulness"? 

One hot summer day between 5th and 6th grade I discovered the witty poems of Ogden Nash in the air conditioned public library one block from my home. I was very impressed with his verse and the air conditioning.

You have a distinguished career as a fine artist as well as a children's illustrator. Do you approach your paintings differently than your children's illustrations? If so, how so? 

In my illustrations I have to think about the child viewing my art and reading my poem. There has to be an immediate understanding on some level, although details can reveal themselves slowly. 

In fine art I paint primarily for myself. I paint what I want to see. It's more ambiguous, murky, mysterious, and perhaps puzzling. Also some paintings can take quite a long time to finish, months, even years.

What is your typical illustration process? 

I start out with a book dummy which has rough sketches for the editor and designer to see. They give me feedback and the dummy can change many many times before I even start the finished art. I usually do the paintings with watercolor and collage on primed paper bags.

What projects are you working on now? 

I just  finished writing two chapter books, two board books, and a few picture books and hopefully they will all be sold by my agent, Rubin Pfeffer.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators and writers/poets? 

My advice would be to be dissatisfied and keep growing as a writer and an artist. When Hokusai was already 80 he said, "I hope to live to 90 so I can start to do something good." Also, keep your eyes open, your ears open and your mind open.

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

I used to do cartoons and a few covers for the New Yorker Magazine in the 1980s.

Douglas Florian has written and illustrated more than 50 books for children. These include Beast Feast, winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, Insectlopedia, a national bestseller, Dinothesaurus, which was a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, and Mammalabilia, winner of the Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry. His books have been featured on The Today Show, National Public Radio, NBC Learn, and A retrospective of his poetry and children’s book art was held at Poets House in Manhattan. Florian’s book, How to Draw a Dragon received a starred review from Booklist and was called a “rhyming romp” by Kirkus Reviews.


  1. I can't begin to say how much I adore Douglas and his writing and art with all my heart! He is an inspiration to me (and he's friends with THE Sydney Harris which makes him an even bigger star in my eyes).

    Awesome interview! And, I have all those books shown! :D

  2. The TWHoR cover looks great! On hot days I still like the air-conditioning at our public library, and am still dissatisfied! Good luck to you and Rubin!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thank you for sharing! Glad to know about your books!


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