Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Andrea Zuill

© Andrea Zuill

May 13, 2016

Today we present picture book author Andrea Zuill. Andrea's debut picture book, WOLF CAMP is out on June 7th! 

Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end of this interview to win a copy!

Welcome, Andrea!

Please tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA.  Drawing has been a constant for me from a very early age. When I got older I painted in oils. My work was carried in galleries in CA, TX and NY. After a while I felt like I needed a change from my usual art so I opened an Etsy store. I sold prints of cute quirky characters. Almost immediately people commented of how my images looked like they were from children’s books.  

At the same time I started taking an art class from Lori Mitchell (Author & illustrator of the book, DIFFERENT JUST LIKE ME). She encouraged me to give children’s books a try. I joined my local SCBWI, took a class from Joy Chu on how to create book dummies, went to my first conference, won a Menthe Award and was picked up by my agent, Erzsi Deak / Hen & Ink Literary Agency. 

Erzsi asked me to give writing a try. So I did. It was a painful process (I took another class, this time with Andrea Zimmerman & Sarah Tomps on writing children’s books.) The pain paid off and now I’ve written several stories.  Besides Wolf Camp I have another book I’m working on for Sterling.

Congrats on WOLF CAMP! What is the story and what inspired it?

Wolf Camp is about a dog named Homer who has wolfish dreams, so he jumps at the chance to go Wolf Camp. There he learns what it’s really like to live wild!

There is a real Homer. He’s not the kind of dog to watch much television but one day I spotted him watching a documentary on the wolves of Yellowstone. He was really excited. What was he thinking? Was he really yearning to run with the wolves?  Does a domesticated dog have interest in getting back to his roots? And, as Homer says in the book, “Dogs are practically wolves, it’s been proven by science!”

© Andrea Zuill

Was it hard to develop the look of your character?

Yes and no.  It wasn’t hard; it just naturally takes a long time.  As I draw the character I imagine what I’ll need him to do in the story. I like my characters to emote heavily so I keep this in mind as I work. Then I just keep drawing until I recognize him.

As an author-illustrator, do your stories come first, or the illustrations/images?
Currently, I write and illustrate at the same time. Often the story begins with just a bunch of jokes that I have to put together as a cohesive story.  I view the words in my book as the setup and my illustrations are the punchline. The only way I can make sure the copy will work is if it’s funny when combined with the art.

© Andrea Zuill

Can you walk us through you illustration process? 

Let me start with telling you what things I have trouble drawing.  First, I can’t draw an entire scene with characters combined with scenery. So I’ll draw what’s needed in an image then scan them into my computer. Next, using Adobe Illustrator I will combine everything and play around with composition.  

The computer makes it easy to arrange the composition, change sizes of various elements, even flipping over the characters to face different directions. After I get everything laid out to my satisfaction, I print it out (using just a normal printer), place the print onto a light table, lay watercolor paper on top and ink the image. Lastly, I’ll watercolor the art. 

My watercolor skills are pretty basic so if I make mistakes it’s easy to fix them by scanning the watercolor artwork into my computer and clean it up in Photoshop. 

What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on a book for Sterling called DANCE IS FOR EVERYONE. It’s about a dance class having to deal with a 450 lb. alligator with a giant tail who wishes to join their class.  It’s hard to say no when your class motto is Dance is for Everyone.

© Andrea Zuill

What is the best advice you've been given as a creative person?

Allow yourself to make mistakes, TONS of mistakes. You literally can’t go forward or improve without making some pretty horrible mistakes.  Also, don’t filter ideas when you start a project. Let every weird or silly idea come out and play. Filtering is for when your project is almost done.

© Andrea Zuill

What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I can’t draw characters facing right. Using the computer I flip my characters to face the direction that I need. Even then they look “wrong.”  It takes a couple weeks for my brain to accept the right facing direction.
© Andrea Zuill

Where can people find you online?

© Andrea Zuill

© Andrea Zuill

I was born and raised in the agricultural town of Bakersfield, CA and moved to the San Diego area when I married my husband. For 20 years I owned and ran a sign and graphics company. At the same time I created oil paintings and other art works, and have shown work in galleries in California, Texas, and New York. In 2006 I started creating prints of funny and cranky characters which led to my start in children’s books. At my first SCBWI LA conference I was chosen as one of the 2011 Mentees. In 2013 I won best portfolio at the 2013 Golden Gate Conference in Monterey, CA.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great interview! You know, I'm a fan of Andrea! And of Homer!

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey. Your characters are fun to see and I look forward to reading about them.

  3. Andrea, Wolf Camp was already on my radar and I'm eager to get my hands on a copy. One of my dogs has, I think, a secret desire to run with the wolves. But after the run I feel certain she'd want to return for her treat, great food and her spot on the bed. Thanks for sharing your story with us and continued good luck!

  4. This looks like such a fun book to read. Thanks for sharing the journey of Wolf Camp.

  5. I LOVE dogs, so this definitely looks like my kind of book! I'm picking up Wolf Camp from the library tomorrow. Can't wait to read it! congrats, Andrea :).

  6. Andrea, I loved your drawings. I found a copy at Book Star, Costa Verde, San Diego, and flipped through it. I simply love your style.

    Reading this interview gave me hope. I have been taking classes at UCSD Ext. Joy, Sarah, Andrea Z, they are all so amazing... So supportive and encouraging. I am very happy for you! 😊
    Btw... I can't draw right sided faces as well. 😝
    Congratulations on Wolf Camp!

  7. I loved hearing the inspiration for this story! I can't wait to read it!

  8. Sounds like such a cute book! Can't wait to read it!

  9. Sounds like such a cute book! Can't wait to read it!


Post a Comment