Illustrator Spotlight: Larissa Marantz

© Larissa Marantz

April 20, 2018

Today we are excited to feature illustrator Larissa Marantz. Read about her journey and enter to win a copy of her picture book, DREAM-O-LICIOUS, by Keith Marantz (Fuzz Budz, 2010).

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I began my art career as a Character Designer working on the animated shows The Rugrats and Rocket Power for Nickelodeon. I loved being in such a creative atmosphere where I was a part of something bigger than me and getting recognition for being connected to something that, at the time, was incredibly popular.
The Rugrats Movie had just released when I signed on and the studio was riding the wave of The Rugrats All Grown Up series shortly thereafter. 

However, I was also a new mom and the thought of missing out on my children's early years was very difficult. I knew that no matter how good I was at my job, I was easily replaceable in the studio, but I was not easily replaceable at home as the mother to my children. But the difficulty of leaving the studio was knowing that I had worked so hard to get there and I didn't want to let my skills go to waste.

I started assisting with teaching classes at the Animation Academy in Burbank, where I had studied, and had loved the interaction with the students. I knew I could pass on my knowledge to others who were eager to get into the animation industry as much as I was, so I left the studio, became a stay at home mom, and started assistant teaching Animation classes.

© Larissa Marantz

Congrats on your published books! You have illustrated Nickelodeon books and well-known characters. Can you tell us how you came to get those jobs? And how is it different from doing your own illustration projects?

During my last year at the animation studio, I was approached to illustrate Rugrats books for Simon & Schuster. It was a wonderful opportunity to have as a new stay at home mom because I was able to still use my skills as a Rugrats Character Designer, and also use my skills as a storyboard artist in the illustration process. I did a number of Rugrats books, a Wild Thornberry's book, a Lazytown book, and some Avatar: The Last Airbender books. 

The process of getting accepted to illustrate a new property for Nickelodeon involved completing an art test. The publishing company would provide me with all of the model sheets needed to duplicate the style of the show. Once they approved that your art could match the style of the show, you would be listed as an accepted illustrator for the property. This is how I became an approved illustrator for Sponge Bob Square Pants. I didn't get accepted for all properties that I tried, though. Emulating other styles is very challenging and takes time, but if there was a style that I was truly interested in, I would take the time and learn it until I got it right.

Illustrating for the Nickelodeon properties was a lot of fun for me and my kids. I would often take "research breaks" and watch the shows with my kids to get to know the story and the characters more. 

But I had a desire to illustrate my own stories. I figured that I could easily move into that arena and get a book published simply by making connections with the people that I had worked with previously. But it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.

My husband and I self-published a book that was inspired by the artwork of our oldest daughter. We created a cast of characters based on her drawings and called them THE FUZZ BUDZ. My husband wrote short poems about each of their favorite foods and we made it into a bedtime book. It's called DREAM-O-LICIOUS.

© Larissa Marantz

We would participate in local book festivals and do book signings. It's a lot of fun, but a tremendous amount of work to promote a self-published book. I'd much rather be creating in the studio. I knew that getting an agent would be the best thing to having our own work published by major publishers, so I started working on the process of submitting to agents. I took online classes with Dr. Mira Reisberg at the Children's Book Academy. I read Ann Whitford Paul's book, "Writing Picture Books" and studied that immensely. It took me six years of learning and trying and submitting before my husband and I finally got signed by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency. Rachel is wonderful because she's so supportive and she helps us to create really strong work. 

What is your illustration process?

The method I used to illustrate Dream-O-Licious was the same way I illustrated all my work for hire art with the Nickelodeon books. I would start with pencil and paper, then clean up the work with a light table using Micron pens. The artwork would then be scanned and colored digitally.

© Larissa Marantz

My process of creating art still begins with pencil and paper for my rough sketches, although I am much more adept at digital painting than I was a decade ago, so I do most of my final work in Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro. 

© Larissa Marantz

I try to not stare at my computer screen after sundown and started using an app called F.lux that reduces the blue light on my screen. But when it's on, my screen turns a shade of red, and that makes it difficult to do accurate color work at night. Since sleep is super important to maintaining my mental and physical wellbeing, I try to turn off my computer at night and do sketching or painting after dark.  This is when I'll usually do portfolio sketches, or play with watercolors. It's my new "bedtime routine" that relaxes me and helps me to unwind at the end of the day. Of course, if I'm on a deadline, I usually work late into the night to make sure I get my work done.

© Larissa Marantz
© Larissa Marantz

What projects are you working on now?

I just finished up my first ever illustration for Highlights Magazine and am super excited because I've always wanted to illustrate for them. As a kid, I loved Highlights and I would do all the activities in them. I am looking forward to doing more illustrations for them and other magazines as well.

© Larissa Marantz

My biggest project at the moment is a picture book series about a little character of mine named Clyde. Clyde is an adorable young hippo that is a bit of a worrier. My husband and I are currently creating a series of books for Clyde and all of the milestones he experiences as a young child. I fell in love with him the moment I drew him and I hope others love him as much as I do. My husband and I are writing a number of stories about his time in preschool, on the playground and with his friends. I'm looking forward to illustrating all of these because thinking about Clyde and his experiences takes me back to the memories I have of my three kids when they were young. 

© Larissa Marantz

I did a number of illustrations based on my life as a mother of young children. These  artworks based on my memories  were so important to me because I was able to document my children’s young lives and use my experience as a mother to inspire my art. I documented the process and posted them on my blog:

The artwork is also inspired by my experience of working on The Rugrats show. In the show, we would depict the characters in real life and in an imagined version of whatever they were doing at the time. I illustrated my artwork to show what my kids would be doing and then what they could have been imagining at the time.

What advice would you give to other aspiring illustrators?

Once you are done scrolling through Instagram, Pinterest, Tumbler and you are done looking at art that you like, take a good long break from REACTING to art and CREATE ART. 

© Larissa Marantz

As I was learning, I spent so much time looking at art and getting very down about my skill level. Every artist can improve their craft, but regardless of your skill level, your art needs to say something. A strong idea executed poorly can sometimes be better than a weak idea with perfect execution.

One thing that helped me immensely is I wrote down all the identifying characteristics that I loved about particular artists and thought about ways that I could incorporate similar elements in my own work.

© Larissa Marantz

For instance, I love Chris Van Allsburg's work for his strong compositions and lighting. I try to maintain strong compositions and interesting lighting in the work that I do, too.

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

I once had a job where I wore an Elmo costume at a convention. I'm short and they need short people to wear those big heavy costumes with the enormous heads. Those things are hot and you can't see a darn thing out of them! I have much respect for all costume wearing characters at Disneyland.

Where can people find you online?

Instagram: @larissadrawsstuff
Twitter: @ocartstudios
Larissa Marantz began illustrating when she left The Rugrats animated TV show and instead drew the funny little characters at home for Simon Spotlight Publishing. In between numerous play dates, and hundreds of diaper changes, she illustrated almost a dozen books for Nickelodeon's licensed properties. A member of SCBWI, she currently illustrates and writes picture books with her husband and author, Keith Marantz. Their stories focus on what they know best - living with children who make them laugh and give them countless gray hairs.

Keith & Larissa Marantz

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  1. Great interview, Larissa. I love your art, Clyde is adorable. I can't wait to see more of him.

  2. "Dream-O-Licious" looks fun! It would be great to see more!

  3. You are so talented. Love your work.

  4. Great interview and I love your art work.

  5. Thanks for sharing your journey and process. I love your curvy style!

  6. You have an amazing background. I love your art and agree that your latest character is so cute. Thanks for sharing your career path as well as your creation process.

  7. Larissa, Wow! I really enjoyed reading your journey starting as the character animator of THE RUGRATS AND THE WILD THORNBERRYS (I loved watching those shows with my daughters!) to illustrator now. While I am not an illustrator, seeing your process of creating was eye-opening. Makes me happy to see your creativity expand. You have brought joy to millions of children, keep up the excellent work. :)


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