Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 12, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Larissa Marantz

Marantz is recognized for her illustrations in several children’s books, including the Nickelodeon Rugrats series. Marantz began her professional career as an animation artist with Klasky Csupo Studios working as a Character Designer and continued her interests in animation while teaching at the Animation Academy in Burbank. She currently teaches Figure Drawing for Animators at Laguna College of Art + Design. She formed her own company, OC Art Studios, to bring art education to the many schools in the Orange County area and has taught hundreds of children over the last several years.

Larissa says,”I received my BFA from California State University Fullerton, graduating with Honors. My emphasis was in Drawing and Painting, but in my last year, I caught the animation bug and became involved in the first ACME program. I continued my studies in animation by becoming one of the founding students at the Animation Academy in Burbank. Shortly thereafter, I was hired as a Character Designer at Klasky Csupo studios, working on The Rugrats and Rocket Power. But becoming a mother changed my path in animation. Wanting to be home for my family, I left the Hollywood studio and began working from home as a children’s book illustrator and muralist. Working with Nickelodeon, I have illustrated several books for Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and Random House. Many of my murals grace the walls of businesses and homes in Orange and Los Angeles counties. I began a new direction as a gallery artist after becoming a finalist in a national competition to create Obama Art. After exhibiting my work with Manifest Hope during the Democratic National Convention, I was invited to create a new painting specifically for the Manifest Hope: DC Gallery during the week of the inauguration of Barack Obama. Since then, I have started my own company, OC ART STUDIOS, teaching art enrichment classes to elementary school aged children in the Orange Unified School District.”

My Illustration Process for “Bathtime”:

How does an artist go from an idea to a finished painting?

It’s a bit of a process that I thought I’d outline in this post.
First off, I will usually draw what’s called a Thumbnail Sketch, rightly named because they are small (like your thumbnail). The reason to start out with a thumbnail sketch is to visually plan your idea out with not a lot of pencil mileage or detail. This way, if the idea isn’t working, you don’t have to feel like you’ve wasted your time, you can scrap the drawing and start on another drawing for the same idea.

In my thumbnails I usually work out the best POV or Point of View that my drawing will be seen. I like to do interesting perspective shots since I find those fun and challenging, as well as a lot more interesting to look at. This means that I will rough in some perspective guidelines to assist with the layout of the scene.

In the above drawings are my rough perspective lines and my tight perspective lines. It’s absolutely key to get the perspective guidelines accurate at this stage before continuing so that there are no errors down the road. I’ve completed a few paintings without taking the time at this key step and found myself fighting with my improperly drawn guidelines throughout the process. It’s not fun to have come so far in the process of a painting only to realize that your perspective is off. Learn Perspective. It’s boring and tedious, but it’s your friend in the long run.

Once I’m done with the serious business of orthogonals and horizon lines and vanishing points, I get to start tightening the key elements of the drawing. I’ll construct my characters with 3 Dimensional shapes to make sure they are properly laid out in the world I’ve imagined for them, then I add their details. When I’m happy with that, I move on to the additional elements in the scene. It was fun adding all the clothes and mess around the bathroom floor in this scene. Two little kids really do make a big mess, even when you’re trying to clean them.

Next, I’ll do a tonal value sketch on top of my drawing and then do a few color comps to see what kind of color palette I want to use. Once I’m happy with that, then it’s the best part… the details. Rendering.

I ended up cropping the image to get the narrow feeling of being constrained in a bathroom with these characters. I kept the image brightly lit and made the highest area of contrast around the main character — the exhausted mother.

How long have you been illustrating?

The first book I illustrated was “Eggnapped! Easter with the Thornberrys” while I was working as a Character Designer on The Rugrats in 2002. The book was released in 2003. Although that was 18 years ago, I haven’t been illustrating all that time. There was a long period of time when I stopped illustrating books because I was trying to get an agent so I could illustrate my own work. I only began illustrating full time this year.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

In my high school art class, a substitute art teacher bought a woodcut print I did. At the time, I didn’t understand the value of artwork in terms of the successful execution of an idea, or the emotional impact it could have on the viewer. I simply saw the work as paper and ink—commodities used in a homework assignment that took less than 5 minutes to print. I asked for $5 and he gave it to me! I sometimes go back to that moment in time and ask for $100. That makes me feel better.

What made to you go to California State University Fullerton to get you BFA?

A community college teacher advised me to go to CSUF because he felt the art program there was strong. He told me that if I stayed curious, my education would be great no matter where I went in life. I also wanted to avoid paying the high cost of tuition at a private art school, so I studied at CSUF and got a great education in the arts.

What types of classes did you enjoy the most?

I loved all my art classes, except I was terrible at ceramics. I thought I’d be a pro at throwing pots, but my instructor said “maybe you should just do coil pots instead” because I was an absolute disaster at the wheel. I started sculpting portrait busts and made several that I exhibited my senior year.

My favorite art classes were taught by my mentor, Don Lagerberg, and another instructor who is now a colleague and friend, Marshall Vandruff.

You say you caught the animation bug during the last year at CSU and got involved in the first ACME program. Could you tell us a little bit about what is involved in that program?

The ACME program involved learning from professional animators at Warner Bros on a weekly basis through a satellite feed that was broadcast to a few schools. It was an incredible opportunity for young animation students to work with seasoned professionals.

Did the college help you get work when you graduated?


When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

While I was working on Nickelodeon’s The Rugrats, some of my co-workers were freelance illustrating for Simon & Schuster, basically drawing the same characters we were working on during the day but in book form. The style of the characters is very difficult to do, and the publisher wanted to make sure the characters were drawn accurately. When I was approached by an editor at Simon & Schuster to do a Thornberry’s book, I jumped at the chance. After that, I continued illustrating for Simon & Schuster with a few Rugrats books and The Rugrats All Grown Up books.

Was EGGNAPPED you first picture book?


How did you get the contract to illustrate that book?

I didn’t have an agent at the time, so they just mailed me a work for hire contract, and I signed it. All the work I did for the Nickelodeon properties were “work for hire.”

Do you think your time working in animation has influenced you style?

Absolutely. Especially working on The Rugrats and having my own babies while working on the show. When I wasn’t working at the studio, I was working at home and my I spent plenty of time on a rug, playing and rolling around with my toddlers. That perspective of a big world from a little person’s point of view had a big impact on me. I think at the time I was working on the show, I was the only person who had a “rugrat” of her own.

Charlie and the Octopus was published by the Center for Responsive Schools. Could you tell us a little bit about this publisher and how they found you?

Sera Rivers, the former editor at CRS, was building their booklist and approached me for the project. CRS provides curriculum for schools and I believe they began their publishing branch Avenue A to directly provide the kind of content they were seeking to offer their teachers.

It looks like you have three picture books coming out with Penguin Workshop: Clyde Likes to Slide, Clyde Lies, Clyde Goes to School, all written by Keith Marantz. Is this an imprint in the Penguin Group?

Penguin Workshop is one of the 275 imprints under Penguin Random House publishing.

Do you have an agent? If so, how long have you been with them and how did they find you? If not, would like to find representation?

My husband and I are represented by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency. I had researched and submitted to different agencies off and on for about 6 years. In 2016, I realized that I needed some guidance because I was constantly getting rejected even though I had already illustrated almost a dozen books. Soon after taking Mira Reisberg’s online course The Craft & Business of Illustrating Picture books, I was offered representation. Her course filled in the gaps for me and I learned how illustrations for picture books were very different than drawing animated layouts. I learned about story-telling and writing, and the importance of developing the character, not just from the design aspect which I was already familiar with, but from the writer’s perspective.

Finding an agent who would represent me and my husband as an author-illustrator team was a challenge. Rachel was kind in offering me feedback on my submission, and I worked hard to make all the changes she asked of me. I think she saw my determination to improve at my work and saw our potential, so she gave us a chance and for that I am eternally thankful.

How did that contract come your way and how long did they give you to illustrate the books?

Keith and I wrote and illustrated the dummy for Clyde the Hippo 6 years before it was sold to Penguin Workshop. It was one of our first submissions to Rachel and she shopped it to several publishers. The waiting game is hard because you can’t do anything but have patience and perhaps work on another project. One publisher was interested but asked to see it as a series of books that dealt with milestones in a child’s life, like going to school for the first time. Keith and I developed story ideas and put together a pitch package. That publisher passed on it, but it was inevitably bought by Penguin Workshop. The first two books in the Clyde the Hippo series will be out April 14, 2019. The third book, Clyde Lied, will be out in June 2019. I am still working on the final art for the fourth book in the series, Clyde Likes to Ride. From start to finish, I will have been working on the illustrations for a full year.

How did you end up teaching figure drawing for animators at Laguna College of Art + Design?

The head of the Game Art department at the college was a good friend of my former boss who was unable to substitute for a class.  She recommended me and I jumped at the chance. I fell in love with the school and told the staff to keep me in mind for any future opportunities. When another figure drawing instructor needed a substitute, I filled in for him and I’ve been there ever since. I’ve taught figure drawing for animators for 11 years. This year I switched to teaching digital painting which I also love because I share my illustrative process with my students.


How excited were you to be a finalist in a national competition to create Obama Art?

I had always felt that my art would make an impact somehow, but I wasn’t sure how. So, when my artwork was selected as top 12 out of thousands of submissions, I felt like the universe heard me. When the curator of the DNC show asked me to create a piece specifically for Manifest Hope: DC, the image for the work I created came instantaneously. I had only 10 days to paint it and ship it to Washington D.C.

It was by sheer miracle that we were able to find a place to stay in DC during the inauguration since hotels had been booked for months in advance.  It was an incredible honor to be included with artists like Shephard Fairy and Michael Murphy and dozens of others. After the opening of the exhibition I was so filled with adrenaline that I didn’t sleep at all that night. The following day we toured the capitol and though we were unable to stay for the inauguration, we did see Obama drive by the White House with his presidential cavalcade.

Did exhibiting your work with Manifest Hope during the Democratic National Convention and getting invited to create a new painting specifically for the Manifest Hope: DC Gallery during the week of the inauguration of Barack Obama, inspire you to start your own company, OC ART STUDIOS, to teach art enrichment classes to elementary school aged children in the Orange Unified School District?

No, I started OC Art Studios after being asked by a friend to teach an after-school art program at my kid’s school. I was hesitant to do it because I had only been teaching in my garage to a small group of kids prior to that. Forming a company was a daunting task that I wasn’t sure I was ready to take on. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my husband and his business sense. He came up with the name of the company, guided me through the process of coming up with a business plan, and helped me to understand how to manage the company. OC Art Studios has been in business for 15 years now and we still offer art classes to hundreds of students throughout the school year.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a book?

I have personally written two books that I would love to illustrate in the future. One is a wordless picture book, and another is based on my own childhood. I’m currently tied up with upcoming unannounced projects for the next few years, so I don’t see getting a chance to do those anytime soon.


Have you taken any online courses that were valuable to your career? 

I enrolled in Dr. Mira Reisberg’s online course with the Children’s Book Academy: The Craft and Business of Picture Book Illustration. This class was invaluable in terms of the content that was provided, the community that was available to the students and the access to professionals in the industry. I can’t speak highly enough about this course. It was a game changer. I went all in with learning everything I could about picture book creation, writing, story telling and how the business works. Following along with the lessons each week and getting feedback from others was integral to my growth as an illustrator. Having access to a community of creatives and industry professionals each week showed me what is expected of authors and illustrators. This course helped me to refine my submissions in seeking an agent and inevitably led to finally becoming a published illustrator.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes. It’s a small space where I have used to offer art classes and painting lessons. I currently only offer private lessons and spend most of my time working on book projects now.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

I’ve done three illustrations for Highlights magazine and am currently working on an illustration for Ladybug magazine.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes, (see above) I love David Wiesner and Aaron Becker’s wordless books and would love to do my own someday.

What do you think is your biggest success?

The unannounced project that I’m working on with my husband right now is my biggest success. I’m sorry I can’t say more than that. The speed and ease in which the project came about was as though the universe moved mountains for us and I believe it’s because we are both tapping in to our truest creative selves. Whether or not it is received well is yet to be seen, but I think that being able to collaborate with my life partner on a project that we both feel we were meant to do is a huge success and is bringing a great deal of joy to my life right now.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love using all mediums! That is why I love digital painting so much because I have a thousand different brushes that mimic the look of paint, charcoal, pastel, ink, graphite and oil, all in my laptop. It’s incredible. But nothing will ever beat the feeling of pushing paint around on a canvas, squeezing moist clay between my fingers, or rubbing charcoal onto a textured surface. Creating art in any medium makes me feel alive and I could probably be happy drawing on nothing but crayon and paper if given that option for the rest of my life. If I’m tangibly creating images, I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose.

Has that changed over time?


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I used to devote a good deal of time improving my craft. Now that I have projects to work on, I spend my time working to do the best work I possibly can do for each project I work on.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I always use reference photos for anything I’m unfamiliar with. I am currently studying bicycles for the fourth Clyde book. Bikes are hard to draw. My challenge is designing a bicycle for a character who has short stubby legs.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. My work wouldn’t be seen by those who can hire me without the internet.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop and Adobe Sketchbook.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I use a Yiynova graphic drawing tablet and a Windows Surface Pro to illustrate my books.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

First, I would love to see Clyde the Hippo become a long running book series. Second, I would love to see our stories become animated television series or feature films.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the 4th Clyde the Hippo book, Clyde Likes to Ride. I’m also working on an unannounced project. 😊

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Try new materials and play with them. Art should be fun. My favorite tool right now is a Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil that has a rotating led which keeps it constantly sharp.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Always carry a sketchbook and a pencil or pen. Be unafraid to draw bad drawings. Get the bad drawings out of your system. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about the result. Through the act of constant creating, documenting your observations on life, capturing the bits about life that strike your fancy, you will discover which subjects/objects/ideas bring you joy. Through that process, you find your style. Be open to learning and open your heart to sharing your joy through your art and your art will resonate with people. Illustrating and writing is about successfully communicating an idea and if you can do that while staying true to who you are, you’ll find success.

Thank you Larissa for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. To see more of Larissa’s work, you can visit her at: 




If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Larissa. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,




  1. Best regards from Chile . José Luis Carreño Troncoso

    El sáb., 12 de oct. de 2019 01:07, Writing and Illustrating escribió:

    > Kathy Temean posted: ” Marantz is recognized for her illustrations in > several children’s books, including the Nickelodeon Rugrats series. Marantz > began her professional career as an animation artist with Klasky Csupo > Studios working as a Character Designer and continued her” >


  2. I love all the details in these illustrations. I particularly love the illustration of the little girl reading to her teddies. So cute! Thanks for an interesting post.


  3. Very informative interview, and enjoyed seeing so much of her artwork.


  4. Beautiful! I love your use of shadow and light. The colors are wonderful as well. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing with us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: