Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 6, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Lucky Platt

Author-illustrator Lucky Platt creates children’s picture books, life size bear paintings, mixed media animations, relief prints, paper sculptures and more delights in her lakeside home studio in rural Maine, where she lives with her artist husband and a teenage border terrier. She works with a range of traditional art mediums – oil paint, ink, gouache, graphite, colored pencil – in eclectic combinations.

Lucky has presented art and writing workshops for children and adults through the Maine Crafts Association, Schoodic Arts for All, the Maine Arts Commission, Rockland Public Library and Maine Media Workshops & College (2021). Her stories explore themes of resilience, healing, positive self expression and inclusion. She has shown her work in galleries and non-traditional art spaces in Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and Madrid, Spain.

Lucky studied painting, drawing and printmaking at Vassar College, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Complutense City University of Madrid. She is committed to enriching her craft, and has participated in workshops with Maine Women Writers’ Collection, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Farnsworth Art Museum, Society of Visual Storytelling, SCBWI, 12×12 (2021) and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts among others.

In 2020, she left her work as program manager for Maine Crafts Association to become a full time writer and illustrator. Her first picture book, Imagine a Wolf (Page Street Kids) debuts January 12, 2021 and is available almost anywhere books are sold in the US. AHHHooooOOOO!

Lucky is a two-time recipient of an Individual Artist Project Grant from the Maine Arts Commission (2016, 2020), a two-time recipient of an Anderson Ranch Art Center scholarship (2019, 2020), and a recipient of an Ox-Bow Artists’ Residency scholarship for printmaking (2004). She is a founding board member of the Unity Public Library (opening 2021) and a proud and active member Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, Maine Crafts Association, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, 12×12 and Pittsfield Public Library.

HERE IS LUCKY SHARING HER PROCESS:


(spread-thumbnails) Here are a couple of examples of early thumbnail sketches for the scene where Wolf faces name-calling by ‘a boy who cries Woooolf’. You can see that the original idea for this scene was a big crowd, with Wolf about to trip over the boy’s words.

spread1 The two bikes in this spread belonged to Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother, who were more prominent characters in an early version of the book.

spread2 I’m working with graphite pencil on vellum to allow for tracing from earlier sketches – this way I can quickly keep the elements that are working and refine them. Also I can move characters around under the vellum and try out different compositions before I commit to the new sketch. You can see how Little Red’s expression and focus changed from this spread to the next one.

spread 3 and text This is close to a final sketch, so I’ve separated the background elements from the text, which I will create as a separate painting.You can see that an exclamation point was added to the text! Handwritten text like this is always created separately from the art so that the art would not have to be recreated if the text needed to be translated.

final art and final text art) These are the two final art spreads that were scanned and assembled in InDesign by the Page Street Kids book designer Julia Tyler to create the Woooolf! spread in Imagine a Wolf. I created the Woooolf text in ink and oil paint; both pieces are on Arches hot press watercolor paper coated with several layers of matte medium to help keep the oils stable. Wolf is rendered with hand mixed water-soluble oils in many layers – I use an underpainting technique, applying white paint in areas of emphasis and then glazing with translucent color. The fairy tale character references (Little Red and the Boy who Cried Wolf) are rendered in colored pencils.

Illustrator Saturday Interview With Lucky Platt:

 How long have you been illustrating?

I drew all the time as a child, and I made up stories for a lot of the drawings. There was an old shed next to our house with just enough pavement for hitting a tennis ball. I’d play for hours and tell myself stories. The shed also provided my first big abstract drawing – the muddied ball left a dense pattern that I remember thinking was beautiful. I felt like I’d had something to do with creating it, but I was also really delighted by the accidental magic of it.

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

Strangely enough, my first commission was a watercolor painting of a wolf! I worked in Yellowstone Park the summer after college and the painting was for a friend I made that summer who loved wolves. I hadn’t thought about that until now – pretty wild.

Did you study painting, drawing and printmaking at Vassar College? What was your major?

I majored in studio art at Vassar, which encompassed a lot of art history. My focus was drawing and printmaking and my thesis project was a series of monotype prints depicting the dressing rooms and behind the scenes spaces of the school’s theater. I also did a lot of bad paintings at Vassar. I didn’t really have any understanding of painting until I connected with the Studio School and the painter Ophrah Shemesh in New York, in my late twenties.

Since listed all three for what you studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, did you major in only one of those studies?

I did a one year post bacc at SAIC in painting and drawing, and created a drawing-based installation about nostalgia and longing for my thesis project.

What made you decide to move to Madrid to attend the Complutense City University of Madrid?

I’d visited Madrid in my early twenties and it was always calling me back. At SAIC I connected with the artist Juana Meneses and we traveled to Madrid together in the summer and stayed with her family. We both loved it so much that we decided to forego school in the states and try to enroll in a program in Spain.

Were you going for your masters there?

Yes, but it’s different in Europe, or at least it was at that time (2004) – the terminal degree in visual arts was a PhD so the masters offered more like a course of study along the way to the doctorate. I did a one year intensive in contemporary art theory and practice with a thesis show.

Did you move back to the states after you graduated?

No, I stayed for three years! I was living in the neighborhood of Lavapies, in easy walking distance from the Reina Sofia museum and a film center where I ended up working as a subtitle projectionist. I did shows with classmates from the university and made a lot of work in my little studio apartment. – giant graphite drawings, drawings on discarded furniture, that sort of thing.

 

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I always had this idea that whatever work I did would support my studio practice, until my studio practice could be my full time job. But I didn’t seek out illustration or writing work specifically, the way you would early on if you wanted to make a career of it. In that sense, I haven’t followed a traditional path, and I think that means I have a lot of catching up to do.

What inspired you to decide you wanted to illustrate childrens books?

I fell in love with the picture book as an art form in the process of creating Imagine a Wolf. I’ve always loved picture books, and always been interested in creating artwork with children as an intended audience, but the initial inspiration was actually a story idea about a wolf that came into my head a couple years ago and I had to chase it.

Did you take any children’s book illustration classes at one of the schools you attended?

No, although I did make a nice connection with Nancy Willard in my senior year at Vassar.

Last month, I featured your debut book Imagine A Wolf which you wrote and illustrated. How did you come up with the idea?

A couple years ago I found myself imaging a Wolf who was suffering from tired old fairy tale notions of wolves as big and bad. I was intrigued with the possibility that this Wolf would initiate a conversation with the reader, and through that conversation and more questions, ask to be seen differently. The original story idea was quite different, and a large part of the book process was finding Wolf’s character and a way to tell their story that maintained the connection with the reader.

How long did it take for you to complete it Imagine A Wolf?

16 months from signing the contract to delivering final art

How did you connect with Page Street Kids and get the contract with them?

I met the Page Street Kids founding publisher Kristen Nobles at an NESCBWI workshop, and shared a dummy book – a very early rough version of Imagine a Wolf called What Big Beautiful Ears You Have. She sent me an offer about a month after that meeting.

Does your artist husband help you by critiquing your work?

Yes! He is the BEST reader and critique partner for my artwork as well as my writing.

Do you think some of your husband’s art style has rubbed off on you or the other way around?

I think the biggest influence we’ve had on each other is making a commitment to a creative life and holding each other to that. We met at a time when we were both about to take a new direction in our work and we were encouraging each other to be bold. We also like a lot of the same artists, we’re drawn to the same work when we visit a museum or gallery. Recently we’ve found a fun way to collaborate on commissions – his marquetry art and my pyrography.

Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have you been with them? If not, would you be open to being represented by an agent or artist rep.?

I don’t have an agent and that worked well for my first book, but now I think I would like to explore that possibility.

What type of things did you do at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and Farnsworth Art Museum workshops?

In both places I took printmaking workshops to learn new techniques.

Would you be open to illustrate a book that you didn’t write, if a publisher loved you art and wanted you to do that?

I should never say never, but probably not. I have so many stories I want to tell as an author/illustrator and only one lifetime to do that.

Do you think you will write and illustrate another book?

Yes, definitely!

How did you learn to do animated gifs?

I have some basic experience from working on art builds for an animation studio, but the animations I make from one continuous drawing are totally inspired by William Kentridge.

Have you ever tried doing a wordless picture book?

No, but I think I’d love that – or maybe a book with  just a few words, not quite wordless.

Do you and your husband share studio space?

No, but we sometimes have studio dates where were work together in one studio space or the other. In the summer we have the Bunkhouse Studio project which we will eventually dedicate to printmaking, and both of us will use that space.

 

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

No, but I think I would enjoy that.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Yes, but I think at this point my own book projects would come before a collaborative project like that.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Since the book came out I’ve been receiving all these amazing pictures of children reading Imagine a Wolf. Children really respond to this book and that feels like the biggest success.

 

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love Blackwing pencils as my go-to drawing tool, but I don’t think I have a favorite medium. Right now I’m having a lot of fun with a process that combines low relief paper sculpture, gouache and ink – I’m hoping to develop a book around this process.

 

Has that changed over time?

Yes, but it’s cumulative – I find new mediums that I like, or I learn how to use something better or in a new way, and then when I’m choosing a medium to work in I have more choices.

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

I had a Wacom tablet when I was in Spain, but I don’t have anything like that now. I think it could be useful for thumb nailing or animation, but not for picture book final art.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I create thumbnails and sketches with graphite pencil and vellum, and then I choose a medium for final art that works for the overall expression. For Wolf, I worked on Arches hot press watercolor paper, and made my paints using dry pigments and a water soluble oil medium. I’m really loving Caran D’Arche luminance pencils right now. I also have tons of fine point pens on hand, and ink and brushes. And I use recycled papers and paste for my low relief paper sculpture, and paint those pieces with gouache and ink.

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

I just try to work as much as possible.

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

Yes, and I want to do more of this.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I have a lot of fun on social media – connecting with other creative people, challenging myself to post on a theme or in a particular style, Wolf’s social media takeover etc. I love writing opportunities like this (thank you!) and blogging pretty regularly on my website.

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

That creative life my husband and I committed to is still taking shape – I’m excited to see what we make of it. I also have this question – what can a picture book do? A picture book as an art form is relatively accessible, made for my favorite audience (children)  and can be a force for the good. I think about that a lot.

What are you working on now?

I’m creating 12 picture book dummies in 12 months for the 12×12 Challenge, so I’m working on number three of 12 for March. I’m also creating an animated music video for the musician Sara Trunzo, and a month-long series of animations on social media.

 

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.

I love the Arches hot press paper and the Caran D’Ache Luminance colored pencils that I used for the Imagine a Wolf Art. I had a lot of fun making my own scratchboard for the endpaper of the book too.

 

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

Follow your bliss 😉

 

 

Lucky, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. I was happy to get a chance to show off your illsutration and your new book IMAGINE A WOLF. I am looking forward to your article on how to make an animated .gif. Please let me know your future successes so I can share them with everyone.

To see more of Lucky’s work, you can visit her at:

WEBSITE: https://www.luckyplatt.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imluckyplatt/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LuckyPlattBooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/imluckyplatt?lang=en

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Love your illustrations! Imagine a Wolf looks like a fantastic book. I can’t wait to read it! Congrats!

    Like

    • Thank you so much Angie. It’s wild to see artwork from seemingly ages ago in the mix with the work I’m excited about now – I had a lot of fun with this interview. Enjoy Wolf!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a playful quality to your work. Looking forward to reading Imagine a Wolf!

    Like

  3. I just picked up a copy of Imagine a Wolf. It is perfectly charming. Thanks for another interesting post.

    Like

    • Rosi, thank you so much for reading Wolf! It truly was a discovery process – discovering and falling in love with this art form of the picture book as I was creating one.

      Like


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