Let’s Talk Illustrators #224: Kalila J. Fuller

I got a chance to talk to illustrator Kalila J. Fuller recently about her illustration process for Finding My Dance, written by Ria Thundercloud. It’s always tricky to illustrate someone else’s story, but you wouldn’t know it when chatting with Kalila, who does it beautifully and (seemingly) effortlessly. Enjoy our conversation below!
Let’s Talk Illustrators #224: Kalila J. Fuller

About the book:

At four years old, Ria Thundercloud was brought into the powwow circle, ready to dance in the special jingle dress her mother made for her. As she grew up, she danced with her brothers all over Indian country. Then Ria learned more styles–tap, jazz, ballet–but still loved the expressiveness of Indigenous dance. And despite feeling different as one of the only Native American kids in her school, she always knew she could turn to dance to cheer herself up.

Follow along as Ria shares her dance journey–from dreaming of her future to performing as a professional–accompanied by striking illustrations that depict it while bringing her graceful movements to life.
Peek underneath the dust jacket:
Let’s talk Kalila J. Fuller!

LTPB: How did you become the illustrator of Finding My Dance? What were the first images that popped into your mind when you saw Ria Thundercloud’s text?
KJL: The art director for the book, Mary Claire Cruz, reached out to me through my website. At the time I was just doing small local editorial work right out of college so seeing her email show up in my inbox was really exciting. The first image that came to mind after reading one of the early drafts of Ria’s story was the postcard spread where she describes all the places she traveled to dance. I thought it would be cool to show a visual montage about her travels, kind of inspired by the montages from the Indiana Jones films.

LTPB: Can you talk about your research process for this book? As the illustrator, how did you work to accurately portray Ria’s life and passion?
KJL: I originally asked Ria if she felt comfortable sharing family photos from her childhood with me so that I could depict young her and her siblings as accurately as I could. I also watched a lot of powwow dance videos on youtube. I really wanted to convey the movement both in the body as well in attire in my drawings. That is a big visual theme of the book is movement and I really wanted that to come through to the reader.
LTPB: What did you find most difficult in creating this book? What did you find most rewarding?
KJL: The most difficult part actually was capturing Ria’s likeness and then repeating it over and over again at different ages throughout the book. When it is a character you kinda develop in your mind I feel like it is a lot easier and you can fudge it a little bit, but I really wanted Ria to recognize herself in her story on every page. I think that was the most rewarding part, which was hearing what Ria said when she saw it all finished. I was so honored to visually show her live story on the page in a way that she was proud of and felt represented in the images.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? Is this your preferred medium? How does your process change from book to book?
KJL: I used primarily a digital process for creating the illustrations for this book. It has been my preferred medium since college. I used to use primarily mixed media (ink, alcohol/paint pens, colored pencils, etc.), but due to my colorblindness using digital media or more accurately the eye dropper tool really streamlines my process when it comes to color. My process is fairly the same, whether it is editorial spots or full-color book illustrations. The only difference is the number of iterations for sketches.

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?
KJL: Oh, I have some exciting projects in the works. Nothing I can talk about yet but if you keep an eye out on my socials I will be sharing some stuff there as soon as I am able.
A million thanks to Kalila for taking time to answer some questions about this beautiful book! Finding My Dance publishes TODAY from Penguin Workshop!
Special thanks to Kalila and Penguin Workshop for use of these images!

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September 13, 2022 at 10:36AM noreply@blogger.com (Mel Schuit)