Artistic Peculiarities: Interview with Illustrator Julie Fortenberry

I have long been smitten with the artwork of Julie Fortenberry.

No big deal, but she just illustrated a book by a writer who goes by the name of Eve Bunting. About PIRATE BOY, the New York Times said, “with its simple text and sweet painted illustrations, this book will be reassuring to younger would-be pirates.”

Publishers Weekly praised her picture book SADIE’S SUKKAH BREAKFAST, written by Jamie Korngold: “The book charmingly teaches a lesson about a holiday and its observance, and is appropriate for religious education as well as family reading time.”

And Audrey Vernick said, “If I could choose someone to draw like, I would choose Julie Fortenberry.”

So without further ado…

If you had the opportunity to illustrate any picture book you’ve ever read, which one would you choose?

Oh, that’s tough. I can tell you one I would never attempt: CINNAMON BABY by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by Janice Nadeau. Beautiful. I’m green with envy.  To a large extent you don’t choose how you illustrate. Your peculiarities just sneak out, in your line, or color choices, and you make the most of them.  But if I could switch styles with an illustrator, I’d pick Janice Nadeau.

What were your favorite books when you were a child?

The Little Golden Books. I still own my favorite, LITTLE GOLDEN PICTURE DICTIONARY, illustrated by Tibor Gergely. Gergely painted each little entry with  great skill and affection.

Do you remember any particular character you wished could be your friend?

Pippi Longstocking.  But she scared me too, because she was cuckoo and lacked adult supervision.  I found The Cat In the Hat unnerving for the same reason.

The artist's desk

What role do other artists play in your publishing life?

I’m married to an artist. Back before we had kids, Don and I would wake up weekend mornings, put on a pot of coffee and paint all day. And now, thirty years later, when we’re not talking about our kids, money, or fixing the house, we’re talking about aesthetic stuff. Don is a big collector of comic books, so he’s a tremendous resource.  I run most illustrations past him before I send them out. He tells me if my composition looks awkward, or if my character’s foreshortened arms look weird.

Was it daunting to illustrate a book written by Eve Bunting, who has written more than 200 books for young readers? If so, how did you move beyond your trepidation?

Working for Holiday House was fantastic.  My editor, Grace Maccarone, emailed the text,  then it was up to me to lay it out as I saw fit. I loved that.  I like pacing out page turns and determining what parts of a text require pictures. And the story was fun. A mother and son, plus a dolphin, sea monsters and  shrinking pirates — a  great mix.

Thank you, Julie, for taking the time to visit here. Readers, jump on over to her fabulous blog.

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About Audrey Vernick

Audrey Vernick writes books for young readers.
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5 Responses to Artistic Peculiarities: Interview with Illustrator Julie Fortenberry

  1. I love Pirate Boy! And I always felt that way about Pipi too–I so wished she lived next door to me, but in my heart of hearts I knew that if she did, I would just hide in the house all day.

    Thanks for another great interview, Audrey and Julie!

  2. Kathleen O'Dell says:

    I love Julie Fortenberry’s illustrations. The colors are so delicious they actually make me hungry in the way birthday cake used to make me hungry. They’re sweet and beautiful…

  3. Pingback: Let’s Color Nature + Nicolas Gouny « Klacenklai Illustrates

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