Laurie Rosenwald is a painter, a type designer, a graphic artist and, of course, a writer and illustrator. Because she does so many different things, she works with many different media, or artist’s tools. She says that her love for the artist’s tools led to the book And to Name But Just a Few: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue. If you look on the page with the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” rhyme, you can see some of them: crayons, colored pencils, pastels (which are like chalk) and perhaps her favorite, collage.
Where did you get the idea for And to Name But Just a Few…?
I was in the Blue Apple offices with a manuscript I had done called Bubbling Mud about Iceland, where I lived in the early 1990s. Someone suggested, “Why don’t you do a list book, like numbers or letters or colors?” I love colors. So I wrote what became the text of the book in an hour that day. Then it took more than a year to put it all together, design it and illustrate it. I make 100 collages and throw out 99.
So the artwork took much longer than the rhymes?
The rhymes came pretty quickly to me. There wasn’t a lot of revision the way there was with the artwork. The design is what makes it. If you do a beautiful drawing and it has to fit in a square, it kills the illustration. I like being able to do everything, the art and the design. That’s when things look great, when they work together.
We liked the wordplay, like homonyms (“Lettuce explain” for GREEN) and synonyms (a girl’s name that means the same as PURPLE).
I have to admit that it all came to me in a flurry. I love love love to write. I love it so much that I feel guilty about it. I should be cleaning my room, or going to the gym. But no, I want to write.
And what a great art lesson in the YELLOW pages!
Yellow is very important for that reason. It’s the one you mix with blue to get green, or red to get orange. Caran d’Ache crayons are my favorite crayons. They’re very opaque. I wanted to have some illustrations that were painted, and things that have glue and paper and collage. This is the first book I made using a digital camera. I would take pictures, cut them out, and refine them in Photoshop. I was making collages without gluing them down. I wanted the book to feel the way I do about art supplies. It’s almost romantic.
There’s such a freedom to your artwork. Is that why you like collage?
Almost everything I do involves something organic, something out of control and human. And also something strict, graphic and controlled. It’s like the two sides of the brain – the arty side and the logic side. I start with making very sloppy, very quick drawings. Sometimes I use a squirt bottle, like a ketchup bottle. I always start with black on white paper. Then I take digital pictures of those drawings and bring them into the computer and add color, backgrounds, fonts [or type]. I teach a course called “How to Make Mistakes on Purpose.” I’ve taught it at the School of Visual Arts, and for corporations that want to be more creative. In my own work, I feel like a fraud unless I’m making a discovery.