“RIF” Really Stands for Random Illustrator Feature

h1 September 18th, 2008 by jules


Know how 7-Imp loves to feature illustrators on Sundays? Well, sometimes I just can’t wait.

Introducing “twenty-something” author/illustrator Julian Hector, whose first book, The Little Matador, was released by Hyperion in July. Julian stopped by to say a few words and share some of his art work:

My name is Julian Hector, and I’m a 25 year old author/Illustrator from Austin, Texas. I went to Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, where I still live. The second I entered the Illustration department at Parsons, I realized that children’s publishing was the place for me, and I quickly became friends with Pat Cummings (she’s easily one of the greatest people I know), who taught the Children’s Book-making class there. From Pat, I learned all about the thirty-two-page picture book format and by my Junior year (2005), I had my first dummy put together. Pat decided to send me out into the business and gave me the contact information to about twelve editors, spread across all the major publishing houses in New York. Initially, only one editor (at Hyperion) replied back to me and agreed to set up a meeting. She and I hit it off immediately, and (after a couple revisions) my first dummy eventually made it to a Hyperion acquisitions meeting where it was denied. At our first meeting though, while looking through my portfolio, my editor was really drawn to an image of a ‘little’ matador giving a bull a flower. She made it clear in several passing emails that she would love to see a story for that character, and after the first dummy was rejected, I got to work writing The Little Matador.

The original idea was that the Little Matador would be nice to animals, but I couldn’t tell a story about a card-carrying PETA member with animal-rights tendencies. So, I drew from an experience I had in the third grade, where my father forced me to play Little League baseball (my father, his father, and everyone else in Central Texas all played baseball, too). My father was also a biologist, so drawing his birds of prey, lizards, snakes, spiders, pigeons, and ferrets was all I really wanted to do. In the story, the Little Matador comes from a long line of proud bullfighters, but he (like me) would rather draw animals then fight them and spends most of the book trying to convince his father that this is acceptable. I put the dummy together that Fall, and was offered a book deal the following February!

My medium right now is watercolor with charcoal shading and outlines. I’m really into antique prints, and charcoal seems to mimic the black layer of ink found in old lithographs. My influences are Kate Greenaway, Beatrix Potter, Edith Brown (The Cheerful Cricket), and Jean Jacques Grandville — anyone who illustrated animals wearing 19th-century clothing. I’m invoking this tradition for my next book, The Gentleman Bug.

One of my goals is to illustrate a cover for The New Yorker, so I painted the Rabbit in his ‘Egg Room’ with that in mind. I didn’t finish it in time for Easter, though, and Peter de Sève’s cover was better anyways.

I drew ‘The Three Witches’ as a Halloween card last year. I’m in love with the literary idea of using three, generally sister witches in a story. Whether it’s the three witches from Macbeth, the Three Fates from Greek mythology, the Gray Sisters who shared one eye between them in the story of Perseus, The Weird Sisters in Harry Potter, and even Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, & Kathy Najimy from ‘Hocus Pocus’!

{This} Unicorns and Griffins piece was a textile design I made — I wanted to do an update on one of my favorite medieval tapestries.

The map ‘Mythlandia’ was my senior thesis at Parsons. I tried to collect as many characters and gods as possible and group them in a way that compared their cross-cultural similarities. They’re spread out, across the Isles of Adventure, Utopia, and Dystopia.”

(The “Mythlandia” image is hard to see in detail here below, but no worries: Go here for the map.)

Many thanks to Julian for stopping by 7-Imp and sharing these illustrations. We’ll close with The Three Pigs.

Oh, and you can keep up with Julian here at his blog.

How do you like Random Illustrator Features? I could do it daily, I swear.


25 comments to ““RIF” Really Stands for Random Illustrator Feature”

  1. This RIF is FAB (doesn’t stand for anything–just fabulous)

  2. I could look at these daily — especially when the illustrator is from Austin.

    In fact, I think I’m going to clear my schedule and just look at Unicorns and Griffins all day…

  3. Of course you know I LOVE the idea of RIFs! More, please :).

    Julian’s work is amazing and definitely has that indefinable “something” that sets him apart. Look at that egg picture! The three pigs! That griffin up there. And did he say animals dressed in 19th century clothing?!
    Squee!! I’m definitely keeping my eye on him.

    I can see why you couldn’t wait till Sunday to showcase him, Jules. Thanks for the eye prez.

  4. I met Julian last year at a taping of Pat Cumming’s Cover to Cover, a television show about children’s books. He’s a really smart guy, and his work is adorable!

    P.S. Ask him about The Little Matador paper doll 😉

  5. Hi, everyone. I hardly deserve your presence this morning, what with my very spotty posting these days. But I’m so glad you stopped by.

    I also love the idea of RIFs, Jama. Maybe I should post an Open Letter to All Illustrators and anyone so inclined can sign up for a RIF. How fun. There are too many illustrators to feature to limit myself to just Sundays. Just Sundays sounds like a potential book title, but I digress.

    Hi, too, to Sara and Chris and Shadra! Chris, I love those unicorns and gryphons, too. Shadra, is this the Pat Cummings you all speak of? I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to link to the wrong person in the feature.

    Jama, I agree (obviously, or I wouldn’t have done this post) that there’s something special about Julian’s style. I think we just might see great things from him. And HOW FUN IS IT to feature new illustrators? TERRIBLY fun, I say.

  6. Oh and p.s.:

    Julian, if you’re here and reading, DO tell us about the Little Matador paper doll!

  7. Did I just spell gryphon wrong? Geez, I was only an English teacher once. I was thinking of a friend, whose last name is Griffin.

    Did somebody say something about a Little Matador paper doll? (I’m starting to hyperventilate).

  8. Jama, I did it, too, at one point. Don’t both spellings work? I’m not sure…

  9. Wikipedia seems to think that Gryphon, Griffin, Gryphen, Griffen, and Gryphin are all correct – yay for us!

  10. Lil’Matty paper doll (!)

    If you have deep pockets, tape a penny in the bottom of his feet, and he’ll never fall over..

  11. My only — ONLY — objection to a frequent RIF post is that it’d get you off the hook for so much of the other great stuff you’d be posting otherwise. Of course, it’s also a GREAT idea if it means it’ll keep 7-Imp in the forefront of your consciousness. So, on balance, color me confused. 🙂

    Witches: Don’t forget the Witches of Eastwick. Za-wa. That’s pretty much the last word, for me, in witchy appeal!

    animals wearing 19th-century clothing

    The Missus and I have a batch of Christmas ornaments — the hollow, fragile-glass kind — animals in clothing from, like, 18th-century France or something. Amazing how natural a zebra standing on two legs can look, when it’s wearing a red silk jacket and ruffled shirt.

  12. OMG: Love these! I think I have a favorite new illustration. The rabbit/eggs picture is fantastic.

  13. Julian, thanks for the link!

    JES, aren’t you just one of my new favorite people ever? And those ornaments sound delicioso. (My girls are taking a Spanish class now, and I gotta type Spanish words when I can, since I can hardly pull off speaking it. Did I even just use the right word there?)

    Kelly, that rabbit and his eggs are pretty great. I asked my four-year-old which egg was her favorite, and she said ALL OF THEM, and she likes Draco’s “snake tongue,” too.

    Best of all, I just requested my library copy of The Little Matador. Woot! Looking forward to seeing it up close.

  14. The Little Matador is really great. And I love the other stuff.

  15. Julian comes by his talent so honestly. He started drawing and sculpting at age two. Really. He is my son, but his work is so amazing. I so enjoy the optimistic and sweet quality in his work. With so much distress in our world today his visual gifts really lift me up. Thank you Julian, I am so proud to be your mother!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Well now, Donna, if I were Julian right now, I’d be beaming! Thanks for commenting.

    Kelly, I know! I can’t wait to see the book.

  17. I can’t even talk about how much time I just wasted putting that Little Matador paper doll together-it’s embarrassing! However, the smile that breaks out every time I look at him more than makes up for it. Wonderful new illustrator. His charcoal tones remind me of Sendak’s work on the original Little Bear series.

  18. That’s a little embarrassing – one of the hazards of having a Jewish mother.

  19. Aw, but…but…See, I’m a mama now, and I think that’s the best thing ever that she typed that. I say: Embrace the utter awesomeness of her declaration of love for you. I feel a smiley-face emoticon trying to type itself here…but I…just….can’t do it.

  20. Oh, and I meant to say: Dee, YES! Word to the charm of the charcoal tones.

  21. Julian is my GREAT NEPHEW

  22. Julian is my GREAT NEPHEW and we are all so proud of him. (I hit a send button a few min ago & did not finish my comment. I am also an after-school tutor (1-3 grades). My kids loveThe Little Matador. Best of luck on your next one.

  23. […] Remember how “RIF” in my world really stands for “Random Illustrator Feature”? Well, I’m back with another RIF, this time with an illustrator who visited us once before. This week, I saw a copy of Laurel Snyder’s first picture book, Inside the Slidy Diner (Tricycle Press, October 2008), illustrated by Jaime Zollars. Jaime stopped by 7-Imp this past February to show us some of her beguiling art work but wasn’t able to share Slidy Diner art at that time, so she’s stopped by today to share some. […]

  24. […] Julian Hector’s visiting 7-Imp again to share some art work and sketches from his newest title, The Gentleman Bug, which Publishers […]

  25. […] this interview about his work on The Little […]

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