7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #301: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Zack Rock

h1 October 14th, 2012 by jules

It’s not the first Sunday of this month, when I tend to shine the spotlight on student or brand-spankin’-new illustrators, but last Sunday was usurped by butterbeer, remember? So, the up-and-coming illustrator feature got bumped up a bit.

Today, we get a visit from Zack Rock, who describes himself as an illustrator and jackalope fancier. He lives in Seattle and is going to tell us a bit more now about his training and plans. Let’s get right to it…

Zack (pictured left is his self-portrait): I was born to illustrate. Or at least I never realized the adults were just humoring me when they, for instance, complimented my irredeemably Cubist portrait of a moo cow. So, instead of learning practical things like accountancy or hammers, I tossed all my chips on “Artistic Genius” and let it ride.

Reality eventually disabused me of any delusions of genius. But my youthful gamble did land me a career as a video game artist and acceptance into the renowned MA in Children’s Book Illustration program at England’s Cambridge School of Art. Developed by scholar and gentleman Martin Salisbury, the program attracts talent from all over the globe and throws us together in a no-holds-barred, steel cage death match of mutual respect and encouragement. Martin himself is an insightful and frank appraiser of illustration, and he brings in top-notch illustrators from the UK picture book industry—such as, David Hughes, Alexis Deacon, James Mayhew, Salvatore Rubbino and Pam Smy—for further critique. Highly recommend for anyone with a spare couple of years to cultivate a picture book illustration practice and a palette for Marmite.

Currently, I’m collaborating with the Creative Company to get my first book out the door. They make some of the most beautiful picture books on the market, and meeting them at the 2011 Bologna Children’s Book Fair was the non-Italian-cuisine-related highlight of my time there. It’s still a bit unreal to be working with them. Can’t reveal much about the book itself, but I can say it fits comfortably within the ever-popular “Custodian Adventures” picture book genre.

(Click to enlarge)

I work in watercolors, because I love their luminous and unpredictable qualities. They’re also the medium of choice for some of my favorite artist growing up, like Lisbeth Zwerger, Arthur Rackham, and Jon J Muth. Though I’ve lately been tempted to jump on the oils bandwagon with my current influences — Michael Sowa, Quint Buchholz, Tony Meeuwissen, Roberto Innocenti, and the ludicrously brilliant Shaun Tan (who I wrote my MA thesis on and cited heavily in a lecture on picture books I delivered last year).

(Click to enlarge)


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Many thanks to Zack for visiting. I look forward to his picture book debut and to seeing where he lands next. (Also, don’t you all think that looks like a young Sendak in the diner spread?)

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All images are copyright © 2012 by Zack Rock.

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Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I’m here, you all. It’s been a busy week full of unexpected things, and I’m amazed when I even get one post up these days, but I’m here. And Betsy—who is such a wonderful co-author—and I still plug away on manuscript revisions, as we edge closer to the big due date.

1) My littlest turns seven years old today. She’s not really sticking her tongue out at being seven. We were just being silly with my Photobooth camera thingy.

2) One day this week, she described her foot having fallen asleep as “like little dots are hopping all over you.”

3) Her older sister has somehow developed this really impressive ability to recognize BS when a person engages in it. I have great examples of this, but then this post would be too long. I love this about her.

4) Yesterday, I got to introduce Judith Viorst, pictured below with my girls, at the Southern Festival of Books and listen to her wonderful talk.

5) The season finale of Hell on Wheels, which very much seemed like a series finale, was quite good, I thought. If that really is it, I’ll miss that scrappy, if sometimes uneven, little western. I’ll even miss the creepy Norwegian.

6) Rufus at the Ryman! Just five more days!

7) This image from Bob Staake, which Eisha and I agree needs to be a on tee shirt:


  • A new blog about children’s book illustration is always a good thing, especially this very promising one. Check out Pen & Oink.
  • Speaking of fabulous blogs, did you all see Travis Jonker’s interview with Jon Klassen this week? It’s here. I love the blunt answer to the last question — and especially Travis’ response.
  • I re-discovered this Q & A this week, and I love the wisdom Mo Willems imparts here on raising readers, especially this:

    6. Show some respect. “There’s no need to talk down to kids, in children’s books or otherwise. Kids are human beings, which some people seem to forget. Their emotional life is as deep and rich as ours, if not deeper.”

    7. Don’t tell kids it’s good for them. “Forget about reading being healthy. It’s not broccoli. In fact, most children’s books are lies. And the bigger the lie, the better the book — as long as it’s emotionally true.”

VERY LAST BONUS: I can’t remember for the life of me where I read this and who said it, but someone was recalling how her mother would recite this poem to her nightly before going to sleep. First of all, I’d never read the poem, and I like its simple beauty. Secondly, how much do I want to steal that idea? You think, even in the midst of manuscript revisions, I can memorize that one for my own daughters? It’s short, so it’s do-able, yes?

What are YOUR kicks this week?

18 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #301: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Zack Rock”

  1. Trying to avoid the morning rush by posting tonight. Jules, the illustrations are just lovely today. Once you’re finished with your manuscript I think you should do a behind the scenes tour of 7 imp and tell us how you find all of these wonderful books & illustrators.

    Your daughters always sound lovely when you talk about them in your kicks! And that poem is wonderful.

    My kicks:

    1. I don’t know if I mentioned that when I was on holidays, the migratory koels (aka storm birds) arrived – to me their call means summer has arrived. One has been hanging around here all weekend.
    2. I tolerate rather than enjoy driving, and driving at peak hour is my least favourite type of driving. But I successfully drove to work (through the city and the other side) during the week, then through evening traffic to a party – I felt quite accomplished.
    3. I also felt accomplished today as I submitted my first journal article. I am not confident about the paper, so it has taken me a loooong time to get to this point.
    4. Which also makes me grateful for all the lovely colleagues (past and present) who were happy to help me out with comments (and to say things like YES IT MAKES SENSE AND IS IN ENGLISH, JUST SUBMIT IT ALREADY). I seem to know an awful lot of nice people.
    5. It finally rained the other day. This is good for gardens, drinking water etc etc but also because I got to use the cute umbrella I got for my birthday IN JULY. Seriously, I asked for an umbrella after months of rain, then it stopped raining. So even though I only kept about 20 raindrops (it was a shower more than rain really) off my head I took the excuse to use it when I could
    6. Ate the first blueberries off our little bush. A small crop this year, but growth is healthy and I suspect next year we’ll have a lot more
    7. Remembered the field mushrooms in the fridge in the nick of time to make yummy stuffed mushrooms for dinner

  2. Oh my goodness! Those goats! I can’t believe they don’t have their own book already. Do let us know when a book is released because I never knew how much I loved goats!

    Happy Birthday to your sweet girl!

    Emmaco- Congratulations on your submission. Scary but fun!


    1. Reading Read the Giver and Gathering Blue this week, on to The Messenger in preparation for reading Son. How is it that I never read The Giver? Amazing!!
    2. Started a beautiful on-line writing class called Motherhood and Words with Kate Hopper. Pretty sure I am going to love it.
    3. The girls had a wonderful new babysitter last night. She lives in the neighborhood, is a freshman, read and did math facts with the girls and emptied the dishwasher. Wow!
    4. Saw Argo last night. Incredible story. Incredible movie.
    5. Pumpkin picking with the family today.
    6. Crisp fall weather.
    7. Great opportunity to participate in a Girl’s Leadership Institute workshop with my eldest this month.

    So glad to be back to kicking. Love looking back on the week this way…

  3. Zack’s work is lovely. Thanks for sharing. My favorite is the book cover coming to life.
    Jules- Sounds like you had a very full week. Thanks for rabbit-hole links. Love the image from Bob Staake.
    emmaco- Love the sound of a much needed rain.
    Stacey-Hooray for the new sitter. She sounds like a keeper.
    kicks this week
    1. Went on a Columbus Day nature walk that included an old rail line and an ancient cemetery.
    2. Friends (including my online ones)
    3. Fleece jackets
    4. Living in a community that values girls.
    5. Big stack of picture books from the library.
    6. Listening to New Englanders brag that they haven’t put the heat on yet despite the dip in tempurature the other night.
    7. The Walking Dead is back tonight.

    Here’s hoping you all have a creative and productive week. I know that’s what I am hoping for.

  4. I. Love. The. Goats. And that Zack uses watercolors. Looking for the book.
    Jules, how cool is that…your girls met Judith Viorst. Wow. And the poster, I want one.
    Emmaco, enjoy the blueberries. Our are turning the color of autumn.
    Stacy, Argo is on my list to see on the big screen.
    Moira, your nature hike sounds wonderful.
    My kicks:
    1. Rearranging my writing room. Decluttering, I swear paper has spores which creates mor paper.
    2. Family day at the library on Tuesday with breakfast and books to start the day and library night to end the day.
    3. When talking with students about the fun of reading and whether their parents read, a boy said his mom was reading:”Dirty Shades of Gray.”
    4. And his classmate, who’s mom teaching kinders at school, announced her mom was reading it too. Her mom responded, “nothing’s private” when I shared the story.
    5. My interview on Wednesday with Irene Latham.
    6. Her poem, “Window” which she shared for Poetry Friday.
    7. Tomorrow is the final day for nominating your fave book for the CYBILS.
    Have a great week.

  5. PS I love the poem, Night. Lovely.

  6. Hi Zack! Thank you for sharing the goats. Goats in CLOTHES, shopping at Bleat, Bahh & Beyond. Thank you for sharing the kitty and the other creatures as well. Cool self-portrait.

    Jules: Happy birthday to your super seven-year-old! I hope she has a fantastic birthday. Thumbs-up for your older girl and her honesty detector. Thanks for sharing that lovely poem.

    emmaco: Enjoy your summer. It still feels like summer here. The weather is crazy. Congrats on submitting your article! Hope all goes well. Yummy foodstuffs.

    Stacey: I like The Giver better than the others. My favorite Lowry books are still Number the Stars, the Anastasia Krupnik series, and Rabble Starkey. Have fun with the writing, the pumpkins, and the family!

    Moira: Yay for such a community. Enjoy the books and the entertainment.

    Jone: That’s funny. Enjoy your decluttered writing room.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Filming last Sunday
    2) Participating in a reading of Arsenic and Old Lace
    3) Participating in a reading of a new Civil War-era play
    4) Preparing for tomorrow’s audition!
    5) Rehearsing for the show I’m in Thursday!
    6) Sleep, when absolutely necessary
    7) Better things

  7. Emmaco, what’s your journal article about? Congrats! I think tolerating driving is an okay way to be, given all the crazy, fast, stinky drinking in the world (as in, stinky for the environment). I bet that doesn’t make sense, but I need more coffee this morning. Also, happy Summer!

    Stacey, perhaps the goats are part of the Creative Company book. Who knows? … That was your first time reading The Giver? Wow. I envy you. I’d like to experience reading it again for the first time. Also, that online writing class sounds great.

    Moira: I’m also looking forward to The Walking Dead, but can’t watch it till tomorrow night. Don’t have cable channels and have to rent it the night after via Amazon or iTunes. This means on Monday I have to put my fingers in my ears and say “la la la I can’t hear you” to avoid hearing spoilers from the world. … Hope you enjoy that big stack of picture books, and tell us when you come across good ones.

    Jone: DIRTY SHADES OF GREY. HOO HA! That is funny. I wish I could visit one of your Family Days at the library.

    Little Willow: Honesty detector. Good way to put it. … Break a leg at tomorrow’s audition, and happy rehearsals. How was the filming last week?

  8. Jules: Thank you! Filming went well. I was a happy cat.

  9. Hey everyone, thanks for the kind words on my illustrations! I really appreciate it. Especially glad those goats are so popular. Nice to know there’s an audience for some high-quality goat-related puns (not to toot my own horn. I kid, I kid).

    And thanks again, Jules, for the opportunity to share my work on your amazing site. LOVE that poem.

    OH! And good eye, that IS a young Maurice Sendak at the sushi restaurant, and Shaun Tan and Lisbeth Zwerger are sharing a table behind him. Lisbeth, of course, ever the sumo wrestling enthusiast.

  10. I will never get over how some illustrators use watercolor so magically. Their pictures are like looking at photographs with details so fine and expressive. My favorite is the turtle coming to life on the book cover. I will have to keep an eye out for the first book of Zack Rock.

    Jules: All week I’ve watched tweets about the Southern Book Festival wishing I could be there; an amazing line-up of authors and illustrators. Great picture with your two girls and Judith Viorst.
    Love the poem Night and the idea of reciting it at bedtime.

    Emmaco: So happy for you on the submission of your first journal article.

    Stacey: The only thing better than pumpkin picking is pumpkin carving.

    Moira: Fleece jacket sounds so cozy. I love mine. Bought same style in several colors when on sale this summer.

    Jone: Re-arranging furniture is like having new furniture (at least I think so)

    Little Willow: Sleep is underrated. Love it.

    My kicks:
    1. Noticing a free Skype visit by Stephen McCranie and connecting him to grade five classes.
    2. Booktalking mystery genre to those same students
    3. Seven straight days of rain (we really need it after the summer but today looks sort of Arkish)
    4. Reading picture books
    5. Getting all the lights and decorations done for Halloween outside
    6. Visiting a Fiber show at a local art gallery with a friend
    7. Walks with Xena

  11. 1. My 5-year-old has her first loose tooth…actually 3 loose teeth all at once! She is SO excited that I cannot help but be really excited too.
    2. The daughter is suddenly obsessed with super heros rather than princesses I am proud…and relieved.
    3. Did anyone else hear the This American Life episode about the man with the sleep disorder who jumped out his hotel window? It was so funny!

  12. …that does not sound a bit funny, but, if you heard it, you know it was.
    4. 3 kids all bathed.
    5. Lovely dinner out with friends. The kids finally old enough to start enjoying dinners out with friends again.
    6. Watching the Ironman World Chapioninships yesterday. This is my family’s version of the Super Bowl.
    7. coffee

  13. Jules, thanks for the shout-out! Hooray! That’s got to be worth at least two kicks.
    3. getting a funny email from someone whose book I really liked
    4. scoring a stack of picture books at the neighborhood yard sale
    5. beautiful fall weather here in Brooklyn
    6. the best apples I’ve ever eaten, from a Massachusetts farmer’s market
    7. a short road trip with my best friend

  14. Hi Jules, Zack and Imps,
    West Coast late as usual. But I’ve enjoyed every bit of this week’s post!

    Firstly – LOVE Zack’s work! LOVE watercolor! But most important – LOVE a bull dog eating sushi – it doesn’t get much better than that. Unless, as pointed out, there are 3 illustrators featured as well. What a treat!

    Secondly – so glad for any postings, Jules. Good luck with the edits. Can’t wait to read the book. I know I say can’t wait every week in my kicks about something you’ve posted. But I mean it!

    Thirdly – Sara Teasdale – I adore her poetry – and this one is lovely, lovely, lovely. I may frame it for my Little’s room.

    Fourthly – is there such a thing, really? Either way, GREAT kicks from everyone else. This just makes my week, especially after a slog of cleaning kitchen, cooking, making sure everyone eats, cleaning kitchen again… and then right back at it a few hours later. On the other hand, I’m grateful to live in a place with an abundance of healthy food.

    My Kicks:

    1. SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    spent Friday in the parking lot across the street from my Little’s school – it was surreal. I have loved the space program since I was teeny. My son has loved space shuttles for more than a year. This was one of my more exciting days. I stayed and volunteered at the school. It was a mob scene and I swear the teachers and parents were more excited than the kids.

    2. Received a new book to review in the mail. This one is shorter and easier to read than the 350 page historical tome I got earlier this summer. Phew.

    3. Sunday chat with one of my dearest friends about a children’s book I’m getting ready to review – she had great ideas and I love her designer’s eye. Plus her awesome sense of humor makes my day.

    4. Baseball playoffs – can’t watch this week as the games are on TBS and we cancelled our cable in disgust this spring. But still…

    5. got to see a former neighbor Anne Cherian, who is a wonderful writer, speak today in our neighborhood about her new book, ‘The Invitation’. Can’t wait to read it. Her first book, ‘The Good Indian Wife’ didn’t mess around. Very good look at Indians moving to the US, arranged marriages, etc.

    6. Discovered after 7 1/2 years of wedded bliss that my food-loving hubby adores peanut sauce on veggies. He reported tonight at dinner that his first taste of Thai peanut sauce when he was in college opened up his whole world. Who knew? Now to research some recipes.

    Happy Week everyone!

  15. Little Willow: Good to hear.

    Zack: Ooh, neat to learn that’s Lisbeth and Shaun Tan, too. Thanks again for visiting.

    Margie: The festival WAS fun. I just wish I could have seen more of it. What is a fiber show? And congrats on your rain. Emmaco needs some so that she can use her umbrella some more.

    Amy, nope, I didn’t hear that episode, but now I want to. Congrats on your dinner out with friends. Those are always so rejuvenating.

    Liz, road trip! Did you have good music in the car? So glad you scored some great picture books, too.

    Allison: “I’m grateful to live in a place with an abundance of healthy food” should be assumed kicks for us all every week, huh? … Kick #1 sounds very exciting. And I hope you get to stay on top of the baseball playoffs, even without cable.

  16. woop woop! thanks for the mention!!

  17. Zach seems to be just as good with words as he is with his art. I’m looking forward to books from him.

    Also, love Ada’s More Cupcakes Less Homework tshirt.

  18. […] good to have Zack back at 7-Imp. In 2012 (here), his artwork was featured on one of my Up-and-Coming Illustrators Sunday posts, and now his first […]

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