7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #320:
Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Liz Starin

h1 March 3rd, 2013 by jules

It’s the first Sunday of March, and on these first Sundays I like to shine the spotlight on a student or debut illustrator. Today, Liz Starin is visiting, and I sure do love the art she is sharing here today.

You may be familiar with the blog Liz runs with two other illustrators, Pen & Oink. (More on that below.) If you like to read about illustration, you really must check out their site. Their posts are carefully-crafted, and it’s generally a wonderful, entertaining place to visit.

I would introduce you to Liz by telling you a bit about her, but she shares generously below, including how she went from Scientist to Illustrator with regard to career goals. I thank her for visiting, and I really hope we see her in picture books one day very soon.

* * *

Liz: Once upon a time, I was going to be a scientist. I went to Brown and studied geophysics, with a little art on the side. Brown students can cross-register at the Rhode Island School of Design, so I enrolled in a picture book class. (He may not remember, but Chad Beckerman was one of my classmates.) I felt like such an imposter in that class. Most, if not all, of the other students were illustration majors, whereas I had no technical training whatsoever. One of the professors called me “math girl.” (She wasn’t wrong.)

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One day this professor (generously) praised my loose sketch work, as compared to my stiff finished pieces. I didn’t know it at the time, because I didn’t know anything, but the lively sketch/dead finish problem is really common for illustrators. Nonetheless, I latched onto the idea that I could cultivate a spontaneous way of drawing. Right around that time, a friend gave me a book of Quentin Blake’s work—the apotheosis of energetic line—which I studied for quite some time.

(Click to enlarge)

I eventually went back to school for illustration: first the Fashion Institute of Technology, where I did a spectacular amount of life drawing; then, the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (School of Graphic and Book Arts) in Leipzig, Germany.

There, my illustration professor gave a weekly exercise that he called an Eintagsfliege, which means mayfly, or literally, “one-day-fly.” It was an assignment with a one-day lifespan: brief in the morning, crit in the afternoon. Because we had to work so fast, there wasn’t any time to get too precious about it.

One week, we had to draw three slips of paper from a box and then draw a scene based on what we got. Mine were “dancing bear,” “public swimming pool,” and “Pablo Picasso.” In an effort to link these subjects, I imagined a bear who did water ballet. Suddenly, a series of images came to mind, a bear moving through graceful poses in the water. I did five or six smudgy ink drawings and scrawled text on each one, the beginnings of a story. That story later became the dummy that landed me an agent!

It was fun to discover that I really like drawing animals. Humor is my natural mode, and there’s something especially comical about an animal wearing human clothes and doing human things. (I had previously considered animals too cute.) Before that assignment, I was never any good at animals or action poses drawn from the imagination. But that day, the dam burst. It felt very sudden, but of course it was all that life drawing asserting itself.

I work mainly in ink (sometimes pencil) and watercolor, with swipes of colored pencil, gouache, and crayon, as needed. I also make silkscreen prints on occasion, which is a totally different way of working and thinking. Sometimes I work digitally, alone, or in combination with other techniques.

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Liz’s silkscreens

[As for my] influences, I still love all those energetic-line, ink-and-watercolor types: Quentin Blake, Neal Layton, William Steig, David Ezra Stein, Roz Chast, James Marshall, Tomi Ungerer. I adore Saul Steinberg, whom I discovered when I was 15. Käthe Kollwitz’s work is also very special to me.

Pen & Oink is my blog on children’s illustration. I started it with Robin Rosenthal and Ruthie Lafond, fellow illustrators in my crit group, whom I met in Sergio Ruzzier’s SVA class. We do illustrator interviews, geek out about technique, and share professional tips, favorite books, and, I dunno, YouTube videos. I do a lot of interviews, because I like meeting people and finding out about their work. For me, the blog is a way to engage with the children’s book community and a way to exert my critical opinion a little bit. I also like having a professional platform that doesn’t have to be all ME ME ME.

All images are © Liz Starin and posted with her permission.

* * * * * * *

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 * * *

How about Liz’s illustrations? I like them. I also like “energetic-line, ink-and-watercolor types.”

1) Look at this. Jack White is Record Store Day 2013 Ambassador. Thanks to Farida for sharing this. As Adrienne said, he keeps using his powers for good, doesn’t he? (The video at that link is worth watching, too.)

2) See this post from Philip Nel? I also received the same Moomin merchandise from Chronicle, who were telling us they enjoy our Niblings page. I also feel as Phil does (say that seven times fast) about children’s book-related tie-in products and don’t cover them at my site, but I agree with everything he says in that post, and it was a delight to open that box. (“Tasteful” and “nicely produced,” indeed.)

3) Also in the category of Happy Surprises in the Mail, author/illustrator Lita Judge has a new picture book, Red Hat, which is the follow-up to 2011’s wonderful Red Sled.

She sent this knitted hat, which my daughters forced upon our poor feline the cat donned. Pumpkinfacehead looks happy about this, yes?

And here from 2011 is the red hat on the Best Simpsons Character Ever, who permanently lives in my kitchen windowsill.

I’m showing you this, because in celebration of this book, Lita is asking folks to put their favorite red hat on. If you don’t have one, you can knit one, she says. You are even welcome to draw a picture of yourself or your pet wearing a red hat. You can read more about it—and see all the entries thus far—here at her site.

(Is this a tie-in product, as I was just talking about? I don’t know, but ah well. Lita’s mother knitted it, and since I like her new book a lot, I’m sharing — and I’m hoping she’ll visit soon to share some art and maybe even early sketches from it.)

4) Thanks to Tanita for sharing this about introversion. So true. So true.

5) Did you see our kicker, Tarie Sabido, featured here in a national Filipino newspaper? Congrats, Tarie!

6) Today, I tackle copy edits on our manuscript, which is EXCITING. I suspect I’ll learn a lot from copy edits, not to mention it’s wild to think how much closer we are to seeing the book’s release (Spring 2014).

7) I have said this before here, but when my children get ill (which … well, there was much sickness in the house this week), I am grateful that they are not, say, chronically ill, ’cause I don’t know how those parents do it without falling over. Bless them.

What are YOUR kicks this week? I shall try to break away from copy edits soon to read them.

29 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #320:
Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Liz Starin”

  1. Liz’ work is great! It’s amazing how much she has improved in just a few years. I am sure we’ll see her in bookstores very soon.

  2. Love the illustrations, especially the zebra at the end.

    The introvert link is a good way of explaining introversion!

    I hope your wee ones are better soon, Jules! Hard after you were sick not that long ago too!

    1. The reason I didn’t post last week was because I firstly had a long weekend on Fraser Island (a gorgeous world heritage listed sand island a few hours from here) with friends (kind friends who took us in their 4WD which is needed on a sand island);
    2. And then Monday morning I was up very early to go babysit my eldest niece while my sister & her husband went to the hospital to have my second niece!
    3. The baby is well (and gorgeous) and my sister is well (though sleep deprived).
    4. I love that we live close enough to help out with things like babysitting and meals
    5. It has been monsoonal here. Just so wet! But we had the two most sunny hot days for Fraser – perfect for camping and swimming. Very lucky.
    6. It has also stopped raining for a couple of short stints this afternoon which has allowed to run out into the yard to try to manage the jungle-like growth of grass and weeds.
    7. First home-made ice-cream with our kitchen aid mixer was a great success! Delicious and scoffed down by all present.

  3. Liz rocks. I especially love the bull matador and zebra referee. I agree with Sergio; we’ll be seeing her books out soon. Thanks for your nice words about Pen & Oink, Jules!

  4. You know it’s going to be a good post when someone mentions Kathe Kollwitz as an influence.
    Lovely, fun work. Thanks for sharing.
    Jules – According to an online test I am an ambivert. That rings true to me. My mother would probably call it, “middle child syndrome”.
    Childhood illnesses can really put things in perspective about how lucky we are to live in the age of indoor plumbing and modern medicine.
    Sergio & Robin – Cheers to Robin!
    emmaco – Congratulations on the new family member. I agree that it is wonderful to have family so near by. What flavor ice cream did you make?


    1. I am almost done with the tax preparation for the family business.
    2. Youth Basketball
    3. Multi-school string jamboree
    4. Sunny days in the 40s that make March feel like Summer (almost).
    5. Making plans
    6. Tiny sketches at work when I’m on the phone
    7. the library

    Happy Smarch!

  5. Liz”s illustrations are great fun. Love the elephant.
    Jules, having sick kicks isn’t fun. Glad to know they are on the mend. Good luck with the copy edits.
    Emmaco, congrats on a new niece.
    My kicks:
    1. Geese fly overs almost every morning.
    2. Having a haiku accepted for publication in ACORN.
    3. Hold Fast by Blue Balliet.
    4. Students’ writing poetry for publication and for Poetry Postcard project.
    5. House secured for the summer gathering of my college friends.
    6. Slice of Life Challenge….write a slice everyday in March.
    7. Daffodils about to bloom.
    Have a great week.

  6. Moira, missed you….love you kicks especially the library and tiny sketches.

  7. Thanks Jules! Thanks everyone! Being on 7-Imp today is enough of a kick for the whole MONTH.

    Jules, I love that cat. In the hat. [Groan.] Cats on the internet–I’m such a sucker!

  8. Oh no, fly by kicks for me. :o(

    I am packing for a trip to visit my mom and my flight is in a couple hours. It’s her birthday and we (her kids) are all gonna surprise her with a grand birthday party!

    Jules, thank you so so much for sharing the link to the article on me. The Philippine Daily Inquirer is the number one newspaper in the Philippines and being featured in its pages is a pretty big deal to me. The night before the article came out I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited!

    Everyone, the article is about my blogging and I just want you all to know that 7 Imp is one of the blogs that inspired me to blog seriously and is one of my benchmarks and major influences. Thank you, Jules!!!!!!! And Eisha!!!!!!!

  9. Good morning, Liz! The picture that kicked off this entry cracked me up. I love pointing out the silly things humans do, and how absurd we’d think it was if another animal did those things. For example: What would we think if cats spent all day on the computer, looking at pictures of humans? 🙂 I also really like the swimming bear images/movements.

    Hi Imps! Happy March to you! I hope the new month brings good things to all of you.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) I wrote and submitted two original one-acts to two different theatres!
    2) See above. Each play counts as a kick.
    3) A really fun audition and conversation
    4) I’ve been cast in two readings, one a classic play, the other a new musical.
    5) See above. Each show counts as a kick.
    6) Making deadlines
    7) Rehearsal

    Jules and Adrienne: I wish more people would use their powers for good. I’m serious.

    Jules: It has been far too long since I’ve seen a picture of Pumpkinfacehead. Too cute, with or without the hat. And bonus points to your daughter for wearing a unicorn shirt. I hope your daughters are feeling better now. Good luck with the edits! You can do it!

    Congrats, Tarie! Yay! I’m so glad that you are getting the recognition you deserve.

    emmaco: How nice, to have a long weekend. Congrats to your sister’s family. How are YOU feeling?

    Moira: Enjoy the music, the sports, the sketches, the books, and the execution of plans!

    Jone: Please wave to the geese for me. Enjoy the poems and the challenges!

  10. Hello, Kickers!

    And hello to Liz, too. Thank you for waking us up with these oh-so-artfully artless and funny images! I love the telling background touches, especially: like the one of the polar bear conked out under the table — the artwork on the walls (a scowling, judgmental human and what seems to be a sampler reading “LAH DI DAH” (haha!)), well, I’ll tell ya, I think that bear probably has good reason to be under some furniture. And I don’t even know what the bear’s story is.

    (Checking out the album covers in that stay-at-home little piggie’s living room also rewarded me with some grins. As did the expression on the face of the cow being milked.)

    Congratulations on the successful Kickstarter project, too!

    Thanks so much, Jules, for explaining those photos of the red hat. I liked them as soon as I saw them in your FB stream — “liked” even in the non-FB sense. And thanks for reminding me of your cat’s name, my failure to remember which has (believe it or not) been driving me crazy for a few days now. I knew there was a pumpkin in there somewhere.

    I saw Tarie’s newspaper article — so cool!

    And btw, I very much love that you are excited and looking forward to the copy-editing phase as a learning experience. Almost every other writer I know has at best a love-hate relationship with it. (Maybe I just know too many curmudgeonly writers!)

    Congratulations on the new niece, emmaco! (Jealous about your ice-cream party, howsomever.)

    Hi Robin! (What a great name for a site, btw. AND what a great-looking site!)

    Moira: saving those tiny sketches, I hope???

    And hi to jone — I like the sound of the daily slice-of-life challenge, although I mostly like it that someone other than me is undertaking it. 🙂

    Fast kicks here:

    1. Anybody know who invented the peanut-butter-and-jelly combo? Hats off to whoever it was.
    2. The Pooch after a bath. (She hates the process but is wildly energized afterwards, assaulting with furor every single stuffed animal in her basket. Because, who knows which one of them was responsible.)
    3. Finally saw and really liked Skyfall.
    4. The LastPass password-management software and site (lastpass.com, of course). I don’t use it myself — embedded investment in an older package — but really wish I did. If I could only figure out some way to easily switch…
    5. New starts.
    6. Old and well-beloved endings.
    7. A week of brisk, chilly sunshine.

    Have a great week, everybody!

  11. LW, I almost had a mid-air incident with you here in 7-Imp’s skies. So cool about the two one-acters. Are they headed into the production pipeline? (And — forgive me, I can’t remember — are they your first???)

    Now I want to know if there’s a lolpeeps.com site… (If so, it’s probably some dumb Easter-candy-promotion thing.)

  12. P.S. There IS, of course, such a site — well, such a domain name anyhow. Seems to be just a test WordPress blog, though. With only one post — just a couple months ago! Must be something in the air.

  13. WHOA. If you’re reading, Liz, I love your work! It’s all so much right-up-my-alley. Can’t wait to see a book you’ll make. Thanks for sharing, Jules!

  14. More kudos to Liz: I just saw the Kickstarter link with your adorable posters of animals playing sports – love the portmanteau titles! – and the hilarious Know Your Zombies poster.

    JES: The Imps fly the friendly skies. Thanks! I’ve been writing forever. These particular pieces were submitted to specific theatres that are accepting submissions for certain theatre fests, so we’ll see what happens.

  15. Love the polar bear, especially doing the marylou boogaloo! And of course the zebra ref.

    Jules – Pumpkinfacehead is so big! and so cute. Glad your girls are on the mend. Love the peek at your kitchen window sill.

    Tarie – what a great article – have fun at the surprise party!

    emmaco – what a lovely weekend, congrats on the newest niece!

    Moira – youth basketball and the multi-school string jamboree sound like a lot of joyful noise.

    jone – I remember living close to those geese, and bicycling past them in the mornings on my way into Portland – I do miss that about my old neighborhood. They are so pretty (and noisy). Looking forward to my poetry postcard.

    LW – good luck on the play submissions! Congrats on the bookings!

    JES – clean and frisky dogs are the best. Will have to put Skyfall on the list to see.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Another exhausting but ultimately victorious week at work.
    2) A goodbye party on Friday for a colleague – large gathering, fun conversations, and catch-ups with lots of friends.
    3) Soccer game afterwards. We lost but almost got it back at the end, so a valiant effort, especially since we only lost by one goal.
    4) Planning my vacation in April, I see the San Juan Islands in my future, and super excited since I’ve never been.
    5) My new food processor – I am in love. Making faux-mashed potatoes with cauliflour is so easy and they are so yummy – I wished I’d known sooner.
    6) Kindle daily deals are amazing but will swamp me soon – bought 3 titles this week in anticipation of vacation reading.
    7) Judged a round of moot court (international law) at my alma mater this weekend. So impressed with the students and all the hard work they put into it, as well as their poise in the face of such a nerve-wracking exercise.
    7.5 Cut the grass for the first time this year, which is always a sign of spring for me. Plus there are lots of greens coming up in the garden – my daffodils and tulips are on their way.

    Happy beginning of March! Hope it starts turning more lamb-like soon…..have a great week everyone!

  16. Rachel – hi! Kindle *anything* is easy to get swamped with. I almost hate visiting Amazon for that reason alone… I’m especially “send a sample”-click-happy. I’ve got probably 200 samples which I haven’t read yet, haha.

    When you travel (e.g. to San Juan islands, wherever they are), do you travel poochless? If you take along, I would love to hear any pointers you’ve got (aside from obvious ones like pet-friendly destinations and such). (We’re sorta-kinda planning a road trip this summer, en-Pooched.)

  17. JES – this trip is just a couple of days and will likely be poochless, Cole is not the best in the car yet. But when I had Cheyenne I took her with me everywhere, and we traveled all over.

    If your pup is good in the car, trips with dogs are awesome. I had a jeep at first (the wagon kind) so Chey had the whole back bed to herself, and when it was her and Caloi we had them in a covered flatbed of the ex-bf’s truck. Water, bring bowls that can carry water, and there are even collapsible ones for hiking. Also, we had blankets and towels for them to lie on that also doubled for wipe downs when they got into mud/water/sand/whatever on excursions. And beds in the truck. Extra leashes, they’re easy to lose when traveling. Pack dry treats for bribes because sometimes they get cranky after long days. Favorite toys, and at least one comfort blanket/shirt that smells like you if you have to leave them in the car or hotel for a bit.

    Chey was pretty infamous for getting to go places that didn’t allow dogs – I always asked first, usually apologetically, and usually with the caveat that I’d be happy to put her in the car, and most places allowed her to come in (even a few restaurants.) Have fun, and remember, if you’re happy, they’re usually happy too.

  18. Hi Kickers!

    What great illustrations! They all made me smile- I especially liked the Baconeers jersey… Super clever!

    We are in the middle of a crazy house hunting project. We are trying to get a bit more space but stay in our school district- it has been a nutty week with it and I’m afraid that is all I seem to have the time and energy to talk about so more kicks next week- I promise!

    Happy March everyone!

  19. liz! so exciting to see you up here. you know i love that penguin with the balloons!
    jules, thanks so much for the kind words about p&o!

  20. Thanks, Rachel — just what the doctor vet ordered!

    Ours is real small — 5 lbs — so she’ll be in the back seat we think. We also need to get her a good car seat so she can look out the window without standing on her back legs and leaping. Ha.

  21. Hi to Liz!! Good to see you here!
    1. broke a logjam this afternoon on a book project I’m sketching out. I can look at myself in the mirror and smile wanly at least!
    2. Thanks for the blind teens and older folks I guided at the Museum of Fine Arts this week: you opened my eyes! Again!!
    3. Expecting part of an advance this week or next. Not a moment too soon!
    4. The delightful Miss Cupcake (miaow!)
    5. Shrinking snow piles and crocus and tulip shoots appearing.
    6. Barbara Tuchman: “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” (a generously written and riveting history of late mediaeval Europe).
    7. all the talented and inspiring people out there. Thank you very much for keeping my little boat bobbing along.

  22. I’m here. I’m here. Finally.

    Glad you all like Liz’s work, and hi, Sergio!

    Emmaco, happy new niece, and I saw the great pic on Facebook! What’s the age difference between the two girls again?

    Hi, Robin. It’s a GREAT blog! p.s. I love Water Cooler Guy.

    Moira: Did you mean to type “Smarch”? I love it. Congrats on tackling taxes, and aren’t you totally ready for Spring? I am. Also, I’ll have to look up what an ambivert is.

    Jone, is this a second haiku publication? CONGRATS!

    Liz, thanks again for visiting.

    Oh, Tarie, so nice and unnecessary (but kind) of you to say. I’ve already told you how much that means to me. AWWWW, rock it. Congrats again, and happy birthday to your beautiful mother.

    LW, congrats on the one-acts! (Did you hear back? Oh wait, I just scrolled down and see that you are still waiting to find out. BREAK A LEG with that.) And congrats on the new roles. Woot! Also, I wondered if anyone would notice the unicorn shirt. Good eye, you.

    John, I hadn’t even seen that Kickstarter project. Thanks for pointing it out. Yes, I worked on copy edits all day and do find them fascinating. … I hope The Pooch is feeling well.

    Matt, I thought you might really dig Liz’s work (and vice versa).

    Rachel, that vacation sounds dreamy. Oooooh, just dreamy. Congrats on a victorious work week and good moot court students. And I’ve seen some daffodils around here, too (though we had snow yesterday, snow that, as usual, accumulated to nothing).

    Stacey, good luck! We have to do something similar soon, and I know it’ll be terribly time-consuming.

    Hi, Ruthie. Thanks to you, too, for the blog.

    Rob, congrats on kick one! And is Miss Cupcake a pet of yours (or is this yet another instance of me being Pop Culture Moron)?

    Happy new week, everyone …

  23. Moira we made vanilla ice-cream and then I added some home-made chocolate chip cookies that were too crumbly that I had stashed in the freezer – love it when my food hoarding ways pay off.

    Jone geese flying always look and sound lovely. How nice to have them over your home.

    LW I didn’t know you wrote plays too! That is very industrious of you. I am feeling great thanks, though am starting to out-grow some of my tighter skirts and pants.

    JES you may be horrified to hear but peanut butter and jelly is mostly unknown here. When I was a child I thought children in American novels were eating peanut butter and jelly in the jello sense (as we usually call it all jam). So I am guessing it wasn’t an Aussie who invented it!

    Rachel, the San Juan islands sound lovely in books, I bet you have a great time!

    Stacey good luck with house hunting…and you too soon, Jules!

    Rob thanks for the book rec!

    Jules, the girls are almost three years apart.

  24. That’s a good age difference, Emmaco. I think.

    PB & J is mostly unknown there? Really?

  25. Thanks again, lovely people!

    Matt! Thanks for the nice compliment, fellow inker. I’m making that gesture where I point two fingers to my eyes and then two fingers to yours.

    LES, Stacey: I’m glad you like my sneaky little side-jokes!

    Moira! I am also enjoying “Smarch.” Do tell?

    Rob! Hi, nice to see you too! Can’t wait to see the results of the breakthrough.

    Emmaco, Jules: Isn’t peanut butter mostly an American thing? I like bringing it as a gift when I travel abroad.

    Little Willow: Would the humans on the cat internet be wearing orange peels as hats and pouncing on empty boxes? Hmm….

    Sergio! See you at Books of Wonder this Sunday?

  26. liz starin – so lovely!

  27. Such great work!
    “Blending in was easy too”.

  28. oh man…how did I miss this post? Liz… I LOVE your work!!! Zoinking rocks!

  29. […] here in 2013, the book’s illustrator, Liz Starin, visited 7-Imp. (Liz is also one of the […]

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