Susan RichWhere do you work? What is your title?
I am an Editor-at-Large with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I am based out of Toronto, Canada. I’ve make books with Lemony Snicket, Sophie Blackall, Jon Klassen, Frank Viva, Maira Kalman, Dav Pilkey, Lisa Brown, Carson Ellis, Christoph Niemann, Sydney Smith and lots of others. I have an anthology called The Creativity Project coming out in 2018 chock full of amazing women artists: Lisa Brown, Sophie Blackall, Laurie Keller, Debbie Ohi, Lauren Castillo, Victoria Jamieson, Jessixa Bagley, Jess Keating, Deborah Freedman and others.How do you work with illustrators?
I make books for kids with them. Typically, some of them are middle grade novels that need a cover and some interior art. Some of them are anthologies featuring the art of dozens of artists. Some of them are picture books with a whole lot of art by one amazing illustrator.
I think every artist benefits from a certain kind of editorial relationship, so I try to be responsive to my artists’ needs. Books are gargantuan undertakings. It starts with math; breaking up the text, fitting the story visually into a set number of pages. Then it’s sketch dummies and revisions, thumbnails and revisions, tight sketches and revisions, final art and revisions, printing and color correcting. On and on. It’s a herculean task and a great joy. I strive to collaborate in the process in a way that supports the artist, elevates the book, and does not drive anyone crazy.How many illustrators do you work with a year?
Depending on the year, 6-12.What do you usually look for in the work of illustrators you hire?
I’m usually responding to a text, and that will direct my choice of artist. That said, every editor has their own taste. I am driven by my taste, of course, but I am also drawn to voice. I admire how much can be articulated in a line, a choice. How images hold story. For text and art to work well together there has to be a dynamic relationship between them; things that the art can illuminate that the text leaves out, and vice versa.What it the theme of your curated feature?
I guess the theme is “I sure do like her work.”Why did you chose these illustrators?
I started with easy choices, two artists that I’ve worked with before and love dearly, Lisa Brown and Sophie Blackall.
Sophie and I are working on a book right now, Hello, Lighthouse! Sophie is an extraordinary talent and a kindred spirit. I will hope that when you get around to featuring me again on this website in a few decades, Women Who Draw will be the go-to website for everyone who needs an artist, and Sophie and I will still be making books together.
I chose Lisa Brown because I couldn’t help myself. We’ve worked together and it is a joy to witness the way she outdoes herself every time she puts ink to paper. Have you seen the cover she did for Illustoria?
I picked Esme Shapiro and Wendy MacNaughton because these women create art I have been in some serious love with over time and hope to make books with them one day.
And then, to really use Women Who Draw as a vehicle of discovery, I noodled around, saw SO much to love, and then came upon Ness Lee. I have seen her ceramics around town and admired her work, but from peeking into shop windows after hours, I didn’t know her name until I found her here. Now I know her name. Hello, Ness Lee!Do you have any advice for illustrators who are interested in working with you or in your field?
Picture books are little machines in which the art is a working part. Aspiring picture book artists should include work in their portfolios that demonstrate narrative ability, and the way that art can pair with text to make magic. Also, those who wish to work in books should loiter in bookstores and libraries and read as many picture books as possible. The more books you scrutinize, the more books you adore and detest, the better critic and expert you become. Your work will benefit.