Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sofia's Dream - Meet Artist Sue Cornelison

Children’s book illustrator, Sue Cornelison, was trained as an art teacher. In 1995, she started free-lancing for an educational publisher where she was able to make good use of her classical art training by providing works for many books and catalogs, including re-prints of classics like The Brothers Grimm. Her opportunity to illustrate a book for Coach John Wooden proved to be the turning point in her career. She soon landed a New York agent and has been illustrating children’s books ever since. She even writes some of them!

When I interviewed Sue as part of the Sofia’s Dream blog book tour, I was interested in how she came to work with the publisher, Little Pickle Press, and since I do behind-the-scenes projects for LPP, I knew that the turn-around time on this book was very fast.

Dani: Sue, thanks for stopping by to chat with us about this cool project. I love the message of the book, and equally, your illustrations. First tell me when you actually got the manuscript and seriously started working on the drawings.

Sue: Last June and we had it essentially completed by mid-October. That’s a really fast production schedule even though a few of the pages had 22 versions.

Dani: Sofia’s Dream is written in lullaby-style, so there isn’t a lot of text or typical story action. How do you approach a book like that, where you have to flesh-out the story with vivid illustrations?

Sue: A mentor gave me the advice to start with the first leap! To be less literal and more imaginative. It was a stretch that has made a difference in my art.

Dani: I’ve seen this artwork described as “done in pastel” which it’s not. Tell us about your process and how the illustrations were rendered.

Sue: I had gone to workshop to learn how to use a Wacom Tablet in creative new ways. With a textured charcoal tool in Photoshop, I did the initial sketches for Sofia’s Dream. The plan was to use these as understudies after printing on 100% rag fine art paper; then mounted on Masonite board, I’d oil paint over the top, my usual medium of choice.

Dani: So now I’m really curious… since I’ve worked in oils as well as pastels...

Sue: The art director, Leslie Iorillo, loved the freshness and charm of the first drafts and wanted to keep that look. So I didn’t do any oil painting at all, just revisions to that original art!

Dani: The artistic hand is so evident. I would have bet it was hand-rendered. It’s amazing to me how all the new tools create such marvelous images. I especially love the personalities you managed to give the moon and Sofia. Well the earth and space, too. One of my favorite images is Sofia walking on a log as though it’s a balance beam. How did that image come to you?

(Developmental Illustration)

Sue: I’m a trampoline and tumbling coach through the Trampoline and Tumbling Association! So I had a few models in my memory.

Dani: To see the final version of this illustration, check out the Sofia's Dream book trailer. So what’s next, Sue?

Sue: Lots of public book signings over the holidays! And more illustrating and writing in the new year.

Readers, we have another book giveaway as part of the tour. Leave your email address like this:

me at everywhere dot com the comment section for a chance to win a copy of Sofia’s Dream. Don't miss the sweet book trailer at and if you click over to the Little Pickle Press blog and comment with your email address there, you’ll be added to the drawing for an iPod Shuffle.

Remember to leave your email or we won’t know how to contact you. Be sure to share with your friends who have children! And leave your email address. Did I already say that? Leave your email address? ;)

Thank you to Sue Cornelison for sharing stories about herself and her art process with us, and for illustrating such a sweet book!
Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, teaches authors how to put together their own blog book tours, and works as a special projects consultant for Little Pickle Press.

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  1. Wonderful interview.
    I love reading about the process of writing (illustrating) a book.
    pippirose59 at gmail dot com

  2. I held Sofia for the first time yesterday. She is enchanting. Thank you, Sue, for gracing her with your magic. Your book is absolutely breathtaking.

  3. I'm SO proud of Sue and this book! She pushed herself as an artist, and pushed our product beyond our expectations!! This book is a unique and magical experience thanks to Sue's fabulous pixie dust!

  4. Leslie, that is so kind of you to say! It was definitely a team effort with so much of your great concept ideas. My favorite is the one you came up with page 26,27 where Sofia is snuggled up in bed while the moon craddles her. Leslie, THANK YOU for putting your heart and soul into the book; it is better for it!

  5. And thank you Rana and Little Pickle Press for the honor to illustrate Land's magical little story!! I am so glad you are pleased with the results!
    I feel as if we are all now little Sofia's family.

  6. Sue, you're amazing. I love the illustrations, and the trailer. Thanks for sharing some time with us at BRP!

  7. What an amazing book. I love the video trailer. The illustrations are so beautiful that they would make would prints hung in a child's room. Best of luck for "Sofia's Dream."

    mcbookshelf at gmail dot com
    Thoughts in Progress

  8. I haven't seen the book itself, but I have seen images from it - and they're all beautiful.

  9. I so wish I had the talent to be an artist, but alas I can't even draw a straight line.

    From what I've seen, Sue, you've done a terrific job!

    Morgan Mandel

  10. It is always so nice to talk to artists about how they work. I just interviewed one who had tried a new technique to paint on a piece of furniture and his excitement over what he accomplished was so contagious.

  11. Opps, forgot to leave my e-mail addy-- maryann at

  12. Thank you all for your comments. Sue, I love that particular image, too. And this book truly is special, because it deals with a tough issue without making it scary. The lullaby in tandem with the illustrations really make this story and its lesson work in a positive way.

  13. Beautiful!

    sweetpeasandsassafras at yahoo dot com

  14. I have been asked now several times how Sue creates her magic... So, this post is perfect. Great details. Thank you!

  15. Great interview. Sue's art is captivating! I am so proud to have played a part in this wonderfully creative, and meaningful book.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.