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Interview with Illustrator Debbie Lentz

Debbie Lentz, illustrator of Why Horses and Why Cats Are, from the Love Unleashed childrens picture book series.Debbie, what was it about the illustrated children’s picture book series Love Unleashed from Kendall Neff Publishing that interested you to become a part of that creative project?

I had always wanted to do some book illustrations so, when Tana asked me if I would be interested in working with her on Why Horses Are and later on Why Cats Are, I jumped at the opportunity. I really liked the stories and the messages they relayed and was proud to be a part of that project.

How long have you been producing such beautiful nature art and what got you interested in this type of art?

I have been drawing and painting animals for as long as I can remember so naturally, I was drawn (pun intended) to these stories about such special animals and the bonds they have with their humans.

Have you worked on illustrations for any other books of any kind? Any other children’s books? Do you have any interest in writing your own children’s book and illustrating it yourself?

No, I have not done any other full book illustrations but I have worked with another author on some mockup/concept illustrations for her to submit with her children’s stories to her publisher. I do actually have several story ideas of my own that I would love to write about and illustrate…some day!

What process do you use to come up with the drawings for the illustrations for the story? How many steps are involved? Sketches? Rough drawings? Re-Do percentages?

I like to talk to the author and read the story’s rough draft, this helps me picture what I think would go well in designing each page. I do a lot of research for each drawing and then, I talk with the author again to finalize my sketch ideas. Once I have the sketches done, I send them to the author for any possible changes then, its off to paint! I would say it’s probably about a 5 to 7 stage process, from start to finish with minimal re-do work.

How long does it take to produce the art for a book like each of the Love Unleashed series, each of which are 32 pages in total, though not all pages have art on them? Start to rough drawings? Rough to final?

Well, for each of these, I had a deadline to meet so it’s hard to say if I would have taken longer without the deadline, lol! That being said, most artists work better if they do have a deadline because we are notorious procrastinators!

What medium do you think is the best for children’s book illustrations? What is your favorite medium for this work?

I think acrylics are the best for illustrating because they are very versatile and they dry fast which is why I used them to illustrate both Why Horses Are and Why Cats Are.

Where do you do your work?

I have a lovely studio in my house where I do my painting but, I typically start the process doing research on my computer in my home office.

Do you draw inspiration from any specific thing or idea when you start such a project?

In the case of Why Horses Are, I was inspired by our pony because he was such a gentle soul and always wanted to “help”. He would whiny a greeting every time he heard my voice, and he was happy to pose for me and be my model, I miss him very much.

As for my inspiration for Why Cats Are, well, I grew up with cats and one of them, named Tiger, was a Maine Coon similar to the one I drew as Mike. He too had many of the same qualities as Mike which made it easy to envision how I would portray him in my illustrations.

I’ve heard you had so many photos of your own horse that you were able to use those for renderings in the book–is that how you came up with such beautiful artwork for this book?

Yes, that is true. Not only did I use photos of Speedy but, several of the other horses at the barn helped out as well. I had one owner riding her horse in the outdoor arena for a reference photo shoot series, I used the coloring of another horse and, I used the facial markings of a third horse all to make the best rendition of “Blaze”.

I also heard there was a sad event that happened in the middle of your work on the Horses book? Can you tell us about that?

Illustration of one of the characters from the Love Unleashed chidlrens picture book series

Why Horses Are holds extra special meaning for me as our pony, Speedy, passed away during the illustration phase.

He was my model and inspiration for the cover art/main character, Blaze. I dedicated my illustrations to him as he was such a joy to have had in my life, I will never forget him – I ❤ Blaze (Speedy)!