thrilled to have the talented E. Kaiser Writes illustrate my book The
Road to Bremen. As I was writing
this story and beginning to imagine it illustrated, I could think of
only one artist to ask because of her illustrating experience and her
special expertise in depicting animals. I was so glad that she agreed
to work with me, and I couldn’t be happier with her contribution to
my book. It wouldn’t be the same without her!
Welcome, Elizabeth! Let’s begin at
the beginning. When did you start drawing, and who was the first
illustrator to capture your attention and imagination?
Being homeschooled, I learned how to
draw by first learning how to doodle, and I learned that at about
four years old, sitting around the kitchen table with my older
siblings when we were supposed to be doing our schoolwork. I got
myself into it: I begged Mom to give me schoolwork so I could join
the “big kids”…but soon was as bored as they, and discovered
they held doodling competitions when Mom was out of the room. I
joined in, and it just went from there!
As kids, Mom and Dad used to read aloud
to us in the evenings, and one winter they read the Little House
books. I remember marveling at the illustrations by Garth Williams,
and that’s definitely one of my early “boy, I could never be as
good as that!” moments!
My family was
largely artistic, and encouraged that all the time, so growing up I
always had an eye toward refining what skills I possessed. But I
really didn’t “get serious” about my art until I was in my
twenties, and I never anticipated ending up as an actual illustrator.
That was an unexpected twist in my story, and one that I really do
That’s so neat! I know at least
one person who has seen your illustrations for my book compared you
to Garth Williams. What are a few other books you have illustrated?
I’ve been blessed to work with quite
a few wonderful folks who really have supplied great fodder for my
artistic imagination…especially fantasy/fairytale type tales. Love
the opportunity those give to meld actual historic details into art
that is unrestrained by any limitation, so that’s a wonderful
playground to explore. I like to make my illustrations as chock-full
of meaningful details as possible, and borrowing from history is such
a fun way to do that.
fun project I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of is illustrating
for Bible stories, and those are particularly up my alley because
there is such a wealth of actual data that can be accessed, from
which to draw on any point in Biblical times…and yet there’s a
great lack of really nailed-down details, so there’s really a wide
array of possible angles to take any of the elements, so it’s fun
to do the research and then interpret all of that as artistically as
possible. And hopefully hit upon an apt representation of the rich
flavor of ancient life.
I love that you put so
much enthusiastic research into each project. Can you tell us a few
of the details that you dug up while researching the German animals,
flowers, and landscapes and used in The Road to Bremen?
Yes! That is the fun part! I believe
illustrations can add so much to the reader’s experience of the
story, and it’s a place where so much can be learned. So my goal is
to put as much authentic detail in as possible.
So Kelsey and I talked about the
location (which is a real place in Germany!) and the era for the
clothes and buildings the story takes place amongst. Having a real
location with pictorial access was a big help; we found local breeds
of farm animals, and were able to feature area-accurate flowers in
nearly all of the pieces.
kind of donkeys Germany seems to have were just the usual ones, but
they were still easy to make adorably quirky. We got really lucky
with the dog, because there’s an old fashioned breed called the
Deutsche Bracke, so I was able to model directly off of that! Then
the rooster, we used a Bergische Kräher…which
translated means “Farm Crower,” noted for its lengthy crowing
ability! Which was perfect for Rüdiger,
since he prides himself on his voice.
So it was a lot of fun to delve into
details like that…we incorporated a famous statue in the town of
Bremen, and used real German landscapes whenever possible. I always
like to learn something from any illustration project, and I hope
that viewers will also pick up new things from them, too!
all, it’s usually great fun to work with an author on their vision
for the story, and you were so prepared, Kelsey, with lots of
inspiration already pinned, that it was a delightful process!!
Aw, I’m glad to hear
that! It was a delightful process for me, too, and you were so easy
to work with. I love your work. What is your favorite type of thing
I love animals because they’re so
expressive and so often they get neglected by other artists, so it
makes me happy to contribute to the “gap” that surrounds them in
art. And there are a wealth of
expressions that can be brought across with them, so they’re always
other thing I get excited about is architecture, and trying to
estimate accurately for whatever sort of period the setting is. I’m
more fluid and free-flowing in my art than strictly structured, so
architecture is a challenge for me, but it’s a fun challenge that I
love to research out and then compose building details for
illustrations, which I think can add so much to the feel of a piece.
That’s really cool! And
what media do you work in?
I do a lot of pencil: black and white
and shading…that’s mostly interior art, and so that makes up the
bulk of any project, for the most part. I’ve done line art, with
pen, for coloring books, etc. and that is also fun and brings its own
color, I’m a real mixed-media fan, and may start with watercolor
style washes and then move on to acrylics for some intense pops of
color, and then add the precision of colored pencil into the
smorgasbord… I really just feel my way forward and try to “herd
the process in the right direction.” I’m very unscientific,
during the actual art stages… I get very detailed and demanding of
my research, and become frustrated if I can’t find the exact thing
I’m looking for, but once we leave the planning stage and move to
the creative ones, I’m completely nonlinear.
You’ve illustrated your own books
as well. Which is harder, doing it for yourself or for others?
Oh, for myself, by far!!! I’m my own
worst critic and am constantly belittling my work, so it’s quite a
struggle to know when to listen to the “inner editor,” so to
speak, and when to toss it outside, shut the door and lock it fast!
I’ve been tremendously blessed to
work with folks who are vastly more encouraging about my results than
I myself am: so that’s a huge, huge gift that I’m always very
grateful to receive. And in trade I’m able to give shape to their
dreams, which they aren’t capable of at this stage, and that’s a
wonderful synergy there!
And the completed projects are
always so fun to see…
Yes, indeed! Tell us about the
coloring book you recently released. I’m really excited to get my
hands on a copy of it.
Folks had been telling me for years
that I should make my art into a coloring book, so I started with a
horse-based theme that got interrupted by a real-life move of the
ranch operation from one state to another. That swallowed about two
years, during which I could only peck at various creative projects,
but late 2018 felt like there was a little bit of release of pressure
from the aftermath of that upheaval, and we buckled down in earnest
to pushing that past the tipping point and into reality.
So “Horses of the Elements” Adult
(or Advanced, as I like to frame it) Coloring Book was finally born,
and we’re hoping to bring out a few more in not too long. Hopefully
much less time between start to finish on upcoming ones!
But horses are really such “darlings
of the art world”; when you think about it, they’ve been
portrayed in nearly every culture whose art has impacted our current
impression of art history…back to the caves at Lascaux, there are
horses on the walls. They embody so many aspects of our emotion, so I
wanted to take that train of thought and really give it wings, so to
speak, and allow them to sort of translate the feeling of various
elements that aren’t simple to sum up, but complex and vivid
entities in our awareness.
So like Thunder and Lightning, Forest
Fire, Sea, Volcano… We made winged horses for Air, and Typhoon, and
Snow; we did unicorns for each season, just really setting the stage
for colorists to let their imaginations take flight, and it’s all
based on the universally appealing, and endlessly changeable
facets of horsedom in all its forms. From foals to drafts, ponies to
hotbloods, we explored the spectrum of equines and their dynamic
Our images run from wildly dynamic
forces of nature to the placid, calm side; from showcasing the
variety of equine breed types to quiet moments of peaceful
constant is they are all beautiful, and should be fun for anyone to
bring to life with color.
I had a sneak peek at
most of the pictures for this coloring book, and I got to color one
with watercolor pencils and coaching from a horse expert. Here’s a