How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Interview with the Artist

I was 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!

Check out her website!

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 love! 

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. 

Another 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. 

The 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 for Rüdiger 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! 

In 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 to draw? 

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 fun.

The 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 challenges.

For 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 temperaments! 

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 friendship.

The one 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 photo:


  1. Thanks for the insightful interview, Kelsey, your questions were great!
    And I really love the color scheme you picked for the pegasus! :-)

    1. You're welcome, and thank you for your fascinating replies to my questions! Thank you also for the compliment... it was so much fun to do, and I'm really looking forward to having a whole book of these horses.