Five questions for the illustrator

1. Those illustrations. What were you thinking?

I paint what I see.

Then I meant … what were you drinking??


2. But really, how do you come up with some of this stuff?

I read the text of the page and picture the first thing that pops into my head. Then I draw anything but that. I figure that if the words already paint a scene, maybe the reader would rather see that extended and elaborated.

3. But the pictures and even the style change as the story unfolds. What was going through your head?

The story sort of caught hold of me, or as the author might argue, I sort of caught hold of the story…(especially with Ye Olde Paint Shoppe, I took a few liberties that I’m not proud of). I started off pretty basic, picking pieces of the text here and there, and illustrating phrases here and there, but then as the story picked up it didn’t seem right to split the pictures up anymore, why not incorporate everything into the same chaotic scene? I found out I preferred this method because it was like a puzzle trying to fit all of the pieces together and keep the visual story interesting and somewhat cohesive. The text is dense with imagery and language and I had fun playing around with it, especially later in the book as things escalate and through the craziness of the plot I was able to justify drawing weirder and weirder pictures (note to editor: feel free to replace the word “weirder” with “better”, I have no qualms with that!). Here and there the author would then re-tinker with passages playing off of scenes I’d drawn. He’s still tinkering on some back-alley stone-age PC somewhere, I’m pretty sure. Although the style does evolve over the course of the book, I think it works with the story, as everything gets more tangled and sticky and sloppy, so do the pictures and so do the tongues of the people trying to read the rhymes and stay true to the meter. Call it post facto rationalizing if you must, but I don’t even know what that means and I am absolutely NOT redrawing anything.

4. What’s up with the worm/carrot/rabbit?

The worm exists because I needed a character to perform some of the actions of the story (such as the wind that causes the plumfall near the beginning of the story), but one that wouldn’t hog center stage. Then I started to feel bad that I had created a character who never gets noticed, and I felt bad that the rabbit didn’t have any carrots because a carrot is a root crop and poor dumb rabbit is barking up the wrong tree, a fruit tree no less…so I decided to kill two birds with one stone, to use a phrase sure to attract the attention of our avian friends. In the end neither of them end up with the worm, instead the worm re-grows (the evolutionary response to the garden hoe?) into two, then three. My logical solution: the rabbit makes a carrot out of the worm, the rabbit gets his carrot and the worm gets the attention it deserves. I think it works only because of the simple cartoon-style of the drawings. Because visually, a carrot, a worm, or even an elephant’s trunk all have the same basic shape, a long thin rectangle with lines drawn across it, the main thing that differentiates them is color. In the mind of a child, perhaps these parallels can be drawn. Who are we to judge them?

5. Why do you go by just Esa?

Is there anything more endearing and heartwarming than a father/daughter collaboration? Hmmm? Perhaps the father/daughter dance? Or maybe a sharp stick in the eye? That is why I go by Esa. I think my parents knew this was going to happen when they named me, so props to them. I was all set to play on the Brazilian National Soccer Team. Imagine if my name had been something normal like Ashley, or Megan, or Teresa … Also, I like the inside joke with Spanish-speakers. Who are we to judge Esa? Who am I to judge? Who am I? Am I? Pinto lo que veo.

Whoah. Maybe you should go easy on the paint …