Erika Lynne Jones is an author and an illustrator who resides in Texas with her three kids. She enjoys laughing and making others laugh, traveling, and learning about other cultures. I recently reviewed the book she illustrated, and says she hopes “to write and illustrate many stories for children that help them grow into emotionally healthy adults.” Read the rest of the interview below!
Question: Why do you enjoy creating characters and stories that celebrate cultures?
Answer: I believe children get positive messages about their own worthiness and value from seeing stories with people that look like them and live like them.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your career?
A: I hope to write and illustrate many stories for children that help them grow into emotionally healthy adults. I would also enjoy seeing my work on products and translated into other media. I want to leave a legacy that is a blessing to my family for generations to come and to those who find joy in my work.
Q: What is your favorite art medium to work with and why?
A: I love painting papers and using found paper to make cut paper collages. I love using my hands in this way. It calms me and reminds me of working on art projects with my mother when I was younger. I also use PhotoShop to combine some of the elements and finish my work for books.. I love this because it gives me the flexibility to make changes as might be requested by my editors and art directors.
Q: Did you always want to be an artist? What made you decide to be one?
A: No, it did not cross my mind that I could be an artist until I was a full grown adult, married with children. I was exposed to art of all kinds, but it wasn’t something I thought I had the capacity or natural ability to do. I’ve always been a writer, but if I were comparing my art to others, it wasn’t something that stood out as exceptional. That said, about nine years ago, I was grieving my mothers’ passing and I was compelled to make art. I just wanted to make pretty things, because she liked pretty things. I took online classes and watched other artists and illustrators make things. I’d follow the instructors’ strokes as closely as I could. And eventually I graduated to classes where I was given prompts and assignments to develop my own characters and scenes. And one thing all of those teachers emphasized was that I could learn to make the imagery as I was seeing it in my head if I just kept working at it. And it turned out to be true. After many years of practice and information gathering, I realized I was in love with the idea of making books for children.
Q: Who is your favorite illustrator? How have they inspired you?
A: I am drawn to art with a mid-century modern influence. I love bold shapes, bright colors and vintage textures. I also love beautiful, textured line work. Growing up I loved Ezra Jack Keats and Eric Carle as well as Shel Silverstein. Today I love the work of Christian Robinson, Vanessa Brantley Newton and Oge Mora.
Q: Your poem “The Angry Black Woman” was so moving. Being a Black woman is an amazing experience, but it brings forth stereotypes that can be hurtful. How should the next generations address and demolish these racist stereotypes?
A: Thank you. I wrote that poem shortly after the murder of George Floyd. I was processing how I (like many other Black people) had been conditioned not to show anger or disappointment in social settings to avoid being stereotyped or to avoid making people of other ethnic groups feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I was confronted with the fact that suppressing parts of oneself doesn’t make you safer. It’s actually unhealthy in every way and I don’t do that anymore. Not being a full human being emotionally, spiritually or physically is not living and it is not freedom. So it was a pivotal time for me.
To answer your question more fully. I don’t think the next generation should worry about, focus on or address stereotypes. I think their primary responsibility is to focus on knowing, loving and being themselves. When you do that you defy stereotypes without trying. You break barriers that you may or may not have known even existed. You create things with a uniqueness and an excellence that is absolutely irresistible and undeniable. Just love and be yourselves. That is where freedom lies.
Q: Penelope’s outfit was based on one that your daughter wore that you said was “loud”. How has your motherhood connected to your illustrations in other ways?
A: It’s just kind of an organic thing that happens. I will be doing normal mom things and get inspiration for my work. I might be taking my children to park dates or their activities and I will see an outfit, hairstyle or funny interaction that inspires me. I have had my children pose for me on various illustrations. I write stories also, so memorable things my children say or do might inspire scenes or cause me to rapidly write down a story idea on my living document of story ideas.
Q: When kids read The Loud Librarian, what do you hope they take away from it?
A: I hope children take away that whoever you are inherently, in other words whatever quirks, likes dislikes, you are born with… you don’t have to change to be like everyone else. You will in time find your purpose, your place. Just how you are – you will shine.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
A: Thank you for featuring me and my work. I have more projects in the works, Black Girls: A Celebration of You comes out September 26 of this year and is on preorder at book retailers everywhere. And I am working on my author/illustrator debut, Zara In The Middle. That book will be published with Harper Collins and the date is to be determined. Please follow and sign up for updates via my website, erikalynnejones.com or on social media at erikalynnejones.
Below are some of Erika’s artwork.