Spotlight on Latinx Illustrators: Erika Meza

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By Cecilia Cackley

This is the eleventh in a series of posts spotlighting Latinx illustrators of picture books. Some of these artists have been creating children’s books for many years, while others will have their first book out soon. They come from many different cultural backgrounds, but all are passionate about connecting with readers through art and story. Please look for their books at bookstores and libraries!

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Erika Meza

Erika Meza is a Mexican Migrant: colorful, bubbly, and a taco connoisseur. After studying graphic design back home (and moving house nearly 30 times) she lived in a dungeon with a princess in Paris to attend the Illustration (Image Imprimée) program at ENSAD, which got her addicted to chocolate éclairs and 2 am bike rides by the river.

She now lives with a cat in the UK where she works with ink, gouaches, and watercolor pencils as an author and illustrator.

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Q: What or who inspired you to become an artist? 

A: I remember vividly being four or five years old, and watching a making-of my parents had recorded for me on a Betamax cassette (for the younglings, that’s the grandfather of the VHS tape) about the ink-and-paint girls in the Disney studios. All those women having access to all of those paint colors, and creating all those beautiful and precise paint strokes, was for me the equivalent of a dream-world: it quickly became one of the most rewinded tapes of my childhood. Later on, becoming a children’s illustrator turned into the obvious choice: it meant I could write, design characters, and my own little universes: in short, to wear all of the creative hats I wanted.

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Q: Tell us something about your favorite artistic medium–why you like it, when you first learned it, etc. 

A: Oh gosh, watercolor pencils and inks. I love drawing, I love sketching – the messier it is, the better. But when I paint, I have a tendency to go clean and precise. As a result, people often told me that my final artwork lacked the energy and the vibrancy I had in my sketches.

It took a lot of patience and confidence, but watercolor pencils solved that problem for me. I sketch in my usual way directly on the final watercolor paper, and then allow the splashes of watercolors and inks to flow and help me discover the illustration as I go. It means letting go of a certain amount of control, which is hard for my perfectionistic brain to accept (and probably nerve-wrecking to the art directors who have never seen me work, haha). But the end result keeps being a surprise, and retains all the joy I have in making it, even if I have to paint it again from scratch if something went wrong. And I very much think it shows in the final result.

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Q: Please finish this sentence: “Picture books are important because…”

 A:…because they establish the relationship we will have to books growing up, as well as start helping us understand the world we live in. They are the first window we have to other cultures, other stories, and to our own imagination.

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Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

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