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Interpretation is key for children's book illustrator

November 15, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

Her speech is nearly as animated as her art when children's book illustrator Susan Guevara tells an audience how she creates pictures interpreting an author's words.

Guevara is in the Imperial Valley this week speaking at schools and libraries. Lincoln Elementary School fourth-grader Diana Lara caught Guevara at the El Centro Public Library on Tuesday night.

Nine-year-old Diana said she wants to be an illustrator like Guevara when she grows up.

"I like that she followed her dream. She really likes her job," Diana said.

Guevara explained to the audience the process of illustrating a book. She begins by reading the story's manuscript and creating mental images of what she reads.

"I take a picture in my mind," Guevara said.

The pictures are limited only by her imagination.

Guevara's illustrations adorn a wide variety of children's books, set anywhere from modern-day East Los Angeles to Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1895. She even illustrated the translation of an ancient Aztec chant, incorporating Aztec glyphs into her pictures and using them for inspiration.


Guevara said she often travels to the places where the books are set to do research. For example, while visiting East L.A., to prepare to illustrate Gary Soto's book "Chato's Kitchen," Guevara took photographs and sketched many of the things she saw.

One photo she showed the audience was of a woman walking down the street in purple shoes. The footwear made such a visual impression Guevara included them on a female mouse in her illustrations for the book.

Even actor Cheech Marin became the inspiration behind the movements of Chato, "a cool low-riding cat," Guevara said.

Having read "Chato's Kitchen" at school, Diana said it was fun to meet the woman who drew the pictures.

While she will get extra credit in class for writing a paragraph about Guevara's presentation, the evening wasn't all about schoolwork for Diana. It was inspiring, too.

"I hope that when I grow up I can be just like her," Diana said.

>> Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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