Lizzy Rockwell is a picture book author and illustrator with over 35 books published. Her artwork can also been found in games, magazines and murals. Lizzy loves science, food, and animals, all of which have been themes in her books. Much of what she knows about making books, she learned as a child. Her parents, Anne and Harlow Rockwell made books in their home studio in Connecticut, when Lizzy and her brother and sister were growing up. As an adult, Lizzy collaborated as illustrator on 19 books written by her mother. Her favorite things to draw are animals, plants, landscapes, and children's faces.
When Lizzy is not working in her studio, in Bridgeport, CT, she might be found in her garden, baking in her kitchen, or taking long walks at the beach and the woods, with her English Setter, Reggie. She also volunteers every week as artistic director and community organizer for a quilting group called Peace by Piece: The Norwalk Community Quilt Project.
Growing up with books
My parents, Anne and Harlow Rockwell made picture books in a small studio off our dining room in Old Greenwich, CT where I grew up. So I got to watch the process, along with my brother and sister, from birth. I loved to draw, and all my play with siblings and neighborhood friends was about storytelling and making images. We drew comics, wrote plays, recorded radio dramas, and copied pictures in books and magazines. Our parents let us borrow art supplies, and gave us a lot of encouragement to be creative. They also brought us along during their extensive travels around the US and Europe.
I was very fortunate, because in my childhood home, books were everywhere. My parents made picture books for a living, so we had those, and other books that inspired them which they wanted to share with us. My mother's tone of voice reading The Story about Ping, Runaway Bunny, and Little Fur Family, is so imprinted in my memory, that I cannot help but read those books to children with the same lilting rhythm and emphasis. It's as though the language of those books is set to a tune I would never want to change. I also loved library books. There were certain books that I did not own, but were among my favorites. The miracle of finding a beloved book in a library in a different town or state was deeply gratifying. A library is one of the only places where a young child is free to roam and make personal choices about what they love, and discoveries about what they want to learn about.
I believe that being read to on the lap of a loving adult is as essential to a young child's development as the nourishment of food. A child who is read to, one on one, with physical contact, will absorb and cherish the sound, smell, heartbeat, of the reader. These visceral associations will develop the bond between parent and child more deeply than almost any other single activity. This early exposure will inspire a life time of independent reading and personal discovery. The book provides a shared cultural touchpoint, it offers entertainment, it provokes questions and conversation, it models a simple, low tech vehicle for personal expression that the child can easily replicate. A book is the first work of art that a child will experience. Art feeds the soul. It connects us to our shared human experience and helps make sense of the mysteries of the universe.
I hope that young readers will find themselves in the pages of my books. I hope they will have their curiosity about the natural world sparked. I hope they will find models for personal relationships, and self care that help them lead safe, secure, and engaged lives. I hope they feel inspired to make their own books, tell their own stories, and investigate their own questions.
I would be a teacher.
When my husband and I were raising our two sons, Nick and Nigel (now grown) I found there were a lot of things that were easier to talk about when they were topics in a book or movie. So the first books I wrote, Good Enough to Eat: A kids Guide to Food and Nutrition, Hello Baby (about a new baby coming into the family) and The Busy Body Book: A Kid's Guide to Fitness, all covered parenting challenges which we had faced. At the time I had not found the perfect books to facilitate the conversations, so I wrote them.
In order to develop a personal style, I had to stop idolizing other illustrators. This is hard when two of your favorite illustrators are also your parents. If you pay too much attention to what others are doing, two bad things will happen: you will be overly influenced and not look original, and you will often feel inadequate by comparison. But drawing in situations with high risk, was the way I pushed through. For instance, my parents always drew their sketches directly in a hand made book dummy. A book dummy is basically a custom made sketchbook exactly the size and number of pages of the finished book, where you tape in the text and sketch in the pictures. My mom did hers in pen, and they were very loose. I worked in pencil, like my dad, but only directly in the book dummy. I did not used pieces of paper I could throw away. This caused me to draw more intuitively, and mostly from my memory rather than reference material. By trusting my instincts, my personal style emerged. Drawing at schools visits on a big pad of paper with a sharpie permanent marker in front of hundreds of people, has also been great training for drawing on a tight rope wire, without a net. I learned a lot from my mom. Not by trying to make art that looked like hers, but by admiring her capacity to be completely original.
I just finished a book called How Do You Feel? It's set in an urban park. Kids are playing with freedom, but caring adults are at hand. The children experience conflict, fear, anger and sadness, but they work through, or are given help resolving these emotions. They also experience joy, silliness, kindness and forgiveness. They have fresh air and green space to explore. No one is on a cell phone. I'd like to spend a Saturday in that place.