Saturday, May 14, 2011


This month, Marimba Books releases Aloha for Carol Ann, a picture book about an eight-year-old who moves to Hawaii and struggles to feel at home in this new place until she discovers the true meaning of aloha, a Hawaiian term that means "hello," "welcome" and so much more.

Meet the Illustrator: Priscilla Garcia Burris

Marimba Books: When did you recognize your artistic talents?
Priscilla Burris: From a very young age I was habitually doodling with any paper available! Throughout school age years I continued with the love of doodling, sketching and drawing both informally (while taking notes in class), and formally (when asked to create posters or flyers for events).
MB: Do you remember any of your first drawings? PB: Yes! I have a sweet framed crayon-rendered image I created in Kindergarten. It is a drawing, in full color, of my home including my address over the front door, along with a chimney and strand of gray smoke billowing out of it (this was purely my imagination, as we never had a fireplace). Also included in the drawing is a little girl with a beautiful red dress (triangle shape), a happy smile, and 3 hair bows; one on the top of her head and one on either end of upswinging braids! There are also lowercase letter 'm's — or rather, several colorful birds flying in the sky.
MB: How did you begin working in children's book publishing?
PB: My career in children's book publishing started when I was assigned illustration work for an educational publisher. Creating 10 of these books a year gave me ample opportunity to grow and learn and hone my skills in illustrating children and animals for this specific field of art. A few years after this start, I created picture book dummies — or mock-ups of picture books with text, and submitted these to a publisher who went on to publish 4 of these such books. One of these books was written by my sweet husband.
MB: What was your first published book? And how many published books have you illustrated?
PB: Two of my earliest published picture books are titled “Christopher Is Not Afraid...Anymore” written by Craig Burris, and “Carefree Play Summer Day” written by Julie Hendrickson (1994). To date I have illustrated more than 30 books.

MB: How would you describe your artistic style or approach?
PB: For children’s books, I work in two different styles; one with more of a sketchy-loose line, and the other much more structured and contained. Creating and evoking expression and emotion has always been my approach in any illustration projects or books.

Has your artistic style changed much from when you first started your career?
PB: Yes. While I have illustrated in educational, mass, and trade publishing through the years, my style has grown from the experience in all fields. In some ways it has more recently evolved into a new look, however in another way it has come full circle and I am illustrating in the way I have always loved to create – with heart, soul and joy! And most of all, with expressiveness both facial and in the body language of the characters I create.

MB: What medium do you enjoy most?
PB: Digital painting and pastels tools. Traditional medium would be chalk pastels. I love sketching with either pencils or ink pens best.

MB: What attracted you to this particular project―illustrating Aloha For Carol Ann?PB: First, when reading the manuscript at the beginning of the story, “Carol Ann trudged down the path to her new classroom.” I loved that it began with a true-felt emotion of a child who has moved far away and has to now adjust to a new place to live. Secondly, when I was asked to give samples of flora and fauna, as this would be needed for this picture book, I knew I’d thoroughly enjoy the research of the Hawaiian setting, as I have never been there myself. 

MB: Do you have a favorite illustration in the book?
PB: My favorite illustration has to be the two-page spread where Carol Ann’s new friend, Maile, is helping her put a fresh hibiscus flower behind her ear and where some new classmates are nearby during recess, enjoying their snacks sitting under the banyan tree. I imagined the coolness of the ground under their feet, and the fragrant breezes that would surround them.
MB: What advice do you have for aspiring artists looking to break into children's book publishing?
PB: Research the market, spending lots of time reading through the genre in children’s book publishing that you are interested in, such as picture books or chapter books. Continually and regularly create new images that tell a story. Create characters, both children and animals. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (, a professional organization specifically helpful for anyone seriously interested in this field of illustration.

Illustrator, designer and author, Priscilla Garcia Burris was born and raised in Southern California. An artist from a very early age, she earned degrees in both Fashion Design and Early Childhood Education, and taught pre-school for several years. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she has illustrated educational, mass market and trade books and other materials for children, parents and teachers. Her published books include Five Green and Speckled Frogs, which she wrote and illustrated: What Do Angels Do?, and I Love You All Day Long, which she illustrated.

To learn more about Priscilla, please visit her web site

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