As we approach the announcement of our 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book line-up and headlining authors, we invite you to get to know the artist behind the 2020 Festival poster artwork (pictured, right). Juana Medina was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, and is the author and illustrator of the Pura Belpré Award-winning chapter book Juana & Lucas, which she presented at the 2017 Virginia Festival of the Book. She is also the author and illustrator for Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas, 1 Big Salad, ABC Pasta, and Sweet Shapes.
Jusana has earned recognitions from the Colombian Presidency, the National Cartoonists Society, the National Headliner Award, International Latino Book Awards, and Ridgway Award honors, among others. Juana studied and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Corcoran College of Art + Design. She lives in the DC area, with her wife, twin sons, and their dear dog, Rosita. Read on for a Q&A between Juana and Festival staff…
What were the books (or other art forms) that you read as a kid that inspire your work today?
So many books! As a child, the Nicholas book series by Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny made a very big impression on me. Both, the clever and funny text, and Sempé’s extraordinary illustrations were simply magical. I hold on to that very special feeling of being in on the joke and “getting it.” I always strive for my young readers to feel both, smart and included.
Another big influence for me, is Mafalda by Quino. It affected me so much, I truly believe I hold an inner Mafalda in me. And then there’s Harriet the Spy and Momo, which are two books that have also influenced me as an author—from the way I perceive time, to how characters are introduced and developed. These books have been constant sources of inspiration.
The work of Jim Henson, Tomie de Paola, Quentin Blake, and Dick Bruna, has made me stare endlessly at books (and screens, in the case of Henson), admiring greatly what they created.
When you were here for the 2017 Virginia Festival of the Book, what was your favorite aspect of the event?
I had just become a mom to my twin sons a short three months before the Festival—Everything in life at the time felt like a blur. And yet! The festive environment, where stories and books were at the center of this big celebration, was so genuine, that it is something I can recall sharply.
Also, one big personal highlight, was having the opportunity to share a panel with my favorite Medina: the absolutely fantastic Meg Medina. (I admire her so much, I wish we were related. But alas, we are not). It was great getting a chance to have a very well moderated conversation to talk about books and share our experiences as Latina writers.
Please describe your inspiration for the 2020 Festival artwork you created.
Receiving the invitation to create the artwork for the 2020 Festival was a treat! The Festival’s accessibility, inclusion, and celebration of books were palpable from my visit in 2017 (and from further conversations with organizers). Making artwork that could playfully highlight these aspects of the Festival was something I took on with gusto.
By making bold, simple, and colorful graphics, I attempted to keep an equally vibrant and accessible feel. Using hand drawn type and irregular edges to the drawn figures, I wanted to show the Festival’s humanity; lastly, I wanted to have books (of all shapes, sizes, and colors) as main characters, as a reminder of the richness of this gathering, where diverse voices and a multitude of stories, matter.
What are you working on next, book-wise or more generally?
I’m excited to be working on Juana & Lucas 3. As well as illustrating a couple books for other authors (always a humbling endeavor!). There’s also a new series for young readers in the works… Can’t wait to share more about this!
What words of advice do you have for aspiring illustrators and/or children’s authors?
Work hard, be kind, have fun.
Work hard: it takes time and discipline to develop skills. There’s no other way than to put in the hours. Things most probably will not work out at the first submission/try, keep working hard towards it!
Be kind: to yourself (yeah, work hard, but also, rest! I didn’t learn this lesson until my body started giving up and made me learn it the hard way) and of course, be kind to others.
Have fun: let things that are not work, inspire you and lift you up.
What’s a new favorite book that you’ve read recently?
Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border, by Mitali Perkins, and Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees.