VSS Illustrator Interviews

In doing these interviews, we hope to give you a glimpse into our artist members' unique personalities, a new perspective on their wonderful work, and the opportunity to know what inspires them!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Laura Zarrin

Today we are proud to share an interview with talented illustrator, Laura Zarrin. Her playful characters have so much life, they seem to step right off the page. Be sure to check out all of her illustrations at LauraZarrin.com and leave her a comment at the bottom of the interview!

How did you get started in illustration?
I always knew I was an artist, the trick was how to earn a living doing it. I went to community college to get my basic GE courses out of the way, while I figured out what I would ultimately do. I thought I was going to be a fine artist as a hobby, but I soon realized that I enjoy getting projects from art directors. I just wasn’t cut out to sit and paint what I wanted all day. I also craved the collaboration with others better than going it completely solo. Illustration was the answer. I earned a BS in Graphic Design and Illustration at San Jose State University.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
My favorite medium is color pencil, though collage, pens, and paint have been creeping in lately. I sketch in my sketchbook, scan it into Photoshop to tweak it, then transfer the drawing to toned paper using carbon paper. I then start on the color. I usually don’t do color studies, unless I want a different look or palette from what I usually do. After the piece is ‘finished’, I scan it into Photoshop, and play with it some more. Sometimes I fix some issues, other times I add a transparent layer of color to smooth and brighten some areas.
Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
At this point, I don’t write my own stories. Not sure if I will in the future.

Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I’m a full time mom. I work when the kids are at school or sleeping. It’s getting easier to squeeze it in when they’re around now that they’re older. As for balance, it’s more like teetering on the edge most of the time. The kids always come first, though. Time with them goes so fast, I don’t want to miss anything!
Where in the country do you live?
I live in Northern California. I have a studio in my home. We recently moved and I upgraded from a loft to an actual room with a door and a closet. Heaven!
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I went to school. I have to say it was a bit disappointing. My teachers emphasized drawing how we felt rather than focusing on actual skills. I would have loved an intensive drawing background. I was lucky enough to have a life drawing teacher who was very old school. I took his class several times to soak up as much as possible. I’ve had to push myself to fill in the blanks.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
I realized a long-term goal this year of being published in Ladybug magazine. I haven’t seen it yet, but I illustrated a piece for their October issue. I also illustrated Who’s in a Family. It’s been in print for almost 16 years. It was once on World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson! I also illustrated eight other books, which are no longer in print.
My website, my blog, Pixie Bears, & my Etsy shop

Tell us about your current project.
Currently, I have several personal projects going on. I’ve joined the Sketchbook Project and am really feeling the pressure to finish it. I’m also busy creating collections for licensing. In addition, I started a semi custom collage portrait business to create another stream of income. (http://www.LauraZarrin.com/story.html)

Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
It’s ever changing, but I’ve always loved Garth Williams, Mary Grandpre´, & JK Rowling. Recent favorites are Chris Van Dusen, Mark Teague, Marla Frazee, and I just discovered Amandine Piu.
If you could be any children’s book character, who would you be and why?
I’m not sure, but as a child it was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I always believed that I had been born about 100 years too late. Now I’m very glad I was! I can’t imagine living without all of the niceties of the 21st century, not to mention living without vaccines or antibiotics!

What inspires you?
My kids, nature, fabric, cracks in the sidewalk. Anything can suddenly get my brain working in a new direction.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an archeologist or an anthropologist. I love history! As a kid I studied Native Americans and pioneers. I drove my mom crazy reading nothing but non-fiction about those subjects, taking notes, drawing, digging holes in the backyard.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Hanging out with my family, sewing, and traveling. 

What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
I really can’t imagine what I’d do. Something without regular hours, hopefully.

Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
Draw, draw, draw. Take business courses. Try to find a mentor who’s already in the business.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
That’s pretty much it. Thanks so much for interviewing me! 


  1. I am amazed with all the things you do and the sites you keep! I am very curious about your income, does it come from the shop o from editorial illustration?

  2. Great interview and I love your studio. There is so much light.