Light is already the illustrator of four children’s books, Trio Plus One, One Lonely Camel, The Princess of Fort Hill Shelter, and The Hoodie Hero. They have a fine arts background, studying painting and printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University. Light returned to the Reach children’s books project this year to illustrate Adventures in Ana Park, which comes out in November.
You first illustrated for the Reach children’s book project the first two years in 2013 and 2014. What was the experience of illustrating these four books?
It was exciting, I had never done anything like that before. I was in my first year of college, summer before or after that, it felt pretty exciting to be a part of something like that. I like children’s books format, because it combines my interests in art and writing.
You’ve come back to the project now, four years later. Has anything changed in your style? In the way you view or experienced the project?
My approach to the project has definitely changed, it’s been a number of years. I approach art differently, much more intentional. This project is a reentry for me into illustration, after having done a lot of other things. Now I want to approach it with a more deeper sensibilities, consider what does it mean for me to draw imagery a certain way and what is it going to communicate? I have a unique style, how can I develop that, and bring to life what the authors want?
Adventures in Ana Park has a lot of rich description of a real place. Were you at all familiar with this scenery?
Not initially, but after the second workshop I went to Anacostia park. The authors have a strong relationship with the park, and I wanted to form my own relationship. So I spent three hours, went to all the places mentioned in the book. I wanted to see what the book envisioned, and to get to know the park and the authors by what they saw in the park. I think it must have been a great place to go to growing up. It’s a community space with a lot of cool places, like the marine aquarium. I really enjoyed it, and I was glad to have a chance to visit the park and form my on relationship with it.
Are there any unexpected challenges to illustrating these children’s books?
The obvious challenge this time is to illustrate a park that I have only known for a short time. I have to be able to illustrate with deep empathy to show the familiar and nostalgic feeling that the authors have for the space, when I have only visited for a short time. It’s an exercise in empathy. Otherwise, there are general challenges to a big illustration project. I am learning how to use traditional and digital media together, and I have to learn new things but be able to do them to a high quality.
Shout Mouse books aim to represent diverse voices and stories. How do you see the role of diversity at social justice in your own art? Do you see a particular role for children’s literature in these goals?
Absolutely, I very deeply believe in that. Between my last experience illustration children’s books and this time, I became very involved in the local DIY art scene, which is very invested in social justice and diversity of representation. In my own work, I put a strong emphasis on people of color - black and brown, east asian, and queer people of color, especially representing their lives in beautiful, uplifting, and realistic ways, which are the kinds of lives that we lead. I want to take that life into my work.