Monday, August 28, 2017

My Friend's Books

Featuring Zoey Abbott

by Alison Farrell

Early this spring, my critique group held a tiny retreat at a beach house.  We had one assignment: to bring our favorite books to share.  Throughout the three days, we intermittently mulled through stacks and stacks of books.  The stack that each person brought offered a key to their history and interests, and about what made them tick as artists. This experience was so delightful and rich that it made me think of offering the sharing here.

So I asked my friend Zoey Abbott to pick three of her current favorite illustrators and to break down what it is that she loves about them.  

Zoey is the illustrator of Twindergarten (Harper Collins, July 2017), written by Nikki Ehrlich, and Finn's Feather (Enchanted Lion, April 2018) written by Rachel Noble.  

Here are Zoey's picks:

Yann Kebbi

How do you get the final art to retain the magic of the first sketch?  It’s something many of us struggle with.  I think this is what I like most about Yann Kebbi’s work.  His line retains all the energy and emotion of that first touch.  You can tell that he has sophisticated technical skills in drawing, color, and composition but he employs those in a loose and dynamic way to tell his stories.  His illustrations always feel as if they are in motion.

I like how she uses color/value to serve the story and the metaphor.  There is something both playful and funny yet very serious about her stories and the way she illustrates them. My favorite books of hers are La Visite de Petite Mort (A Visit From LIttle Death) and Le Petit Homme et Dieu (The Little Man and God).  Crowther explores big questions of life in such a humorous way.  Like a good poem, her stories leave you with a feeling you have cracked open another view on reality.  I love her combination of bright and soft colored pencil with distinct areas of dark blacks and grays.  Sometimes she layers these darks over lighter colors so there is a vibrant glow.  The swaths of dark serve to anchor her characters, environments and compositions.  Her work feels both magical and familiar.

P.S. Dear God (or Enchanted Lion Books), please translate these stunning books into English! Sincerely, Zoey

I love how she is able to combine sketchy lines and mark making with what I think is photoshop color.  She makes the color feel very natural and integrated.  Her limited palettes unify complex worlds which are chock-a-block with odd and charming characters and objects.  Personally, I have never had any luck making satisfying digital color.  How does she do it?  Perhaps it's the way she overlays pencil texture over the color?  Again, I wish her work were translated into English.

Who are your favorite illustrators and why?  I'd love to hear from you!  

Many thanks to Zoey Abbott at for contributing!!!  


Find Alison Farrell's portfolio at
Keep an eye out for Alison Farrell's debut picture book Cycle City (Chronicle, 3/20/18)!
Look for Drawn to Color at Sasquatch Books!

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