Studio Feature: Laurie Allen Klein
Illustrator Laurie Allen Klein can’t remember a time she didn’t have a pencil in hand and paper ready to draw. “[As a young girl], I would sit for hours and illustrate stories that I made up, or draw characters (usually animals) from movies and books that I liked,” she recalls. “My interest in the connection between words and pictures began then, and I knew I wanted to be an illustrator. Of course, I didn’t know the actual term at the time, or that it was a real job, I just knew that when I grew up, I was going to draw pictures in children’s books.”
Besides becoming a successful book illustrator, Laurie has a cool job as an education artist for a marine park, drawing life-size animal murals and children’s activity books. “When I was 8, my family moved to Florida,” she says, “and I was introduced to an entirely new set of influences and inspiration, growing up at the beach with dolphins and manatees in my backyard.”
When Laurie’s book editor offers her a manuscript to illustrate, Laurie starts by reading it all the way through. Then she reads it again while writing her observations and doodling on a legal pad. “This is where the illustrations start to take shape,” she explains. Then Laurie begins her research, which she calls her favorite part. “In the case of Balloon Trees, I found most of the information about the balloon-making process online, and made little sketches of each step so I would have an easy reference guide.”
Laurie also strives to add unexpected surprises to her work. “In Little Skink’s Tail for example,” she says, “the story tells how a little skink loses her beautiful blue tail in a tragic crow encounter and imagines what it would be like to wear other, different animal tails until her own grows back. In the background however, there is an entirely different visual story of a little caterpillar that makes a cocoon at the start of the book and eventually emerges as a butterfly at the end.”
Brownies earning their Painting badge, Juniors their Drawing badge, or Cadettes their Comic Artist badge will want to read more details from Laurie about how to illustrate books, from the roughest sketches to the finished product on The Studio.