15 Days of Giveaways: Elizabeth Schoonmaker

This interview originally ran in July of 2011. ABC Square Cat,  a follow up to Square Cat will be published in 2014. Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Square Cat!

Congratulations Mrs. Brown! You’ve won the copy of SQUARE CAT. Please email me with your mailing address and I’ll send the book out to you.


Joining us today is author and illustrator Elizabeth Schoonmaker. She is sharing not one but two creative spaces with us. Her indoor space where she creates her illustrations and her outdoor space where she creates. . . well, you’ll just have to scroll to the end of the interview to see. 

 Square Cat, her picture book debut, is in bookstores now:

“Eula is the only square cat in town. Everything that normal cats do is hard for her–she can’t get her square paw into mouseholes, she can’t wear her favorite circle skirt, and all of her friends are round! Eula is sad until her two best friends show her how well a square cat can fit into this round world.”

Elizabeth got the idea for Eula one day after she finished a sketch of her cat Stanleigh, who is a round cat:

Soon after, Eula the Square Cat was born:

You can learn more about Elizabeth Schoonmaker here, and you can learn more about Eula the Square Cat on her website and blog.

Describe your workspace.

My workspace is on the second floor of my home, perched on a hillside in rural upstate New York. I work at an old oval table placed perfectly for natural light and continuous looking out of the window.

Describe a typical workday.

I like to draw and paint in the morning. I work from eight to eleven followed by a three-mile walk. I love my walks. They energize my mind and my body, and reward me with ideas and directions. After lunch I write, keeping in mind the images of the day. Then it is supper, a bit of relaxation, music, books, movies, and sleep. My work is always with me.

What media do you use and which is your favorite?

I work in pencil, oil, watercolors, graphite, pen and ink, gouache, and luma ink on a variety of surfaces. I love materials. Hand to utensil to medium to paper is a lovely experience.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

(1) My Table (covered with my cut marks, paint, and memories); (2) My plate of watercolors, which have become little castles nestled together on a plate like a faraway island; and (3) My many magnifiers. (They really help me see better!)

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Keeping with my Dutch last name Schoonmaker, which means cleaner in Dutch, I do like a clean and organized work area. I always clean before I work.

What do you listen to while you work?

The hum of my refrigerator.

One of Elizabeth’s oil paintings.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Green tea with honey from the bees my family keeps.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

The pure excitement and joy of experiencing all of the basic elements of paintings and drawing coming to life.

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?

For me, making the dummy book is the easiest aspect of developing a picture book, but I find it very challenging to keep the spontaneity of the dummy book in the finished book.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

I write longhand notes and compose on a computer.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I develop most all of my story lines on my walks.  I then sketch first and add the words later. 

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I would eagerly invite George and Martha, magnificently created by the late James Marshall, to my studio. I am one of their lifelong fans.

What is the best piece of writing/illustrating advice you’ve heard or received?

“Write and illustrate what you know.”  Wise words of wisdom well received from my two darling daughters.

P.S. This is my outside creative space where I use nature’s finest willows and wild grapevines to make magical roadside attractions for all to enjoy.

10 Responses to “15 Days of Giveaways: Elizabeth Schoonmaker”

  1. donnalsadd

    My goodness, your sculptures are fantabulous! I feel serene just having read the interview and settled in with your photos. Thank you. Square Cat looks like a darling story.

  2. Anonymous

    Square Cat is adorable, and so are your sculptures!

    Thanks for the interview, Jenn.

    Amy C.