Artist Journey: Aura Lewis
last updated 18 November 2020
Aura Lewis uses color to illustrate the moods and feelings of characters in her stories. Talented with the brush and bold enough to tell complex stories through children’s books, Aura has an eye for whimsical details and the topics that matter.
From a young age, Aura enjoyed art and drawing, but you’ll have to continue reading to learn about the rest of her journey! With titles such as We The People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained (The Quarto Group), The Illustrated Femininist (Abrams Image), and Gloria’s Voice (Sterling’s Children’s Books) on shelves, Aura has been busy and we are thankful she took some time to share her story!
What is your journey to becoming an artist? Have you always known this is the profession you wanted to pursue?
Since I was a little girl, my favorite thing to do was to draw and paint and read books. However, it took me some time to turn this love into a full-time profession! I tried a few different career paths (like psychology and architecture!) and finally landed on graphic design and art. I learned a ton, and had some really interesting projects. But eventually I realized that I truly wanted to illustrate, and returned to what I love most. So I went back to school and got a Masters of Arts in illustration. I have been working as an illustrator and author ever since.
When did you officially join Bright? How has your agent, Anne Moore Armstrong, supported you since joining?
I joined Bright at the end of 2016, exactly four years ago! I’ve been working with Anne since 2017, and she has been so supportive and insightful. From encouraging my portfolio development to helping me shape many book proposals, and of course pitching my work to clients, Anne has been wonderful and I feel so lucky to work with her!
What is your ideal environment for creating? Have you had to make any adjustments in the midst of the pandemic?
My ideal environment for creativity is a space full of natural light, lots of plants and beautiful books. I also like to work at a standing desk. I had to move during the pandemic so I’ve been working in a makeshift studio, but I was luckily able to set up a little bright space which is cheerful and friendly.
Your work is filled with such lovely color and detail- it has a whimsical feel! What tools do you use to illustrate stories?
I love using color to convey mood and feelings. I like drawing different characters and bringing their personalities to the page. In illustrating a story, I like to think of conceptual or metaphorical elements that enhance the narrative beyond the text. I also make lots of details that people can find and enjoy when looking at my images. I always enjoy adding some decorative elements as well, like patterns and textures, to give my illustrations an extra flare.
What elements beyond art inspire your creativity?
I love taking long walks in nature every day. Being outside and moving my body is really inspiring! I love looking at people and fashion from different cultures and time periods. I also collect beautiful books from all over the world. I love European vintage design, home decor, and vintage toy and doll design. Finally, my three young daughters inspire me every day!
Do you have a dream project, or has that dream already come true?
I have so many dreams! So far, each of the books I’ve worked on has been a dream of mine, and every next proposal is a new dream. I love making books and illustrations, and so my biggest dream is to always be working on more beautiful books!
Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World published with Scholastic on September 15! Can you tell us about the process of illustrating a story from such a heavy time in history?
Illustrating Anne Frank was particularly challenging because her story is such a heartbreaking one, and WWII is difficult to convey to very young children. I had to do a lot of visual research so that I could depict Anne Frank and her environment in an accurate way, yet still make the illustrations appealing and engaging for young people.
We The People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained hit shelves on July 1 with The Quarto Group, and has received shining reviews! What was the process of interpreting such a complex topic for a children’s book?
We The People was an amazing process! I co-wrote it with Evan Sargent, and made the illustrations too. We had to work fast so the book would be ready in time for the recent elections! We had a vision of taking a fresh, contemporary approach to the Constitution and making it relevant. We wanted to give the document a modern look that would appeal to young readers. We didn’t take the traditional and historical approach, which generally centers on the founding fathers and the time period it was written. Instead, we wanted to present the Constitution as a living document, and portray it through a more feminist and minority-centered lens. We like to think that our book essentially rebrands the Constitution!
It was definitely challenging to illustrate a lot of the more legal ideas in the text. In every amendment and article we tried to find an anecdote, idea, or person that embodied the theme to bring complicated topics to life. We are so happy that this book is making its way to so many kids!
Can we be on the lookout for any upcoming projects from you?
Yes! I am currently working on a book titled Sisters with HarperCollins! I’m also excited that Simon & Schuster just recently acquired two biographies about strong females I’ll be working on. Fun things are in the works!
Learn more about Aura on her artist page!