Behind the Book: GEORGIA'S TERRIFIC, COLORIFIC EXPERIMENT by Zoe Persico
last updated 03 May 2019
Written and illustrated by Bright artist Zoe Persico, Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment, published by Hachette/Running Press, is Zoe’s debut author/illustred picture book, which transforms science and art into an explosive, colorful tale of a science lover stuck in a family of artists. A master of gorgeous and unexpected color combinations, Zoe enchants the reader with rainbows, streaks, shapes, and swirls on every spread. We spoke with Zoe on the blog previously about the technique behind her unique color palettes, so we were excited to catch up for a peek behind the curtain into her inspiration, process and debut experience.
Final artwork for Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment
Can you briefly describe your journey to becoming a children’s book illustrator?
I knew I wanted to pursue the arts since I was a child and discovered the different possibilities of where art could lead me during my preteen years. Originally, I wanted to work towards becoming an animator, but rekindled my loved for children’s books as I was preparing my portfolio for college admissions. During my time in college, I studied my favorite illustrators from childhood as well as current illustrators and visual development artists, discovering my style, technique, and favorite subject matters. While still a student I took a leap and sent Bright an email with a collection of JPEGs, and here we are today! Since then I’ve had a collection of fun children’s book projects and I look forward to what the future has in store.
Sketches and ideas for Georgia
GEORGIA’S TERRIFIC, COLORIFIC EXPERIMENT is your debut author/illustrated picture book about an aspiring scientist in a family of artists. Did you grow up surrounded by creatives, or was your status as an artist unique to your family?
I grew up as the only artist in my family (more specifically pursuing art as a career as my Mom does enjoy crafts and up cycling furniture, hi Mom!). Despite this, my family has always been an endless amount of support and inspiration, which helped me come up with the idea of flipping the trope of the main character being the only artist.
Early draft for Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiement
The book celebrates both art and science, as well as the magic that happens when they come together. The narrative feels very personal, is Georgia’s character biographical in any way? Did you love science as well as art growing up?
Yes! I am also fascinated by different subject matters in science. I had a brief phase growing up where I either wanted to be a zookeeper, a dog trainer, and a weatherperson/meteorologist/storm chaser (I couldn’t decide!). I soon figured out that as an illustrator I could pursue my passion of art and stories, but also include my love for these subject matters. To this day I still love learning about weather, plants, animals, and how to be more eco-conscious in my everyday life.
From sketch to final artwork
How did the process of working on GEORGIA’S TERRIFIC, COLORIFIC EXPERIMENT differ from working on SUMMER COLOR and other books written by another author?
It’s such a different process as I get to make a lot more creative decision-making and revisiting ideas as opposed to working with someone else’s manuscript. I went through multiple drafts and collections of sketches for years, so when we were ready to go to final sketches on Georgia, I couldn’t help myself and had to redo everything again! I am so happy with how the final art and story turned out, so going through more steps than usually do with just illustrating a book was worth it in the end.
Georgia character sketches
Can you describe your process of working, from the early stages of writing the story, sketching and storyboarding, to the later stages of creating final artwork and spreads?
I usually start with coming up with a character first and figuring out what their story could be about. Who are they? What is their personality like? What do they wear? What are their friends and family like? What do they like to do? How do they react when they are put in a new situation? With Georgia, she actually started as a side character for another idea I had, but the editor I was working with at the time wanted me to pursue what Georgia could be as a main protagonist. She started as someone who wanted to pursue art, but decided to flip the idea as I thought she would make a perfect aspiring scientist.
Once my main protagonist was created, I jumped into the manuscript. I went through quite the collection of different drafts, but luckily I had a wonderful support system, including my agent Anne, that listened to my ideas and encouraged me, especially when I struggled. During the writing process, I worked on sketches to go along with the text and created two different picture book dummies which I got feedback again from my agent, before she pitched the story and a final dummy to publishers.Then the manuscript and dummy was perfected with the help of my editor from Running Press.
After that, the hard part was done! I finally got to work on the final artwork for the story I’ve worked so hard on and it was such a blast to bring everything to color. Everything came so naturally as I was definitely working in my wheelhouse as an illustrator.
The evolution of Georgia. Left: First Georgia sketches. Right: Georgia style exploration
How did your agent, Anne, play a role in developing GEORGIA’S TERRIFIC, COLORIFIC EXPERIEMENT so it was ready to pitch to editors?
Anne has been such an amazing support for me, especially while I was working on Georgia. There was a point where I had been working on this manuscript for so long without much luck and direction at all. Feeling discouraged, I took a huge break from the project and as well as writing. Luckily Anne saw potential in my idea and encouraged me to pick it back up. She reviewed every new update I had on the manuscript and each new tweak I did to my picture book dummy. Because of her help I was connected with Running Press who acquired it, and together with my editor and art director, we were able to bring my story to life!
Final artwork for Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment
Now that the book is published, how has it been interacting with kids and parents when at bookstore events? What are you surprised by or love about that experience?
I did a few school visits recently and was blown away by how interested the kids were in not only the book, but also about being an author and illustrator! They were so intrigued by the process, my inspirations, and the fact that I had very similar interests as them. I hope that by seeing an author and illustrator in person, they are inspired to pursue their dreams just like I did!
When I had my recent bookstore event in my hometown, I was blown away by the attendance. Not only from my family and friends visiting, but also from my teachers I had growing up! Some of my art teachers from high school stopped by and bought a copy for the school, so hopefully it inspires future illustrators and creatives!
Zoe (right) promoting Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment at Anderson’s Bookshop
And what exciting book projects do you have coming up next?
I just finished illustrating a fun picture book with Feiwel & Friends about a working mom who’s ready to hit the hay but her daughter is ready to play, so what better way for a mom to address her exhaustion than by asking her child to be mommy for the night! I will also be starting on a counting picture book about a dachshund parade, and who doesn’t love a festivity full of dogs? I have also been working on my next story to pitch about one of my other loves, plants! I hope you all like succulents!
What is your dream project?
I have so many ideas that I want to bring to life! I have a new succulent story, which is almost ready to be pitched and acquired,and then I’d love to work on a picture book or possibly a chapter book about kids playing a tabletop roleplaying game and the characters they each create. I am an avid fan of playing Dungeons & Dragons and love seeing not only my characters grow while dealing with challenges, but how I grow as a player as well. I’d love to create something where kids can see new ways to creatively express themselves, work together with their peers, and even connect with their parents who have played similar games when they were younger. Other dream projects include subjects such as embracing the joys and mysteries of travel, learning about weather, and nature.
Zoe’s workspace and diligent design assistant, woof!
Zoe has been illustrating other picture books for Running Press and Feiwel and Friends below, while writing and illustrating her own stories.
Zoe’s past picture book titles, Mermaids Fast Asleep and Summer Color!
Author/illustrator, Zoe Persico
To work with Zoe, e-mail her agent Anne Moore Armstrong here.