Behind the Book: Gloria's Voice by Aura Lewis
last updated 22 May 2018
Bright fell in love with Aura’s thesis work at the School of Visual Arts which later became her author-illustrated debut, Gloria’s Voice, recently published by Sterling Books. We wanted to know more about what inspired Aura to create the first picture book homage to Gloria Steinem, the feminist icon, and how she worked with her agent and Sterling Publishing to bring the idea from a gallery show to its final form.
GLORIA’S VOICE is your debut as author and illustrator. How did you know that Gloria’s story was the one you wanted to tell?
I’ve always been interested and passionate about the women’s movement and feminist history, particularly in second wave feminism of the 60s and 70s. I also love the style and fashion of that time! Ms. Steinem is such an iconic figure from that period, and I’ve always admired the way she advocated unapologetically for women’s rights- until today!
What was the process of working with your editor at Sterling from inception to finished book? Did the manuscript change much from acquisition to bound book?
The final manuscript was pretty similar to what I initially submitted. One big change was that I had originally included some dialogue between characters, but we took that all out for the purpose of historical accuracy. In addition, I worked with my editor on refining the back-matter.
Watercolor of Steinem and Dorothy Pitman-Hughes
The cover of the book makes for a wonderful surprise when the dust jacket is removed. How did you decide on a more abstract pattern for this part of the book?
We wanted the case cover to be different than the dust jacket, so that there’s a nice surprise. The pattern was suggested to me by my art director! It’s the pattern of Gloria’s skirt from one of the spreads.
The book’s endpapers.
Many of your illustrations are rendered in delicate pastel shades and focus on the strength and power of women. Can you tell us a bit about the thought process behind your palette choice and choice of subject matter, and the relationship between the two?
The color palette is inspired by vintage imagery from the 50s, 60s and 70s. They are also colors that I’m naturally drawn to. I feel like shades of pink and other pastels are often seen as “girly” and therefore not strong, but I try to break that dichotomy and show that feminine can be powerful too.
Aura approached Gloria Steinem herself at her SVA commencement ceremony and handed her several of the illustrations she inspired, including this one. Steinem later posted about Aura’s artwork on her Instagram.
What does your workspace look like at the moment? What is your routine when beginning a day of creating illustrations? What are some of your inspirations?
I work at home in a small studio space. I like having plants and light and books around me. I start working by making my favorite tea, putting on a podcast or lecture, and then start sketching or painting.
I’m inspired by many different things! People on the subway, walks in nature, inspiring conversations and current events. Also by vintage fashion and design!
Tell us a bit about your next project, The Illustrated Feminist which is being published by an adult publisher, Abrams. How would you describe this book?
The Illustrated Feminist is an illustrated handbook celebrating 100 years of American Feminism, since women were granted the right to vote in 1920. It is divided by decades, and includes notable women, political moments and important events in feminist history.
What other kinds of children’s books or themes do you hope to illustrate in the future?
I’m interested in making meaningful yet playful books for children! I’d love to make more biographies, but would also love to venture into fiction and concept books.
A young fan reading Gloria’s Voice. (Source: The Baby Bookworm)