Behind the Book: I Love Us, A Book About Family
last updated 16 February 2021
Love and family hold new meaning this February as the past year caused priorities to shift, took away quality time, and increased gratitude for health. I Love Us, A Book About Family illustrated by #BrightArtist Luisa Uribe published (by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) in the thick of the pandemic last March, and is finally getting some much deserved spotlight almost a year later. This story reveals there is not simply one type of family, and the unique qualities of our own families is what makes us feel at home during hard seasons. We loved chatting with Luisa about her background and journey in illustrating this title, enjoy!
This title highlights different and diverse families. How did you go about accurately representing families of all colors, combinations, and styles?
I wanted to show the bonds of family, and the possibilities of what a family could be. My family is a source of inspiration, but it is just one way to be a family. There are so many other configurations that are not always as visible. I was thinking of love, protection and belonging. I looked at my own extended family and the families of friends, and wanted to be respectful of experiences other than my own, so I tried to be mindful and accurate in that respect.
Will you walk us through your artistic process in creating this book? What tools did you use to create these illustrations?
I start by working on thumbnails on a big sketch pad, just to figure out what I want to show. I’m usually the only one who can understand these sketches but they help clear my head and bring compositions into focus. Then I move on to Photoshop for more detailed sketches and figuring out the look for final artwork. For this book it was important to have a variety of settings, so I kept that in mind; I also tried to put special care into each character’s expression, and to keep everything colorful and warm.
Do you have a close relationship with your family that allowed you to resonate with this story? What types of traditions or little acts of love did you grow up with?
I have a very close relationship with my mom and my sister, even though she lives in the US and we’re in Colombia. We try to see each other as much as we can, and we’re always in touch. My sister and I always asked to be tucked in, and we were read to and encouraged to read, which made us feel safe and loved. I also remembered how my dad used to make us breakfast on weekends and it was always an event, with bells (like, a literal bell to wake us up!) and special dishes. There was always a pet wanting to be part of the action. I tried to capture some of that feeling. At this moment the tradition I resonate with having video calls with family. My niece is 3 years old and the only way we can interact for now is through screens and garbled audio.
Left: Luisa & her parents. Right: Luisa & her sister.
What elements inspire your creativity? A walk around your neighborhood, listening to music, etc…
I read, watch, and play a lot of different stuff and sometimes it simply helps to just do the dishes to give my mind a break. I also like looking at all kinds of images and art. I love museums, and before the pandemic I tried to go to exhibitions whenever I could. I hope to be able to do it again soon…
What message do you hope this title portrays to readers during this season of love amidst the pandemic?
Something special about this book is that it has a mirror at the end so you can see yourself, your family reflected in it. Friends who live far away send me their selfies with their babies and kids in the mirror, and I love that so much! It shows that we survive and thrive when we are loved, even from a distance. If we’re not together we still get to care for each other and find hope in each other.