Behind the Scenes: “Easy as Working with an AD” by Julie Rowan-Zoch

What a special treat to feature one of my local critique partners, Julie Rowan-Zoch! She’s guided me from the start! Here she shares her process of creating illustrations for Tom Lichtenheld’s text for Louis. Such a perfect match of text and art has resulted in an irresistible book! Headshot 2 (1)

AND…Julie’s offering a giveaway! A copy of Louis to one lucky person who leaves a comment below. 

[Kirsti Call’s signed ARC (Advance Release Copy) of Mootilda goes to…Nita!]

“Easy as Working with an AD” by Julie Rowan-Zoch

Not sure what to write about, I asked a writer-friend who said she loves to hear about what it’s like working with art directors. I had wondered that too before starting LOUIS! Hopefully the following is interesting for both writers and illustrators. LOUIScoverSM

I was offered the opportunity to read the manuscript and submit a few pieces of art (if I were not picked to illustrate I would still be paid for the effort!). I got lucky! After being introduced to the art director my first task was to deliver sketches for the main character, Louis. I offered up 3 different teddys all of which I would feel happy with. The shape of one was chosen but with the gingerbread coloring from another. LouisCharacterDesign

On the dummy I was given no demands from the team as to what they expected. I chose a square format 1) because I like working with that shape, and 2) it’s a nice wide format for reading aloud to a group, and was only later asked how many inches! The manuscript was not paginated but so well written it easily fell into place (good sign for an illustrator reading a ms!). I created the dummy digitally – loose enough to keep my imagination fresh and polished enough for the team to remark on placement of objects or perspective. I used the same linework I would finish with, and swathes of gray to show shapes for color for which I did not intend to add lines. Most of the comments and further discussions happened at the dummy stage. And there were plenty, but all with good reason. Any criticism came with constructive suggestions or questions for me to ponder. In only one instance did I suggest we might switch two lines of text on a page, as it felt chronologically natural with how I had chosen to illustrate the scenes. I purposely laid it out to be just as easy to switch back! At this time I was also asked to send in one spread in color so they could get an better idea of the final look, at which time I quickly needed a full palette! Lucky for me we never needed to change it! 


It was clear early on that the editor was just as involved as the AD and would remain so all the way through. At certain stages there was time made for the author to review my work and comment, and the depiction of one scene was changed, referring back to one of the author’s original art notes (of which there were very few!). Many details were discussed and ironed out between just the AD and myself, but in general it really was a team effort.

I had written in the text by hand and the art director then suggested creating a font from my handwriting to be used throughout! That was great fun an I am very happy she came up with the idea! She sent me a template just like the lined paper kids use to practice letters!


I left a little time between the dummy and starting the final artwork – and was lucky to have it – so I could attack the final process with rested eyes and room for extra creative juice. Around this stage we started discussing the cover, dedication, and title page – and was also offered the opportunity to create endpapers and a case! That was very unexpected and exciting! There were a number of changes made after starting the final art, but nothing difficult. The final stretch was pretty painless! 

backCoverIt sure helped that I was made to feel very comfortable in asking questions, offering my own opinions, and always getting quick responses from the team. Did I mention all communication happened per email? Yup, all the way through the process of creating LOUIS and also my author-illustrator debut, I’M A HARE, SO THERE!, out in March 2021.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be entered in the GIVEAWAY! (contiguous US addresses only, please)

17 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: “Easy as Working with an AD” by Julie Rowan-Zoch

  1. I love how you illustrated Louis! Knowing that Lichtenheld is such a celebrated author/illustrator must have stirred your creative juices, because Louis looks like such a lovable bear. Can’t wait to read the book! I am delighted you shared your process with us, as it gave me some more insight into you. I’m in awe! Like that they used your handwriting for the text. (Peter Reynolds does that too.) Congratulations on Louis and your debut book!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, I guess we really must be on the same wave length this week! I really enjoyed get the additional information on the path Julie’s illustrations took. What a treat for the readers of both posts. Great post, Beth.

    Liked by 1 person

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