Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lori McElrath-Eslick

I have known Lori's work for a long time and am happy to have her be the first interview here. How is it that you became an illustrator?
I became an artist as a freshman in high school. I started to select art classes, and as I did it became more and more of what I enjoyed doing. I started to explore colleges with an art career in mind. I had never met a working artist in my small town except for my art teacher so I thought that would be a teacher as well.
Fortunately for me, a commercial art college was within driving distance from my parent's home. My art teacher suggested that it would be a good fit for me. Luckily, I was able to receive grant money as my parents were not receptive to paying tuition for art school. I did come very close to becoming an art teacher and ironically because of my illustration work with picture books I do a lot of school visits and in doing so; teach art!

What was the name of the art college you attended?
I went to Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids Michigan. After 3 years I received an associate degree. I interviewed with Hallmark Cards, Inc. as they typically interviewed graduates for jobs. I was offered a position along with one other student that year. I started my illustration career at Hallmark Cards and was an in house artist for 7 years. I left to be home with my husband and 3 year old daughter, and have been freelancing ever since. When my husband (who is a teacher!) and I returned to Michigan I returned to Kendall to finish the requirements for my bachelor's degree. I finished just as I found out I was pregnant with my second child. Great timing as it would have been harder to go back otherwise.

Was there someone that influenced you to become an illustrator?
In particular, my high school art teacher who gave me not only a really good early art education but
also gave me  the courage to feel that I was good enough to go for it.

What inspires you now?
Now I am inspired by other artists who struggle such as I do: working alone, finding time for their muse and children who remind me to always take time to play. I am also inspired by museums. I love to view art in person. Seeing art virtually or in print is one thing but nothing beats seeing original art.

Is there anything you would like to share about your style and technique?
I seem to change my techniques regularly. I am inspired to try new techniques. I love to paint in oils and watercolors. I think these mediums are good for me to learn and grow with. I paint on a regular basis to do hands on learning. I know a lot of artists who are always learning new techniques. I think that's wise. I've learned some using the computer too and enjoy that too, but am most satisfied with painting in oils and watercolors. They are fun! Profound, I know. I had a friend who was working in house at Hallmark Greetings who came to my studio. He saw my palette, picked up a brush and said "just like butter". Never forgot his profound observation about the texture and feel and the velvety fun of swirling around paint like butter. Who doesn't want to make art with butter? Also a heck of a lot of fun to make a good painting with that butter!

What types of markets do you do illustration for?
LOTS! I try to diversify. Different markets dry up so I have lots of irons in the fire. I illustrate for picture books, magazines, greeting cards and I do original paintings and prints. 
You can see my work on my website .

Do you do other things regarding art like teaching or classroom visits?
I am just starting some teaching at school visits and children's museums. I love to share with kids! I encourage all artists to make art a hands on experience for kids.

Are there other creative interests you participate in?
I work on writing when given the time. I've always loved to sew and did lots of crafts growing up.

Do you currently have your illustration work on products or books?
I did a logo and oven mitts for the company Blueberry Haven. I also did silk screen design on products for Maruska also known as Michigan Rag Company. My website will be offering banners soon.  I also have several picture books that I have illustrated ; Nishmawbe, A Story of Indians in Michigan by Lynne Deur, The Lark Who Had No Song by Carolyn Nystrom,Does God Know How to Tie Shoes? and I am Christmas by Nancy White Carlstrom,  Read For Me Mamma by Vashanti Rahaman, Da Wei's Treasure by Raymond and Margaret Chang, Mommy Poems by John Gale Thomas, Jean Nickolet, The Sign of the Thunderbird by Peter Connie Roup, If Jesus Came to my House by Joan Gale Thomas, Barefoot, Poems for Naked Feet, by Stefi Weisburd and The Good Fire Helmet by Tim Hoffey. 

What is the thing you love best about what you do?
Painting and the variety in my job. I love the different aspects of it. I am not stuck doing the same thing each day. And....when I can...I squeeze out a tube of paint and make a brand new creation, and that is exciting!


  1. I love Lori's artwork and hope an editor will choose her to illustrate a book of mine one day. She's also one of the sweetest people alive--I was fortunate to be her roommate one year at a SCBWI conference, so I can truly verify this!

  2. Yay, Lori! I'm so glad to have discovered this interview. What a small world this is. (I agree wholeheartedly with Judith's comment, above)

  3. Hey, Lori! Not sure if you'll see this so long after your interview appeared, but I figured a site with the good sense to launch with an interview of one of the most kind-hearted and dedicated artists I know was a good place to be! Good company! I like what the other commenters had to say, too. Keep rockin', Slick!