Write Thing Reading Series Brings Children’s Book Illustrator London Ladd to Medaille During KidsLit Week

Acclaimed children’s book illustrator London Ladd presented his work and discussed his creative process during a Write Thing Reading Series event at Medaille’s Buffalo campus on Thursday, November 8. His visit was made possible in collaboration with Medaille’s Department of Education and the organizers of KidsLit Week and the Western New York Children’s Book Expo.

Here, Ladd speaks about some of his projects, and he offers advice to aspiring illustrators.


When did you realize that you wanted to be an illustrator for children’s books, and how did you start pursuing that career?

I first realized I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator when I transferred to Syracuse University (SU). Before attending SU, my goal was to be a comic book artist, but after meeting professor Bob Dacey and other faculty members, I fell in love with vast world of children’s books.


What has been your most satisfying project to work on?

Frederick’s Journey. I learned more about the life of Frederick Douglass during my studies at Syracuse, and again when I conducted my own research after being given an opportunity to illustrate a biography about him for Disney/Jump at the Sun. I traveled to Rochester, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. during my research, and my respect and appreciation for Douglass grew.


What do you most enjoy about your profession?

Doing research is always my favorite part, because I get the chance to learn new and interesting things while working.


What advice would you give to someone who was interested in pursuing a career as an illustrator?

Carry your sketchbook everywhere. Draw, paint and experiment with different media, and write your ideas, thoughts and feelings in it as often as you can. You will improve your skills over time while exercising your creativity in your sketchbooks.


How long does it usually take to work on a children’s book?

Depending on how much artwork I have to revise and redesign for the publisher, a single project can take up to eight to 10 months.


If you could choose to illustrate a book about a hero of yours, who would it be? Why?

I have been fortunate enough in my career to have the opportunity to illustrate books on three people who I really admire. They are Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass and Oprah Winfrey.


Lastly, tell us about your plans for an art center in Syracuse. That sounds like a very meaningful project for you.

Right now, the art center is still in the planning stage, but I am excited about the project and am looking forward to being able to offer something to the community. My goal is for community members to enjoy and hopefully take pride in the art, too.


Interview by Sara K. Smith (intern from the Medaille English department).

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