Eliza is the illustrator of Goldie’s Guide to Grandchilding, Macmillan, 5/2022, and Papá’s Magical Water-jug Clock, Minerva/Penguin Random House, 6/2023. Eliza was our March 2021 Monthly Meeting speaker regarding portfolio creation and was a previous winner of Austin’s SCBWI Conference Illustrator Showcase.
Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?
I grew up around the Dallas area, but my parents are both from San Antonio. So, we spent a lot of time going back and forth to visit family. My dad is Mexican and my mom is White, so I also had the experience of growing up in two different cultures. This has definitely shaped how I view the world, and I think that comes across in my work.
Did you always want to be an illustrator-author, or did that come later?
In kindergarten, we did an activity in weekly rotations where we made books.
I loved it! Then, I lied that I didn't do it ... so, I could do it again the next day! And then the next ...
Unfortunately, my teacher caught me on the third lie and said I couldn't make any more books. Took me only 20 years later to be: "Heyyyyy, wait a minute ... I can still make books!”
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
Probably me daydreaming, sitting on the floor painting, laughing a lot, and at some point trying to think of excuses why I would NEED to go to a bakery.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
I’m lucky to be a mom of two wonderful, young kids and to get to spend a lot of the time seeing the world through their eyes. The one downside is: they leave me miserably jealous of their artwork. Plus, I have a wonderful husband, Phi, who is an amazing artist, my tech support, and personal barista. Seriously, could not survive in any shape without my family … or queso.
Making an animation with my best friend, Evelyn, at our UCLA Workshop. We got to spend so much time together during it, and she really helped me to start the road to finding the style I’m still using today. Another would be signing with my agent, Stephen Barr, because he’s been such a wonderful, creative collaborator and an awesome guide to the publishing world. As I prefer to just spin around in circles, he knows when to stop me before I barf. Finally, I was awarded the 2022 James Marshall Fellowship, and that meant the world to me on so many levels. I’m a huge fan of his work, and I considered it entry into being regarded as one of the top funny illustrator-writers working today. Still floating from that one!
What surprises you about the creative life?
How it suits me perfectly to illustrate and write for a living. I really enjoy very long spurts of solitude of creating, and short spurts of being the outgoing creator doing my tap dance routine about my new book coming out.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
Something that makes them laugh so hard that they cry, then sigh happily, and slightly fall in love with me. Saying to themselves … what else has Eliza made?!
Favorite mentor illustrators?
James Marshall, obviously, but you can see an even longer list on my website.
The smell of a new crayon box or a vintage book?
Um, is there a muffin option?
Sofa forts, or backyard zip-lines?
Sofa forts, forever!
Snakes haunting a birdhouse, or birds wearing snakeskin leotards?
I think this photo of the birdhouse I painted, auctioned at Austin SCBWI’s recent conference, perfectly answers the question.