This February, Scholastic Book Fairs had the honor of featuring the work of three talented designers in celebration of Black history and powerful related stories at the Book Fair. If you followed along with us on our social accounts, you had the chance to see their vibrant and compelling creations.
What sparked your interest in design?
Rachelle Baker: Books and especially comics made me interested in becoming an illustrator. I wanted to write stories and create worlds with my drawings when I was young, and it ended up taking all of my free time until I decided to focus all of my time and energy on it.
Lo Harris: I’ve always been a very visual person and would draw a lot as a kid. I never considered a career as an artist when I was younger but art and design always crept up in my life in small ways. When I went off to college to study journalism I quickly realized that motion design was my weapon of choice in the journalism world because it felt like the appropriate blend of storytelling and creativity. But as I worked in newsrooms I quickly realized my growing desire to stop telling other people’s stories and to start telling my own. Now as a practicing illustrator I feel tremendously empowered to represent myself fully and authentically.
Arielle Wilkins: My interest in design came from my upbringing. I was exposed to the arts at a very young age due to my dad being heavily involved in the performing and visuals arts community in Houston, Texas. I ended up going to both arts middle and high school which led to me attending an art and design school in NYC.
What is something you have to have, to help get creative juices flowing, or a ritual you have when you’re creating?
Rachelle Baker: Definitely music! I almost always have music on when I'm working unless I’m listening to a podcast, or watching Pride and Prejudice for the 467th time. I feel like it’s really important to my process to have music that puts me in the right mood and gives me creative energy.
Lo Harris: Music is a great outlet for me, whether I’m playing it while I work, or taking a walk with it to loosen myself up, music is a welcomed tool in my practice.
Arielle Wilkins: Usually, when I create, I have music playing. Music really helps stimulate my creativity. I also have a lot of mood boards. With those items in hand, I just let my pencil flow.
Do you have a favorite book from your childhood that had an impact on you?
Rachelle Baker: It’s tough to pinpoint just one, but I’d say it’s a split between Corduroy and the Frog and Toad books. I loved reading Corduroy because there was a little girl that looked like me, so I felt seen. Frog and Toad were just two cool friends who liked to chill and go on adventures together, and I made my first fan comic of them in second grade, so they were a huge influence on me.
Lo Harris: I was obsessed with Corduroy the bear growing up. There was so much tenderness sewn into story and the character design and it really stuck with me as a child.
Arielle Wilkins: Where the Wild Things Are. It definitely had an impact as I use and turn my imagination into my artwork, and I sometimes use it as a way to help heal from life's problems. It's very meditative for me.
Is there an element or style you like to stick to with your design work?
Rachelle Baker: I really love bright and vibrant colors, and I almost want someone viewing my work to hear music and see movement. Also, I love thinking about texture. I consider texture in the brushes and patterns I use. I like using brushes and patterns that seem like they would be really nice and comforting to touch.
Lo Harris: I try to be bold with color, simplistic with shape and playful with a bit of texture where I can. Some of my more abstract pieces strike me as digital quilts. I like when my work radiates that oxymoronic combination of modernism and warmth.
Arielle Wilkins: An element that I stick with is not having eyes or a nose. I am generally quiet, so I see having only a mouth in my illustrations as a way for me to be vocal.
What is a favorite hobby you have outside of creating?
Rachelle Baker: It’s a tie between reading comics and making music.
Lo Harris: I really enjoy decorating virtual homes in the Sims! Interior design has been a fun preoccupation for me and it’s something I take great joy in playing with in games and in my real life, even if I don’t consider myself an expert.
Arielle Wilkins: I recently got into hiking. Just being in nature is so calming, mentally and physically.
Is there a project or design that youare most proud of? And why
Rachelle Baker: I really loved working on Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb. It was a lot of fun, but I also got to learn a lot about a brilliant and amazing woman, and have a hand in introducing her incredible story and life to new readers and learners. It was also my first time working on a picture book, so I got to think like my kid self and ask “What would she like? What would make her smile?”
Lo Harris: I’m very proud of my recent children’s book illustration project Mama’s Home. It’s a story that celebrates the classic adage of “it takes a village to raise a child,” something that I have experienced first-hand in my own childhood community. The process of working on that book has challenged me to push the boundaries of my style and made me a better artist.
Did you have a Scholastic Book Fair at your school growing up? Do you have any memories of them as a child?
Rachelle Baker: We absolutely did! I can still remember the pure excitement when my teacher would hand out the Scholastic Book Fair order sheet, and I’d know that in a few weeks, I’d have a pile of books that I could deep-dive into.
Lo Harris: I remember having a pretty limited selection when it came to my elementary school library so when the Book Fair came to my school, I always felt like I was getting access to new stories that never existed in my space before.
Arielle Wilkins: As a youth during Scholastic Book Fairs, towards the end of my class, I would hide in parts of the library and wait until the next class came in. I would then appear as if I was part of that new class, to extend my time at the Fair. I recently told my mom of this...she was not pleased. Haha
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Arielle Wilkins: I can't live without my sense of imagination. I'm a dreamer and love to escape within my mind sometimes. Without it, I wouldn't create my surreal, colorful artwork.
Rachelle, your handle @indoorcatgirl; We'd love to know how it came to be.
Rachelle Baker: I think of myself as pretty introverted (though maybe others wouldn’t think so) and I spend a lot of time in the house reading and drawing and napping, kind of like an indoor cat, so it just formed from that!
Lo, we love your description about “championing vibrance, confidence, + joy”. Your art definitely portrays that! If you could share advice with students on being confident, whether in themselves and/or their voice, what would it be?
Lo Harris: It’s better for you to be the best version of yourself, than an inauthentic version of someone else. Focus on the people who see you and love you for who you are, not what you do. And when you find your tribe it’s a lot easier to be yourself boldly and with joy.
Arielle, what's something you'd like people to take away from your work?
Arielle Wilkins: I want them to have a sense of happiness, and pride within individuality because being you is perfect!