Elizabeth Kuss, Kolbe alumna, answers questions about her most recent work, Antonio's Questions.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey in illustration?
I was a Kolbe Academy student from first grade until graduating from Kolbe Academy’s online high school. I am currently a Junior majoring in Philosophy at Christendom College. While in high school, I had three years of art instruction at our parish’s homeschool co-op. Antonio’s Questions is the first book I have illustrated.
Can you tell usa bit about the children's book you illustrated, Antonio’s Questions?
Antonio’s Questions is a chapter book that teaches the art of Catholic meditative prayer. Under the guidance of a wise priest, the boy Antonio uses his youthful imagination to bring the Faith to life. By painting vivid mental pictures of the Nativity, Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, and even the mountains he sees in nature, Antonio arrives at a deeper understanding of the Faith.
Can you take us to the moment when you were approached to illustrate the book?
The author, Patricia Mendoza, is a fellow parishioner. One Sunday after Mass, our homeschool co-op hosted an art show in the parish hall to display the best artwork of the co-op students. Soon after the art show, the author approached me and asked if I would like to be the illustrator for her new chapter book. Five years later, the book is now published!
What makes this story unique?
Most religious children’s stories are about learning lessons in virtue. I’ve never encountered a Catholic chapter book that gives children a fresh approach to prayer like this book.
With so much great children's literature already out there, why is it important to keep writing stories such as Antonio's Questions?
Even though great children’s literature already exists, it’s important to keep writing new stories to respond to the challenges of our changing culture. As the author wrote in the book’s preface, movies, video games, and the internet capture the imagination of the modern child – why can’t we pray using mental imagery that captures our imagination likewise?
Why will Catholic parents like Antonio's Questions? Is this book appropriate for Catholic children?
Catholic parents will love Antonio’s Questions just as much as their kids! I believe that finding motivation for prayer is a universal challenge for children and adults. While the protagonist is a 10-year-old boy, I’m sure that the parents reading the story to their children will appreciate the concept of using their imagination in prayer.
What is the target age range for Antonio's Questions?
I would say the target age range is from 8 to 12 years old. This book, with its conversational dialogue between Antonio and Father Vertalo, lends itself beautifully to being read aloud by parents to their children.
What advice would you give to a young person interested in becoming an illustrator?
I would suggest taking art lessons to advance your skills and then showcasing your work to your family, friends, and local community. Some fun showcasing ideas include organizing a homeschool art fair and designing Christmas cards. Someone in your community who is writing a book may need an illustrator and offer you some illustrating work.
Are there any other interesting stories you would like to share about the project?
Illustrating a book is a fascinating process – I scoured the internet and took plenty of photos for my drawing ideas. My family members helped to model some of the illustrations. I even drove to a park to take pictures of olive trees for the chapter about Christ’s agony in the Garden.
For one chapter illustration, the author asked me to depict all the priests of the world offering Mass together. After drawing so many pairs of hands raising the Eucharist, I sometimes think back to this illustration during the consecration at Mass.
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