I was so lucky to have the amazing Sara Ugolotti illustrate my debut picture book, Mending the Moon. The artwork is truly magical, making the story sparkle and the book itself a thing of beauty. I was also lucky to have a chance to ask Sara all the questions I had about how she tackled the project and what she enjoyed most. Here is our interview.
Sara, I’m so thrilled that you agreed to illustrate my story, and I’m absolutely in love with your artwork! Did you connect with the story right away?
I did! The first time I read it, the scenes came to my mind in a colorful stream of ideas and I was completely transported into that fantastic world.
How did you go about planning the illustrations?
I made a complete storyboard with thumbnails, to see how the story flowed better, and then I sketched scene by scene. Coloring was done in the same manner with a sample scene to test the palette and textures.
Thumbnail sketches for the first few spreads
When I first saw your character sketches of Luna, I was bowled over – she is just so perfect! But how did you know to give her red hair? I never imagined her like that, but it’s so right.
I wanted the girl to stand out, and considering that the whole book is set at night I thought the red hair would contrast with the color of most of the background. In addition, I love red hairs!
I love that you dedicated the book to your grandfather – did you base Poppa on him? Well, I thought of him while making this book but the character is not totally the same, as my grandpa didn’t have a beard. But he did wear glasses! I thought that adding the beard would make the character look funnier.
Was there anything that was particularly difficult or challenging to illustrate?
Yes, the most difficult part was representing the puzzled-like-moon, especially in the scene when the pieces do not fit together: puzzles are usually in two dimensions, but I needed to draw a 3D puzzle with the pieces not yet together.
Which was your favorite animal to draw? Absolutely the bear 🙂 but I loved nearly the same way all the other animals too! Drawing animals is never enough haha!
Which was your favorite spread/scene to illustrate and why? I loved the scene where all the birds are coming back to help Luna and Poppa, and this scene came right to my head on the very first time I’ve read the story! But I also loved a lot drawing the cover, and the first encounter scene where Luna and Poppa started collecting the moon’s shards and all the animals appear, carrying more moon’s shards.
Cover color sketch
Which illustrators have influenced and inspired you? Other than very classic painters I have grown up with, some contemporary illustrators and colleagues like Adelina Lirius, Marc Janssen, Julia Sardà, Karl james Mountford, Beatrice Alemagna, Valeria Docampo, David Sierra only to name a few!
What were your favorite books as a child? I loved all Tony Wolf, David McKee and Richard Scarry books! I was also very attached to a picturebook called Stellaluna by Janell Cannon.
What are your favorite recently published picture books? Oh I loved so much Margaret’s Unicorn by Briony May Smith, and I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith. Absolutely breathtaking.
You’re currently illustrating the sequel Saving the Sun – how is this matching up to Mending the Moon? Is it easier because you know the characters? Do you have a favorite between the two?
Yes, having the characters already outlined helped with drawing Saving the Sun and allowed me to focus more on the other details of the pictures. But I’m loving Saving the Sun just as much as I loved Mending the Moon, so I really could not tell which is my favorite! I love both stories, as they are so magical in their unique way, and I hope that I have been able to convey my emotions into my drawings.
Yes, you absolutely have succeeded in doing that! Thank you so much for answering these questions, Sara, and most of all for bringing my story to life in the most spectacularly beautiful way!
Mending the Moon is available from 1 November 2022 in the US, 5 December 2022 in the UK and 31 January 2023 in Australia & New Zealand. Purchase links can be found below.
Sara Ugolotti is a children's book illustrator who loves art, nature and animals, especially dogs. She lives in Italy with her boyfriend and their French bulldog Murphy.