Illustrator Zachariah OHora made his debut as a picture book author with Stop Snoring, Bernard (published by Henry Holt, released April 2011). His work, rendered in acrylic on Stonehenge printing paper, features strong black outlines combined with crisp hues of warm reds, teal, brown, black and ochre. He also provided the hand-lettered type. His work was cited a special Founder’s Award at this year’s Society of Illustrator’s Annual Original Art Show. I was delighted when Zach agreed to visit The Countdown.
Would you tell us briefly your road to illustration? And to publication?
I always wanted to be a children’s book illustrator except for a couple years after high school when I flirted with being a “fine artist,” whatever that means.
Illustration appeared to be a more realistic way to get paid to draw, plus I didn’t have any other job skills.
The road to publication was a long and circuitous route where I did everything you shouldn’t do, until I learned what I should have done. And I’m still learning.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, a classic depressed milltown in New England. In high school, I became obsessed with The Beats, and in emulation of my hero Jack Kerouac, I hitchhiked across the country and stayed in San Francisco for the next ten years.
I love the sound of your name. Very exotic! Would you share its roots?
The first part is a result of my parents being pseudo hippies and then going 70’s Jesus movement. As a result, I have four brothers and sisters; all Z’s and somewhat Biblical (Zara, Zelinda, Zephaniah and Zared respectively).
My last name is a bastardization of the Irish O’Hara, someone changed it to O’Hora at Ellis island. For years, the apostrophe stumped computers. I never had dinner or car reservations, so I dropped it. Not really exotic….slightly weird though.
Did you have to go to school to learn to draw?
I always drew, If you were in Mrs. Clements 4th Grade class and you needed a Smurf or a Garfield drawn on your book cover, I was the guy.
I went to school to learn how to think and I graduated from CCA (California College of Art) with a BFA in Illustration.
Who are your favorite illustrators, and who influenced your work?
Richard Scarry, Syd Hoff, and Margaret Bloy Graham are childhood favorites. I’m hugely influenced by Ben Shahn and Raymond Savignac, Roger Duvoisin and a lot of non-illustrator artist’s and designers.
Current children’s book illustrators who I love are Lane Smith, Marc Boutavaunt, Kevin Waldron, Sean Qualls, Calef Brown and Jon Klassen.
What are your favorite books?
This changes constantly, but at the moment; What do People do All Day? and Rabbit and his Friends by Richard Scarry; Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino; and Naked Mole Rat gets Dressed by Mo Willems. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Lane Smith and Jon Scieszka was life altering.
What art media do you use to make your pictures?
I paint in acrylics, usually on paper or wood with occasional electronic embellishments.
Do you have any kids? Pets?
I have two sons, Oskar who is 4 and Teddy who just turned 2. I also have a cat named Teddy….don’t ask.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Hard to say (See question one above, for other job skills), but it would probably be something quasi-legal that also helped people. Like Fake Passport Maker.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I’m scared of birds, like, REALLY scared. I think my fear originated on an ill-fated day at Benson’s animal farm when I was 4 or 5. The sign said something like “Don’t stick ANYTHING into the Ostrich cage!” But I couldn’t read yet.
Are you working on any new projects that you can tell us about?
I’m working on an Ann Wheeler book that I’m excited about; and a book that I wrote about a gorilla named Nilsson who has huge fits and his best friend, a little girl named Amelia, who patiently helps him to not throw fits. Both will be out early 2013. And I’m playing around with ideas for a follow-up to Bernard, but we’ll have to see.
Would you point us to your web site and/or your blog?
My main illustration site is zohora.com but my blog gets a lot more updates and new stuff and that’s at zachohorastudio.blogspot.com
I have a blog for all things Stop Snoring, Bernard! related at stopsnoringbernard.com. Please come by and follow if you like!
Medal winners are listed here.
Click here for the complete list of illustrators whose works were selected for this year’s show.
The Society of Illustrators is located at: 128 East 63rd Street
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