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Award-Winning Illustrator Raúl Colón Visits Eastern

Published on October 23, 2019

Award-Winning Illustrator Raúl Colón Visits Eastern

Illustrator Raúl Colón spoke with students from two classes during his visit to Eastern.

During an evening talk in Webb Hall, Colón spoke on his career and artistic process.

Colón poses for a group photo in Professor Allison Speicher's "Children's Literature" course.

Award-winning illustrator and picture book creator Raúl Colón visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 21 to speak about his journey as an artist and his process for creating books for youth. Prior to his evening talk in the Webb Hall auditorium, Colón met with students in English Professor Allison Speicher’s course on children’s literature and Art Lecturer Carol Schwartz’s course on illustration.

Colón has illustrated more than 30 children’s books, including the wordless picture books “Draw!” and “Imagine!”; the New York Times bestseller “Angela and the Baby Jesus” by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s “José! Born to Dance”; and many others. He has also illustrated covers for the New Yorker, published in the New York Times and completed numerous other high-profile jobs, including illustrating an album cover for Luther Vandross and a mural for the Manhattan subway station at 191st Street.

Education Professor Susannah Richards moderated the evening talk. When asked how he got started, Colón replied, “Like all artists, I stuck to it. As we get older, we get self-conscious and ‘grow up.’ But I stuck to it and tried to remain a little kid; to look at the world like a child.”

Growing up in New York City, Colón was often sick with chronic asthma. “I was always inside, drawing constantly.” With more than three decades of professional experience, Colón’s passion hasn’t wavered, but his process has refined—although his workspace continues to be a frenzied mess, he joked.

His preferred mediums are water colors and pencils. “I’m always studying, experimenting with color, taking notes,” he said. A defining technique of his style involves the use of a “scratcher,” a comb-like tool he uses to create texture. “It was an experiment, an accident. You should always keep your eyes open,” he said, referring to things that don’t seem like they can be used for art.  

As a freelance artist, Colón has worked many corporate and editorial gigs—projects that must meet the needs of his clients and may diverge from his personal tastes. “A lot of time there is no inspiration,” he admitted. “A lot of the time you just have to drag it out, but then you get in the zone and start flowing.”

When creating a new book, Colón says that visuals and pictures guide the plot, rather than a written narrative. He passed around the auditorium one of his sketchbooks. “This is how I start,” pointing to scratchy sketches and squiggles. “It doesn’t start elaborate—what happens if they don’t like it?” he said, referring to editors.

“Draw!” was the first book he wrote as well as illustrated. Similar to Charlie Chapman-era silent films, the book contains no words. “The pictures tell the story.” Colón is delighted when he hears children’s interpretations of his stories, which are often drastically different from his intentions. His wordless picture books—and visual stories in general—foster something that he fears is being lost in today’s world: critical thinking.

Colón was brought to campus with the support of the Departments of English and Education, the Office of Equity and Diversity and the School of Education and Professional Studies/Graduate Division.

Written by Michael Rouleau