The Storyteller's Candle: La velita de los cuentos

About the Art

My research on how I would illustrate The Storyteller’s Candle started by meeting with its author, Lucía González. She shared with me the information she had gathered about Pura Belpré.

I read all of it before I set to work. I learned who was Pura and what was like the time and place she lived in.

To be able to set the art in the right period was very important to me. I researched the right clothing, cars, artifacts, architecture, and room interiors. However, I wanted to imbue the pictures with a definite sense of time and place.

Since the story happens in Spanish Harlem in 1930, I thought the addition of a newspaper of the times might work. I contacted a Rare Newspapers Store and purchased an original issue of The New York Times of the 6th of Jan. of 1930. I was thrilled to find articles that would actually set the time beautifully if I pasted bits and pieces in strategic places for the reader to discover later. Sometimes I used the newspaper as a color, others to help place the story in its historical context.

The careful reader will find the name of the US president at the time, and references to transportation, art, employment, etc. After I had glued the newspaper, I did all the painting in sepia, giving the illustration an old-photo look. Then, I used oil washes of other colors to make “the old pictures come to life.”