From Paintings to Storybooks: A Conversation with Layla Luna

Take one peek at the cover of Lolly & Oliver, and you’ll be ready to follow your new storybook friends on an ocean adventure, into outer space—or just about anywhere. That’s the magic of the whimsical characters created by artist and author Layla Luna. We caught up with her to chat about creative life, the origins of her children’s book series, and how she took her ideas from paintbrush to book page. 

1. How did you come up with the idea for Lolly & Oliver

Becoming a new mom last summer inspired The Lolly Stories series. I began making smaller paintings on paper in order to accommodate an unpredictable infant schedule. The Lolly character sprung from one of those paintings and I instantly fell in love with her—she was a little girl I wanted my own daughter to know. One work led to another and after laying a few of the 4”x4” paintings side by side, a story emerged. The Lolly Stories: Up was the first book then came Lolly & Oliver

2. What was your process for writing, painting, and building a narrative? 

The painting comes first. I’ve always worked in series so instead of thinking of an individual painting, I think of the body of work as a whole. The narrative unfolds with each work. This way of working lends itself really well to making a storybook. 

3. Tell us about the process of designing your book. How did you decide on the book size, layout, typography, cover style, and number of images you wanted to include? 

I wanted the book to be available for purchase and I wanted it to be affordable. To keep the cost down and still have good quality color images, I chose the 5”x8” trade book option. I like the idea of my books being collectable as well so I use the same basic template for consistency. I love Garamond font because of its readability and it reminds me of fonts used in books from childhood. Another nod to my childhood library is using a different shade of yellow for each book cover to pay tribute to Golden Books which I adored!

4. What first inspired you to explore your paintings in book form? As you created a series of books, did your creative approach vary with each new project? 

Over the last few years, storytelling has evolved into a huge part of my studio practice. It first began by giving works longer, more descriptive titles. That led to writing super short narratives (one or two sentences) for each work. Eventually, that morphed into each painting being one part of a larger story. 

By this point I had been making simple photo books of my work to use as catalogs, so I felt comfortable with book-making templates. It just made sense to turn an exhibition catalog into a storybook and Blurb had all the tools I needed to make it happen! 

5. What advice would you give another artist who is thinking about making an illustrated book? 

Give it a shot! If anything, it’s a great way to document work. 

Turn your visual art, stories, or creative work into a professional-quality book with Blurb. Find the perfect format to fit your project

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