Interview Date: July 26, 2016
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Susan Guevara is a visual storyteller. She tells her tales with illustrations, paintings, drawings and sculptures. For 27 years her work as a children’s picture book illustrator has been recognized many times, often for its contribution to literature set in Latino culture. Her recognition includes a 2005 New York Times Ten Best Illustrated books of the Year recipient, a two time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner, the first Tomás Rivera Award winner and most recently, a Pura Belpré Honor Award winner for her last book, “Little Roja Riding Hood” by Susan Middleton Elya. Her illustrations for “Chato’s Kitchen” by Gary Soto contributed to the book being recognized as one of the Best 100 Books of the Last 100 Years by the New York Public Library.
“I am a visual storyteller. My illustrations, paintings, drawings and sculptures come from my devotion to creativity. It’s been said, “Art saves lives.” I think this is true. Art-making gives me a way to express my gratitude for being alive. Since I have been in New Mexico, my storytelling has taken a deeply personal turn and is now a more direct exploration of beauty and of life. There is no distinction between fine art and book art. It is all art. And, in my case, it is all about story.
Creativity is limitless. We are limitless. I want to explore and express that in my work. I want my students to understand and experience that. A by-product—a piece of art—is a natural extension of this exploration. In the best cast scenario, that “product” helps another human being feel hope, feel limitless, feel connected. Feel. The act of creating is an expression of gratitude for this life. I want to extend that experience of gratitude and limitlessness to anyone and everyone who will receive it.
My father tells me often, ‘Our lives are like books. We never know if our life book will have one page, many chapters, or even several volumes.’ At ninety-one, he says we can be grateful for whatever length we are given. He is right.
Like all people, there are many narratives in my life book, short stories and long. The beings in my stories, whether of this concrete world or some ethereal other, pass each other, interact in my heart and mind and weave a meaning –sometimes archetypal, sometimes explicit, always ongoing. The search for these meanings is, itself, to be grateful for the opportunity. And like all things creative, I find the search unlimited in scope and complexity. There are endless stories to explore. Endless ways in which to express gratitude.”