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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview Lisa Robinson and Hadley Hooper

Lisa Robinson is a psychiatrist who works with children, teens, and adults and a children's book author.

Author Photo of Lisa Robinson

She has an MFA in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University where she now teaches an elective course, Creativity and the Unconscious Mind. She lives in the Boston area with her family and three cats. When she's not working or writing she's flying through the air on aerial silks at her local circus studio.

Collage of the book covers of Lisa's seven books.

Lisa’s the author of 8 picture books, including, Giraffe and Jackal Are Friends (Again!), co-authored by Mary Mackenzie, illustrated by Nicole Michels (2023), Forest Bath Right Down This Path, illustrated by Khoa Le (2023), The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (2022), Were I Not A Girl: The Inspiring Story Of Dr. James Barry, illustrated by Lauren Simkin Berke (2020), Madame Saqui, Revolutionary Ropedancer, illustrated by Rebecca Green (2020), Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten, illustrated by Eda Kaban (2019) and Pippa’s Night Parade, illustrated by Lucy Fleming (2019).


For some basic information on Lisa, check out our earlier interviews (here), (here), (here), and (here).  


Hadley Hooper works as both a painter and illustrator.

Illustrator photo of Hadley Hooper

There is a push and pull between assignment work and painting, and both practices benefit from one another. The two are linked by the use of the printed word for inspiration and invisible architecture it provides. Picture books offer the opportunity to spend more time developing an idea or character. Bookmaking requires creating a world over 15-25 page spreads.


She employs non-traditional printmaking and painting techniques, working on wood panels. The paintings are unsentimental representations of often sentimental objects. They have a layered excavated quality with the erasure and sanding of the image – its history – often visible in the final painting. She lives in Denver with her partner and Augie, the dog.

Collage of the book covers of Hadley Hoopers eight books.

Hadley’s the illustrator of 9 picture books, including Jump for Joy by Karen Gray Ruelle (1/23/2024), The Elephant’s Come Home by Kim Tomsic (2021), Two Brothers, Four Hands. The Artists Alberto And Diego Giacometti by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (2019), Mabel and Sam at Home by Linda Urban (2018), Another Way to Climb a Tree by Liz Garton Scanlon (2017), Around America to Win the Vote by Mara Rockliff (2016), A Small Thing … But Big by Tony Johnston (2016), and The Iridescence Of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan (2014).

Their newest nonfiction picture book, Gifts from Georgia's Garden: How Georgia O'Keeffe Nourished Her Art, releases March 19th.


Welcome Lisa and Hadley, thank you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest picture book.


Hadley let’s start with you. Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you illustrate? How long have you been illustrating? What do you enjoy about illustrating picture books?)


HADLEY - I’ve been self-employed for almost 30 years. It seems just yesterday I quit my day-job waiting tables, in fact being a waitress is still my go to anxiety dream.


I have always had great studios, just really lucky that way. And it's been important to me to have a studio outside of the house. Currently I’m walking two blocks from home to a great spot on the second floor of an old block of buildings. I have ten windows.  I’m just a few minutes west of downtown Denver. I work almost every day, 10-6 pm or somewhere in there. I also paint and make a big mess, so a studio outside the house is great.


I fell into picture books accidentally; I worked as an editorial illustrator for 20 years before my first book. It’s a unique opportunity to spend more time, often 6 to 8 months, with one topic. I’ve gotten better at reading manuscripts knowing that this isn’t going to be a one-off.


Sounds like a great studio! What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written or illustrated a manuscript?

LISA – I’d have to say that my favorite place to write is where I wrote the O’Keeffe manuscript, which is Brooklin, Maine. Brooklin is E.B. White’s hometown (author of Charlotte’s Web). My family has vacationed in that part of Maine for many years. It’s a gorgeous part of coastal Maine on the Blue Hill peninsula. One year, we rented a house a mile down the road from White’s farmhouse; we kayaked past his writing hut on the shore. What a treat!


HADLEY- I’m similar to my dog Augie who loves his routine. I could wear the same thing every day, eat the same thing- so I’m only ever working in my studio. Hours like a banker. I’m like a banker who is a dog. I have Procreate on my iPad and it’s great for roughs, but I’m using that also in the studio. 


Wow, Lisa, that sounds like a heavenly place to write. Hadley, the image you create of a “banker dog” is hysterical! Lisa, what was your inspiration or spark of interest for Gifts from Georgia's Garden: How Georgia O'Keeffe Nourished Her Art?

Book cover - Georgia O'Keeffe standing in garden looking at a table full of harvested food.

LISA - The first spark for the story came from a New York Times article in early 2020 about the auction of Georgia O’Keeffe’s handwritten recipe cards. I loved seeing the images of her lovely, loopy handwriting on index cards. There were recipes for soups and casseroles and cookies and more! Intrigued, I read as much as I could about her life and learned about her gardening and cooking. A few years prior, I had gone to a museum exhibit about her handmade clothing. . .this led to finding the theme of the book stated in its final lines: “To Georgia, everything was art and art was everything.”


Interesting how those experiences merged together for the book. Hadley, what about the Gifts from Georgia's Garden manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator? 

Title Page - table w/ flowers and paint supplies of Georgis O'Keeffe.

HADLEY- It was Lisa’s writing and a different take on the topic of O’Keeffe. I have done several non-fiction books, and they are beasts, all the research and fact-checking. So, when I got an email from Neal Porter with the subject line of, 'I know you said you didn't want to illustrate any more nonfiction but . . .’ I held my breath; Neal’s hard to say no to. Fortunately, I loved the text. 


I can just imagine how hard that would be! How many revisions did Gifts from Georgia's Garden take for the text or illustrations - from first draft to publication? How long did the entire process take?


LISA – This was an unusual book for me because it came to me so quickly. In fact, I composed the first few pages in my head while driving to Maine for a family vacation in July 2020. I did tinker with the text a lot after I composed the first draft. Once Neal Porter acquired it in July 2021, there were very few edits, in fact I think we only changed a few words. So, the book took one year from conception to acquisition and then three more years to publication.


HADLEY- I got the initial email with the text from Neal on July 6, 2021, and delivered all the final art April of 2023. I spend a lot of time on roughs so that the clients can understand what I’m thinking, and they can see and address problems early. Art director Jennifer Browne and Neal and I have worked on a bunch of books together, so we have an easy rapport, and their insights are always sensitive and smart.


Interesting. Sounds like the perfect team for this project. What was the hardest thing or most challenging you encountered about writing, illustrating, or researching Gifts from Georgia's Garden? What was the most fun?


LISA – The biggest challenge was figuring out what to do with the plethora of information about Georgia O’Keeffe! There are so many biographies and books and articles and exhibits of her work that it was daunting to manage the research. In spite of the glut of information, this is my shortest picture book biography – approximately 500 words—which I attribute to my staying close to the theme throughout. There are many other picture book biographies about her, so I felt less obliged to cover all the “cradle-to-grave” information. 


HADLEY- I’ve previously done a picture book about Matisse, The Iridescence of Birds, and a book about the Giacometti brothers. The challenge with doing books about artists is that I want to reference their work in the look of the book while still being true to my style. Maybe because of Denver’s proximity to the southwest it seems I was always aware of O’Keeffe’s work and legacy. When I was at the Kansas City Art Institute, I had her work on my walls in the painting studio. I still have a pretty terrible still life painting I did then of bones, a la O’Keeffe. Approaching her work, I had to figure out what I could do to signal to the viewer her aesthetic, all the while being alert that you absolutely cannot copy a work of art. This book and her style were challenging, she had such an awareness of light and blended her paints. It felt like she used a feather and I use a hammer; I had to refine things more than I do in my own work. 


Sounds like quite a challenge for both of you, but one you beautifully overcame. Lisa, when you first saw Hadley Hooper’s illustrations, did anything amaze, delight, or surprise you? Which is your favorite spread? 

Internal spread - Panorama of New Mexico landscape, with birds soaring and Georgia O'Keefe standing by a pile of luggage on the lower left.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2024. Image © Hadley Hooper, 2024.

LISA - I LOVE Hadley’s art! It takes a lot of courage and confidence to illustrate a book about such a beloved and famous artist and it’s clear to me that Hadley was the right choice! She did an amazing job of honoring O’Keeffe’s style while expressing her own. I wish I could choose a favorite spread, but I love them all. I adore the spread where O’Keeffe first arrives in New Mexico as it beautifully captures the setting while conveying how free O’Keeffe felt in this landscape. 

It is a stunning spread. Hadley, is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Or perhaps one which is your favorite spread?

Internal Spread - on left, Georgia O'Keeffe looks over fence a scraggly area. On right, flowers and plants surround her head as she imagine what she could plant there.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2024. Image © Hadley Hooper, 2024.

HADLEY - I like the one where she’s thinking about all the things she could do once she sees this forlorn space.

You did such a great job with that spread; it reallt does feel like a merge of both of your styles. Lisa, was there anything you learned about Georgia O’Keefe that you weren’t able to put into the story or back matter?


LISA - There was so much about her life that couldn’t go into this story, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I would have loved to talk more about her growth and development as an artist through her younger years. She held fast to her dream of becoming an artist and despite many twists and turns in her life, she never let go of this desire.


As you said there are lots of biographies out there, so curious readers can go explore more about Georgia's determination and art. Hadley, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Gifts from Georgia's Garden? If so, could you share one or more with us?


HADLEY - During the course of the finals, we took a trip to Santa Fe and drove the hour out to her home in Abiquiu which is open to the public. There are some great books on her and her environs, one stellar one is Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses by Lynes and Lopez. But there’s no substitute to standing in that space and seeing the light and shadows and figuring out the cardinal points. I took lots of photos of the gardens and building, things I’d seen hundreds of times in books, but I could finally ‘get’ the flow of things. The most useful were the pictures I took of her things, her pots and pans and bowls and her workshop desk. This all made it into the book; the woodgrain of the table I used on the cover and on the spread with the seed packets. The kitchen stuff is all in the spread where she’s invited friends to dinner.


Aw, that's such a special tribute to her. Is there something you want your readers to know about Gifts from Georgia's Garden?


LISA – I hope the book inspires readers to think of their lives as a creative act. . . whether we are gardening, cooking, socializing, or painting. Georgia O’Keeffe embodied this ideal to which I aspire, too.


HADLEY- It was created with a lot of respect and affection for who she was.


Your admiration for her definitely shines through and offers a great example for us. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


LISA – I’ve been very busy with all kinds of non-writing related work lately: my psychotherapy practice, wirewalking, aerial silks, visual art, Jungian psychology, teaching, Tarot. . .I have a suspicion that these activities will turn into a writing project in the future, but for the moment I’m letting it all simmer.


HADLEY- I might be starting a non-fiction adjacent book with Neal Porter in the next months.


We’ll have to keep our eyes open for your next projects. Last question, is there a plant or flower you love growing, or wish you could grow, in your yard or garden?

LISA – I have a small perennial bed in my front yard that I love to take care of. . .I enjoy the bleeding hearts, the foxgloves, the poppies, the black-eyed Susans, the columbines, the coneflowers. . .


HADLEY- I’m in love with a young Burr Oak we planted in our hell strip three years ago- thank you Denver Digs Trees! It’s almost doubled in size and at 16 feet was full enough last summer to cast a shadow- a thrilling, validating thing that shadow.


Hadley, I had never heard the term “hell strip” before. I’ve always heard it called a ‘parking strip.’ Fun learning something new!

Thank you, Lisa and Hadley, for stopping by and sharing with us. It was great to chat with you both.

Book cover - Georgia O'Keeffe standing in garden looking at a table full of harvested food.

Be sure to come by on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Gifts from Georgia's Garden: How Georgia O'Keeffe Nourished Her Art.

To find out more about Lisa Robinson, or contact her:


To find out more about Hadley Hooper, or contact her:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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