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"Give me a pink sky and teal grass any day": Paulina Ganucheau on her use of color and depiction of friendship in Lemon Bird

Paulina Ganucheau chats Lemon Bird, Studio Ghibli, and chamomile tea

Headshot of Paulina Ganucheau next to Lemon Bird can Help cover on a purple background
Image credit: Popverse, Random House

Paulina Ganucheau's art is easily recognizable with a distinct cutesy visual style and a bright, surprising color palette. She's worked on She-Ra: Legend of the Fire Princess and Wonder Woman: The Adventures of Young Diana, and now, she has a new original graphic novel titled Lemon Bird Can Help!.

In this interview with Popverse, Ganucheau chats about Lemon Bird, her artistic influences, and the wonders of chamomile tea!

Popverse: Paulina, you've worked on lots of different types of projects over the years. Can you talk to me about how you developed the style for Lemon Bird Can Help?

Paulina Ganucheau: I don't think I've ever actively thought about honing a particular style for any project I've done. I think it's more about staying true to who I am as a creator and what my strengths are as an artist. I would say Lemon Bird in particular is a departure [from] a lot of things that I've done, but I think it's just the content, and it was more about figuring out what these little fruit animals would look like in my regular Paulina Ganucheau universe. It's about being more organic with it. I wouldn't say I'm the type of person to sit down and be like, 'Okay, I need to like fine tune this, what's the least amount of lines I can put down?'

I just kind of let it flow.

Interior pages of Lemon Bird Can Help featuring a character holding lemon bird on the left and lemon bird running on the right
Image credit: Penguin Random House

Do you feel like your creative process was different on this one since it it's such a departure from your other work?

I would say it wasn't too different— but it was definitely different because it is kid lit, and I mostly live in the YA realm or like YA adult realm. But I would say generally my work leans more into lightness and fun qualities, and it was about leaning farther to that side. It didn't feel super different really, but different enough!

One thing that really stood out to me in Lemon Bird was your wordless action sequences. They were a delight. Can you talk about how you laid those out?

When I think of storytelling, I think in visuals first before words, so it is like scripting out any other page, just moving panel to panel, describing the action, the emotion, what I need to show, what I want to convey. It all feels kind of the same, no matter what type of page I'm scripting.

Interior pages of Lemon Bird featuring two animal fruit characters
Image credit: Penguin Random House

Another thing that's stands out to me with this book, but also with your work in general, is your colors. They're bright and even surprising sometimes. Can you tell me about your coloring process?

Yeah, color is probably my biggest strength. I don't think about it a lot, which is stupid to say, but I have a set palette that I often use in photoshop, and I mix and match stuff as I like. I just love bright colors, and just love color so much. I like changing the expectation of what the 'right' color would be—give me a pink sky and teal grass any day.

I just want to play in my paints.

At the center of Lemon Bird is this theme about friendship and making mistakes and forgiveness. Why was this an important story for you to tell?

I think any kid could benefit from showing how important friendship and communication is between the people you love, and I think forgiveness is something we would all benefit from seeing a little bit more in our lives. But I don't know. The world is so tough. So, why not put out a book that's all about spreading kindness? Because we could always use a little bit.

Interior pages of Lemon Bird Can Help featuring a character holding lemon bird on the left and lemon bird running on the right
Image credit: Penguin Random House

That's definitely true. Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Oh my gosh. Naoko Takeuchi. I love her so much; she and I go way back. I grew up with a lot of manga, so I feel like a lot of my biggest inspirations are that. I love CLAMP. Rumiko Takahashi, I'm obsessed with her, love all of her work.

Oh and Studio Ghibli. Ponyo is a huge inspo. His doing Ponyo showed me that I can do kids stuff, and I can also do more adult stories at the same time, and that's kind of why I took a chance with Lemon Bird.

Last but not least, what is your favorite thing right now? Could be anything. A hobby, food, a movie?

Oh tea, I'm on a tea kick. Chamomile tea— lowers the blood pressure, and it's made out of flowers. Like, how good is that?

Pick up your copy of Lemon Bird here or at your local bookstore.
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