Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Road to Illustration by Sandra Lopez

After obtaining an AA degree from community college, I transferred to Cal State Fullerton to further pursue a career in the Entertainment Art field. But then something happened: my road to illustration was intercepted by the publication of my first novel. While I was taking 5 six hour classes a week, all of which required a minimum of 9 hours of lab work outside of class, I was also busy revising the manuscript for Esperanza: A Latina Story with my editor. For two years, that manuscript was sent back in forth via email. Back and forth, back and forth, I stopped counting after about dozen times. Then the last six months was focused on finalizing the art for the cover. I’m happy to say that I had some input in that. I heard that many authors don’t get to toss their two cents in that matter. But I did.

After telling everybody I knew about the publication of my first novel, I went back to being an art student. It was then that I realized that Esperanza’s story wasn’t finished. In the first book, the story ended with her getting on a bus and leaving for art school. Her ending was more of a beginning it seemed. It wasn’t over. Her life was just starting. She wasn’t through yet. There was still college. Well, at the time, I was just finishing up college. Why not write the sequel to Esperanza? I asked myself.

So, once again, I was sidetracked to writing another novel: Untitled (this was the title at the time. I came up with many lame titles before coming up with Beyond the Gardens.) In the sequel, Esperanza is a college student living on an L.A. campus while studying to become an Animator—her ambitious dream in the first book. Many of the same old characters returned in the second novel. For instance: Carla, the amiga she’s known since Jr. High; Carlos, the best friend that has suddenly decided to be more than a friend; and, of course, the mom, who still worries incessantly over her daughter and still treats her like a kid. Esperanza will experience life and love for the first time in this hilarious and heart-warming sequel.

Now, was it hard for me to write about a young artist? God, no! Because I was still going through it. I just followed the old golden rule in writing: “Write what you know.”

Like clay, I grouped all the art classes I’ve ever taken (even those I took at community college), rolled them into a giant ball of dough, cut out all the pieces I didn’t need, and began sculpting them into a masterpiece. In order to retrieve that authenticity of college life, I went back to some of my old lecture notes and refreshed my memory of learning all about the caves of Lascaux, Stonehenge, David, and Starry Night; I was able to revive the classic works of Degas, Goya, Caravaggio, and DaVinci; also included were some of the illustrations of Norman Rockwell, one of my favorite artists of the Golden Age. I included everything I could think of in this story from the computer animation classes to the first time I had to draw a naked man in Life Drawing class.

My goal in the research was not only to help me tell a great story but to show the reader the true side to being an art student. Many have told me over the years that art classes are nothing more than Mickey Mouse courses—easy A’s, they all said. So not true! A lot of my fellow artists will agree that art is not time-consuming, it is life-consuming. If you want to be an art student, then be ready to eat, drink, and poop it because, like the blob movie, it will take over your entire life.
With Beyond the Gardens, I was able to combine my writing skills (a skill I already developed from writing all those essays in English classes) with my artistic talents; then I just threw in my natural story-telling ability. When somebody tells you that your writing is never boring, consider it the highest compliment you can get.

Even though my studies in school were slightly interrupted by my two YA novels, I still held on to the dream of being an Illustrator. My goal was to, one day, write and illustrate my own children’s book; and that goal still stands to this very day. My road to illustration may have had some highway blocks along with the way, and, yes, I had to take alternate routes because of them; but it is still there. My GPS is still showing me the way, and I know I’ll get there in due time.

Right now, in addition to promoting my books and working a full-time sales position, I am in the mist of revising a story I used to work on in school called, “The Three Little Pups”—a modified version of “The Three Little Pigs.” As soon as I’m done, I will upload those illustrations onto my website  HYPERLINK "" So stay tuned!
Dulce Bread & Book Shop
Beyond the Gardens
By Sandra C. Lopez
Price: $19.50
ISBN-13: 9781432746988
Published: Outskirts Press

At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” Even though she’s getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a “chicana from Beverly Hills” because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceañera.

Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is.

What’s a girl to do? 

Strength and determination help pave the way for the future. And, as she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she’s known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she’s always had to look over the fence, wondering what she’s been missing. Now she’s taking a flying leap over to see what’s beyond the little barrio. What’s beyond her family, her friends, and her past? What’s beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don’t exist? What’s beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future? The story of Esperanza is finally concluded in this wildly entertaining and heart-warming sequel.

Praise for Beyond the Gardens
“Sandra Lopez’s sequel to Esperanza—Beyond the Gardens—
reacquaints the reader with a compelling character,
Esperanza, her barrio past and her college present, as
she struggles to get an education and find her identity. A
heartwarming story that young, female teens will enjoy!”
—Donna Del Oro – Author of Operation Familia and

Hasta La Vista, Baby
“Readers can’t help but cheer Esperanza on as she
finds out what life is like Beyond the Gardens. Funny, smart,
and heartfelt—all that you want in an inspiring story.”
—Margo Candela – Author of Underneath it all and
More than this

“It’s not easy to figure out who you want to be, especially
if you’re a chica from the barrio. With a crazy family
and un amigo, who has suddenly decided he wants her,
brainy college student, Esperanza, finds herself having to
make some tough decisions. In this humorous and sweet
novel, Lopez brings us lovable characters we want to root
for from page one. Don’t miss it!”
—Lara Rios – Author of Becoming Latina in 10 Easy

“An emerging Latina voice, Sandra Lopez continues
to inspire with her latest work, Beyond the Gardens. Her
words are soulful and her images resonate with passion
and humor.”
—Ray Michael Baca – Author of Brotherhood of the

“In Beyond the Gardens, Esperanza Ignacio confronts a
new world with humor and humility. With peppy dialogue
and energetic prose, Sandra C. Lopez brings us a story of
a young girl’s strength and determination. As candid as it
is entertaining, Beyond the Gardens leaves us all with a sense
of hope.”
—T. M. Spooner – Author of The Salvation of La
Purísima and Notes from Exile

Sandra C. López was born and raised in Hawaiian Gardens, California. She learned to read at the young age of two and strived to achieve the best grades in school. Her free time was spent reading, writing, and drawing. Sandra managed to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and enter college. Her first novel, "Esperanza: A Latina Story," was published in March 2008 while she was still in college. Now, this young writer is a full graduate of Cal State University Fullerton with a BFA in Animation and Illustration, and she is anticipating a promising career as a writer and an artist. "Beyond the Gardens" is the follow up sequel to "Esperanza."

Monday April 26 Bonnie S. Mata

Tuesday April 27 Mayra Calvani

Wednesday April 28 Christina Rodriguez

Thursday April 29 Lori Calabrese

Friday April 30 Mary Jo

Monday May 3 Erin O'Riordan

Tuesday May 4 Joylene Nowell Butler

Wednesday May 5 Terri Lee-Johnson

Thursday May 6 Romina Tybitt

Friday May 7 Leslie Toledo


  1. Joylene, the post is great! Thank you for showing us another side of author Sandra Lopez.


  2. Anna, you are very welcomed. Sandra is great, eh!

  3. It's interesting to see how one author writes from her own life experiences. Thanks, Joylene and Sandra.

  4. Thank you all for stopping by! This tour has been fun for me! I hope I get to do it again.

    Sandra Lopez

  5. I never get tired of hearing how others found their gift. Thanks for stopping by, Carol.

    Sandra, it was a pleasure.

  6. Best of luck with all your endeavors, Sandra. I love your bookcover and the story. Thank you for sharing.

  7. What a fun interview...Saundra, love that you are such a multifaceted artist...


    Joylene, just got Confetti Girl...looks great...



  8. Thank you, Erin and Zulmara! I'm glad you enjoy this post. I agree, Sandra is amazing.


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