Lucy! How Lucille Ball Did it All

Written Amy GuglielmoJacqueline Tourville, Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

Publisher: Abrams, 2024
Medium: Photoshop, Ink Wash Textures

This book was written by the same authors as Pocket Full of Colors, and it’s about the iconic Lucille Ball. It arrived in my inbox during the pandemic, and looking back I can honestly say that I had NO idea how different my life would look by the time it was published. 

This is the first book that I completed (from sketches through final art) after my babies were born. I can’t emphasize enough how motherhood left absolutely nothing in my life untouched, or irreversibly transformed. I basically had to learn HOW to make a book all over again, from scratch, in an entirely new landscape of time and priorities. I would finally manage to get some momentum on the art, and then the babies would get sick or have a sleep regression and I would find myself feeling hopelessly behind again. I often felt like Sisiphys, the mythological figure who was doomed to push a rock to the top of a mountain, only to watch it roll back down the other side, and have to start all over.  

I realized very early on that I needed to work in a more pared down style, because Ino longer had unlimited time to sink into a single illustration anymore. Anyway, Lucy is inextricably associated with I Love Lucy, which aired in the 1950’s, so a mid century style felt just right. I also went for a limited color palette: the bright orange red from Lucy’s hair, the bright light blue from her eyes, and when you cross the two it creates a warm brown. In the book, we always see Lucy in blue, the things she LOVES are in red, the past and comfort are brown, and when she’s feeling oppressed there’s a lot of gray. Plus an expressive inky line and voila – Lucy!

Fortunately, Lucy is a wonderful companion to have had on this journey. I learned a lot from reading her autobiography and watching all the episodes of I Love Lucy (the best homework). All of her life the odds were stacked against her: she had a humble background, an unstable early life, was told that she had no talent, and yet…she just felt an irrepressible desire to make people laugh. So she followed it. And it led her exactly where she needed to go. I can understand the need to follow that little voice in your head that just eggs you on. It doesn’t always make sense, in fact it usually appears to make no sense at all. It is the same little voice that I followed that just kept saying “I wanna draw! I gotta make things!”  But at times while working on this book I thought that maybe I should give up, and I mean GIVE UP as in quit making books altogether. Mothering and illustrating just didn’t seem to fit together. They BOTH wanted my full attention! I remember a conversation that I had with my agent Kirsten about just that.

 “I’ve been thinking about quitting,” I told her.  

 “No,” she replied, “I reject that idea.” At that moment, Kirsten was playing the role of my little voice.

I think Lucy would have rejected my quitting too. After all, she worked while she was pregnant, she worked while her children were young, and she continued to work for most of her life even after her children were grown, and then her children were on her show WITH her! The odds couldn’t have been stacked less in her favor, and she kept going. 

These are just a few of the reasons that this book already holds a special place in my heart. Finishing it felt like a mythological feat, and its publication a triumph. And to make it that much sweeter, I actually love the way this book came together. The difficulty of having to create a new way of working has created one of my favorite books of mine. The result was so, so, so worth the struggle. My hope is that through telling Lucy’s story, the authors and I are telling you, dear reader, that whatever your little voice is telling you, it’s right.


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