By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Self-taught artist Mona Lunot Kuker is happy that before the year closes, she debuted her first illustration project of a children’s book, Manny and the Mango Tree. Written by Ali R. and Valerie Bustamante and published by the Hard Ball Press, it became available in November.
Manny and the Mango Tree is a vibrantly illustrated narrative of how Manny eagerly waited to eat the mangoes from the tree that he and his friends have nurtured for a year, only to find out that they were forbidden to harvest the fruit by the super. Here the action starts. Publisher Tim Sheard describes this book as a night time good read for little trouble makers.
The book teaches kids justice. You can have your mango and eat it too, a clear message of the story which grabbed the interest of Mona who is herself a believer of just causes.
A Filipina who works as babysitter, she lives in Queens and has followed the footsteps of her late father Leonido Lunot, a post-WW II professional painter who rendered huge posters and banners for movies. He must be smiling at his daughter by now.
Excerpts of our interview:
1. A children’s book as your debut work as an artist, congratulations, Mona. Why has this been a challenging work for you?
I found the book challenging because the story helps children to understand the value of unity and to stand for what is right and just. To make this visual is difficult, plus the fact that this is my first illustration assignment. Oh I spent many sleepless nights to finish this.
2. Who inspired you to be an illustrator or an artist?
My late father always inspired me. And my husband Steve who encouraged me to continue when I felt I can’t really do the illustrations. He is my moral booster. And the children inspired me too. We need to shape their values to make this world a better place to live in.
3. How is it working with Tim Sheard, the publisher?
I like working with Tim. He is detail oriented, encouraging and inspiring. I think he is cool.
4. Many artists say that water color is the most difficult medium to use. Why is that?
This is the first time that I used water color to illustrate a children’s book. It is more difficult compared to acrylic or oil. It is tricky to mix with other colors. But it is a good experiment for me and a learning experience. This is just my opinion.
5. Plans for next year. Are you ready to write and illustrate your own children’s book?
I am still skeptical about writing my own children’s book. But I am open to the idea. But I have two possible illustration projects which are still in the talks.
For next year, I am planning to paint more in oil and acrylic. I might use installation to get ready for a possible art show. I want to give my audience a different composition and perspective.
For Hard Ball Press, visit www.hardballpress.com
For the works of Mona L. Kuker, visit www.facebook.com/MonaARTS1