Eric Velasquez: My mom was a secret artist

Award-winning author and illustrator Eric Velasquez talks about the surprising discovery he made one day, thanks to cousin, that his mother was a talented artist. You can see the full interview with Eric in our Meet the Author section.


So my mom kept me really well supplied with art supplies. I never really had to ask or search for art supplies, so she seemed to stock up and keep it in the closet or something. So whenever I would fill up a sketchbook, another one would appear. And I had crayons, I had watercolor sets, colored pencils, all types of regular graphite pencils. They were always just available.

My mom worked at a hotel that catered to the very rich and to celebrities, and sometimes she would run errands, and some of the errands would involve one particular customer that she then went to work for part-time who was an artist. So my mom would go to the art supply store. So she was very familiar with the supplies.

What I didn’t know about my mom until I was, gee, about 11 or 12, is that my mom actually wanted to be an artist, and she would draw. So what she would do is she would, my mom loved Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. And so whenever she would see a film, she would sketch out a dress, and then would have my grandmother create the pattern and then create the dress for her, and then she would go dancing at the Palladium wearing the dress.

So I had no clue that my mom could draw. And the person that was responsible for teaching me how to draw a face was my cousin, my cousin Nelly. And I remember asking her, “Wow,” I was so amazed that she did the guidelines. “Wow, this is magic.” I said, “Where did you learn how to draw?” And she says, ‘Well, the answer to that.” I'm like, “No,” and I'm hoping she's going to give me this great answer. She's like, “It's your mom.” I said, “My mom, she doesn't know how to draw.” “Of course, she knows how to draw it.” It's all, I went in with this purpose. It's like, “Nelly says you can draw. Here, draw something from me right now.” And my mom grabbed the pencil and said, “Well, it's been a while.” And she did it. She was able to draw an entire figure with a very detailed dress. Basically, she stopped drawing when I was born. So I always figured that I was my own creation and I realized that my mom had a big hand in making me into an artist. She really cultivated that in me.