Artist Spotlight: Zoe Persico
Zoe Persico is not only a preternaturally talented illustrator of children's books for Hazy Dell Press, Penguin, Little Golden Books, Disney Hyperion, and Macmillan, but she's also the author (and illustrator) of a forthcoming graphic novel called How to Talk to Your Succulent (Tundra Books, 2025) that we absolutely cannot wait to experience. Zoe, who lives in Florida with her dog (a good boy named Zombie), recently took time in her busy schedule to chat with us about a variety of topics, including her four (!) delightful Hazy Dell Flap Books (Mothman Baby!, Nessie Baby!, Vampire Baby!, and Krampus Baby!), her childhood captivation with cryptids, and the particular delights of conjuring a Gothic Halloween castle.
What is your favorite part of the illustration process?
My favorite part is getting lost in the little details! After spending time sketching and laying down shapes and colors, it’s when I dive deep and focus on individual pockets of the piece that I can finally see an illustration coming to life. From drawing the grooves on trees to painting warm blush strokes on cheeks, it’s these little hints of serotonin that remind me why I love making art so much!
What appeals to you the most about illustrating cryptids and folkloric creatures like Mothman, Nessie, Krampus and vampires?
Even as a kid, I’ve always been a fan of strange and mythical creatures. Maybe since I was a pretty quiet child, I related a lot to cryptids who hid from the hustle and bustle, but when you had the chance to spot them, it would always be a magical experience. I have fond memories creating my own monster characters and coming up with lore behind them. Getting the opportunity to draw these cryptids is not only a fun design challenge, but it also unlocks the whimsical part of my childhood that inspired me to create art in the first place.
Of all the wonderous, beautiful worlds you created in four Hazy Dell Flap Books, which one was the most fun to develop and illustrate?
They were all a blast to create, but the one that surprised me the most was Vampire Baby. While the rest of the books take place mostly in nature, it was a fun challenge to work within the space of a Gothic castle. A lot of these spreads ended up becoming some of my favorites out of the whole series. Plus, who doesn’t love getting lost in that spooky Halloween goodness?!
How does your sense of empathy inform your approach to illustration?
I love creating art with emotion behind it. Using whimsical imagery is my way to evoke powerful feelings and thoughts for myself and for others. That warm feeling in your chest when you really connect with something is so lovely. I felt this a lot growing up as I searched for creative outlets. Seeing such beautiful illustrations in the books I picked up as a kid still stick with me to this day. They remind me of the powerful stories, lessons, and creativity I absorbed that continue to leave me in awe. I can only dream that I can share these feelings to whoever gets a hold of my art.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young, aspiring illustrator, what would it be?
My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy the ongoing art journey! My art style has gone through hundreds of different phases, and it will continue to grow and change as I continue to experience and enjoy life. Be open to trying new techniques, new subject matter, new inspirations, and take in the successes and failures. I can’t wait to see what my art will look like next year or even five years from now. Be kind to your past art, enjoy your current art, and look forward to what future art you will create.