Eric Zeringue long thought he’d be entering the business world upon earning his degree, but his life took a different direction after one his artistic skills came into demand: the talented illustrator was asked to collaborate on a children’s book.
“Art has always kind of been interspersed throughout my life, but at the time, I wasn’t as active with it,” said the Luling man. “This actually steered me to really go in that direction.”
That first collaboration between he and author Irene Starlone manifested in the tale “Henry Humming: Henry Saves Hannah,” is headed to a second printing later this year as the initial run nears being sold out. That success led the two to pair for another book project, “Douglas Fir’s Wish,” which released last year and is now available to purchase locally at The Basketry and also on Amazon for either hardback or Kindle format.
For Zeringue, the popularity of the book means the world.
“It’s a great sense of accomplishment to know I made this, put this out in the world where people can actually see it … to learn that people enjoy it, like it, it only keeps you motivated,” he said. “When you hear someone say, ‘Oh, I read this to my child,’ it’s such a cool feeling.”
Like its predecessor, Douglas Fir’s Wish is a children’s tale. Through its pages one learns the story of Douglas, a small Christmas tree hopeful to soon be “adopted” by a family in the holiday season. Though it is his life’s goal, Douglas has been left behind time and time again, and with the threat of being sent to the end of the road looming, he uproots himself and embarks on a quest to find himself a family.
“He’s this little Christmas tree, and nobody wants to pick him off the lot,” Zeringue said. “He has a little bird friend who encourages him to not give up, and he goes on this journey where he comes across interesting people and places, trying to find where he belongs.”
After Starlone maps out the tale, it’s Zeringue’s job to bring it to life.
“She usually gives me a rough version of what it will be and I’ll go through it,” Zeringue said. “Any little scene that catches my eye, I’ll jot it down and try to put some actual visuals in there and convey the story.”
Zeringue and Starlone came to know one another through some happenstance: their fathers work together.
“My father talked with hers at work and (Irene’s) book came up and that she needed an illustrator. My dad says, ‘Oh, my son draws.’ And that’s what got it started,” Zeringue said.
He said that first book took a bit of time to finish.
“I’d draw a picture here, a picture there, when I’d have time to do it,” he said. “And suddenly, it felt like, ‘wait, wow, we have a whole book’ and it went out. Then you learn people like it, and it was a turning point for me.”
But what got Zeringue started in the art world altogether came when he was in the third grade, and his art teacher asked the students to color in letters for a sign that would be displayed on stage for an upcoming play.
“I took my time with it, but when it came time for the show, she didn’t really use it. I wondered why,” Zeringue said. “But it turned out that she loved it so much, she entered it into an art show with a number of teenage artists. I ended up going in with my mom to tour the art center for it … at the time that I made it, I didn’t think it was anything special. It was definitely one of those moments where I started to realize, ‘Wow, apparently I’m good at art.’ I didn’t know why, really, but it worked out.”
One of the aspects he enjoys most about his work is refining his process, researching and making it better.
“There’s a lot of depth to it,” he said. “You learn about so many interesting styles and you want to learn about more. You’re looking for ways to get people’s attention. You also have to take into account whose going to want it and be interested. Some people want more color, others want something else entirely … it definitely helps to have a passion for learning.”