Artist of the Month – Terry Lim Diefenbach!

Excalibur Books proudly presents – Artist of the Month Terry Lim Diefenbach, creator of some of the amazing illustrations from the “Tales From Beyond Tomorrow”!

Terry says …

I grew up on Java, in Indonesia, when it was transitioning from a Dutch colony to an independent nation. My mother loved to sew, and as a child I would redraw the latest styles from the Dutch magazines for her. Art schools were rare then, so I subscribed to a correspondence course in drawing “Ecole ABC de Dessin”. The lessons and homework by mail literally took the slow boat each month each way to and from Europe. Most of my distant ancestors are from China, and this at times was politically difficult in Indonesia. I was halfway through high school when my mother took me and my brother to Holland, then on to America. I married, had a child, finished college, and eventually found myself as a trailing spouse in Japan.

I reconnected with my art roots at my first job in Tokyo, reading stories to preschoolers in English. I cut out silhouettes of the major story characters so my young charges could recreate the stories at home. A ‘real’ job teaching English and History at several colleges interrupted my return to art. However, now back in California, retired, I am finally creating images on my own time line. From my story-reading stint to preschoolers, the art of defining shapes with cut paper, rather than color paint or pencils, still intrigues me, and it is now my preferred medium.

I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators [SCBWI] and am hoping to find my writer’s voice as well. The Steam Punk world of Excalibur has been an exciting new discovery for me.

On creating the illustration for the Steampunk/Weird Western story, “A Coffin Full of Stars” …

Being asked to illustrate a story is always fun, an invitation to participate in an adventure and to learn something new. For Coffin Full of Stars, I had to learn about cacti and guns! For the cover illustration, John Paul Catton already had in mind the familiar Wild West set-up of two gunslingers facing each other off. For the saguaro cactus – living in Southern California, I had real cacti to observe and study. Close-up images of guns were harder to come by. Though the Internet has many, I needed a specific angle. Our local gun store wouldn’t let me take photos of their stock, but referred me to the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles, which has an amazing collection of historical and beautiful guns from the Wild West and some used in famous movies.

I am not an organized thinker. When a job request comes in, an image usually starts forming right away. My two immediate concerns are to establish tone and focus. Though the image here is from a US Western, for Coffin Full of Stars, spaghetti Western townscapes came to mind, with bright sunlight casting sharp shadows. The immediate focus in the foreground was clear as well: the hand poised above the gun, which put the rest of the picture in tension! The most difficult parts were trying to show a holstered gun seen from the bottom, and choosing a paper with the right texture for the Saguaro hand.


I like using solid colored paper though sometimes patterns are necessary to establish an identity like, for instance, when I had a request for a Mid-Eastern setting for an easy reader text. Several paper manufacturers make choosing colors a pleasure. To glue things down I use glue sticks. When an image is done, I scan it and sometimes use Photoshop to correct an error. I send in my work through drop box or as an attachment depending on the publisher’s preferences.


Cutting out paper shapes is less forgiving than coloring in drawings with paint, especially for human figures. It is therefore important to simplify all the elements in an image so they can be used as templates for cutting the final forms out of paper. On the other hand, once the figures are completed their placement in a scene is fairly easy as they can be moved until they find their proper place. Once they are established in the landscape, I glue them down, adding their shadows to anchor them.

The finished product …

Find out more about Terry Lim Diefenbach by going here!

Terry Lim Diefenbach – Illustrator/Writer

Find “A Coffin Full Of Stars” here! 

About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
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