Liz Hauser Sukowatey set a goal for herself to illustrate a children’s book before she turned 30, so when the opportunity arose to do so, she did just that. It began when a former co-worker’s uncle, Cubby Tracy, was looking for an illustrator for his musings about the adventures of four little monkeys, she said.
When Sukowatey met with Tracy, the two clicked, and two years later, “It’s Pizza Time!” was published. The book is geared for younger kids (ages approximately 2 to 6) and three of the four monkeys in the book are named after Tracy’s grandchildren. She said the book is meant to be an introductory one in The Pizza Monkeys series, so there may be more published in the future, and was inspired by stories Tracy used to tell his grandchildren.
Using her artistic background and creativity, she drew some of the pictures by hand but felt that it wasn’t working as well as it could, so she utilized her graphic design background to digitally create the illustrations. It is a sweet and colorful book and something she truly enjoyed working on.
They decided to self-publish the book, so Sukowatey formed a publishing company, Longneck Press, LLC, in order to do so. So far over 300 books have been sold, she said.
Sukowatey grew up in Hartford, Wis., and graduated from Hartford Union High School in 2002. She loved high school, participating in many extra-curricular activities, including forensics, DECA, the math team, musicals, drama club, and the band.
She said she has always been artistic, and has followed in her father, Mark Hauser’s footsteps, as he is also a designer and artist. Sharing a special bond through their love of art, she dedicated this book to him. He, and Sukowatey’s mother, Linda, own The Booster, which is an advertising newspaper serving the Hartford/West Bend area, and one that her grandfather previously owned.
She has two older siblings, Kate and Becca, who live in the Milwaukee area, and are CPA’s. Sukowatey contrasted how her sisters have followed more closely in their mother’s footsteps, career-wise, as her mother is the business manager at The Booster.
After high school, Sukowatey attended UW-Whitewater, where she graduated with a double major in public relations and graphic design. She got her first taste of illustrating while there. A professor in the communications department whom she really admired, Dr. Deborah Dysart-Gale, pushed her students to think beyond the classroom.
“She was very encouraging,” said Sukowatey, and one of her class assignments required the students to create some sort of device to aid in a communications problem.
Sukowatey’s group came up with the idea of a coloring book, entitled, “Momma’s Little Helper,” which Sukowatey illustrated. It featured the character Darnell the Dinosaur, and the focus of the coloring book was to help older children with issues of sibling rivalry once a newborn is introduced into the family, she said.
Her professor thought that it could really be a valuable tool, and she encouraged Sukowatey and her group to write a grant to help with the costs to get it printed. It was written in English and Spanish, and was later included and distributed in packets that were handed out to moms in hospitals and health care clinics in southern Wisconsin. After being awarded the grant, they later presented it at an expo at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research at Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University in the spring of 2005, she said.
After college, Sukowatey began her career at a few different places in the Madison area, working on designs for magazines and direct mail relating to the health care field, but is now working at Kramer Printing in Westport. She said the company is transitioning into more of an agency model, so they are a project based, design, printing and fulfillment company.
“I can be really creative there,” she said, where she is a graphic designer, utilizing her creativity to focus on full marketing/advertising campaigns.
She is married to Gary Sukowatey II, who is a 2002 graduate of Waunakee High School, and currently works for Smith & Gesteland in Middleton as a CPA. The two met during their senior year at UW-Whitewater, and were married in the summer of 2009.
They own a dog, Rizzo, named after Gonzo and Rizzo of the Muppets. She is a shelter dog, and when asked what kind of a dog she is, Sukowatey laughed when she answered, “She’s brown,” as she doesn’t really know her exact mix.
She and Gary are foodies, and watch the television show “Chopped” on the Food Network and enjoy trying out new recipes each week. They also love to travel, having already been to Australia and Barbados, and the next trip they are planning is to the U.K. to celebrate their upcoming five-year anniversary, she said. Describing herself as a huge Beatles buff, she hopes to get to the Fab 4 Tour in Liverpool while there.
She and Gary are also members of the Waunakee Community Band, which performs every other Thursday night at the gazebo in the Village Park during the summers. She likened it to Waunakee’s very own Concerts on the Square, but with bathrooms and ample parking. She plays the flute, and Gary plays the saxophone, and he has actually been a member of the band since eighth grade, she said. Gary’s mother and brother play as well, and she said that Gary sits directly behind her and can jokingly poke and annoy her during practice.
Sukowatey said she hopes to illustrate more books, either on her own, or perhaps more in The Pizza Monkeys series. She added her own special touch to “It’s Pizza Time!” by placing a ladybug on every page in honor of her grandmother, who calls her “Lillybug.”
She recently set up a booth at the Imagination Celebration in Waunakee to display the book and is proud of the fact that they found a printer more locally in Stevens Point, rather than having it done overseas.
And speaking of proud, her family is very. She said that they are not necessarily an over-exuberant bunch when it comes to doling out praise, so when she was told she did a great job, and when her father said to her, “I’m verklempt” referencing a Saturday Night Live sketch, she said it meant a lot.