2. Q&A: Have you always wanted to be an artist, even when you were a child?

Little Jenny 1981, chocolate in hand
A: I have wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember, even when I was a child.  Of course, I also wanted to be many other things ranging from the President of the United States to a firefighter, mechanic, carpenter, architect etc.!

My aspirations to be so many different things were never belittled by my parents, who supported my creativity in every way they could, including by supporting my choice to be an Illustration major in college and to pursue my goals of becoming a published artist.  Of course, my first published cover illustration was in 2005, but that didn't mean that I had "achieved my goals," or that I was ready to put down my paintbrush.

I believe being an artist and an illustrator is about crafting a life that centers around and supports the continued development of my process and my ability to communicate through art.  Making art was always a constant in my life.  I always knew I was going to grow up to do something artistic, I just didn't always know exactly what. I am still exploring my artistic side in different ways today, from my creative "hobbies," like playing guitar and song writing,  to being a creative problem solver in my day to day interactions with friends, family, and others.

1. Q&A: What children's book illustrators have influenced your work?

A: There are quite a few illustrators that have made a big impact on me, both on my process and style.

I have been influenced by Quentin Blake's amazing ability to make loose whimsical characters that match perfectly with the author Roald Dahl.  In fact, for the longest time I thought Roald Dahl was both the author and the illustrator - for who else could concoct such crazy characters and have them look the way they do? Quentin Blake that's who! He has a great website that has step-by-step videos of how he creates his characters (watercolor painters would love this). It is a gorgeous process to watch!

Ludwig Bemelmans is another amazing storyteller and artist.  There is a great sense of simplicity in his paintings and drawings even though he is making something so beautifully detailed.  The background images from the books Madeline are gorgeously constructed scenes of Paris, France. 

Don Freeman is another author/illustrator that demonstrates simplistic and detailed work in his pieces such as Corduroy and Dandelion.  He also adds a dimension of great warm personal connections between characters in the story and how his characters are able to make the reader feel a wide array of emotions.

I love the stories, Jumanji and Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.  His illustrations are just so detailed and rich - not just in color but also in black and white.  I love that his illustrations take up the entire page and are not interrupted by text.  It is as if I am looking at a photo album and the words are supporting the images not the other way around.

Dr. Seuss is a master of imagination!  I love the fact that not only does he invent simplistic looking creatures, or personifies animals but he is able to connect the audience with social injustices and moral lessons without coming off "preachy."

I love to create personal connections between story characters and take the time to develop and build rich artwork. I love making my illustrations feel simplistic while highlighting complex characters and situations in a story. Quentin Blake, Ludwig Bemelmans, Don Freeman, Chris Van Allsburg, and Dr. Seuss have inspired me and influenced my process and style in those ways.

WORTH IT: 2013 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market

Recently, I had just purchased the 2013 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market.  The last time I purchased this yearly edition was about 5 years ago.  Every year I check out the articles and I have to say this year has some of the best interviews, query samples, and articles I have read in awhile.  I don't buy the market guide every year because as an illustrator the book doesn't always focus on illustrators trying to break in the industry.  One of my favorite market guides was the 2002-2003 edition.  If you can find it on Amazon or some other trustworthy store online, I would strongly recommend getting it, as it is jam packed with information on pursuing a career as an illustrator (contains visuals!!).  Because I have seriously considered dabbling into writing, I believe the 2013 edition has a nice blend of information for the author/illustrator - not to mention that it also focuses on the importance of blogging, even has a special section on that particular subject for illustrators.