Brenda Clark - Illustrator

Brenda Clark began drawing as a small child and realized by the age of 17 that she wanted to become a commercial artist. She studied Illustration at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, and graduated with an honors diploma in 1977. Shortly afterward, Brenda found that there was plenty of work for a freelancer in educational publishing and her first jobs were for elementary school books. This experience gave her plenty of published examples for her portfolio and a better understanding of how to interpret a story with pictures.

Kids Can Press was looking for new creators in the early 1980s and Brenda was ready to try illustrating picture books. She signed her first contract with KCP in 1983 for a story called Christopher and the Dream Dragon by Allen Morgan (no longer in print). All of the illustrations were created in black-and-white washes. Morgan wrote another charming story, called Sadie and the Snowman, which suited Brenda's style and this time she was asked to illustrate in full color.

In 1985, the manuscript for Franklin in the Dark, written by Paulette Bourgeois, was offered to Brenda and by the following year it was published with rave reviews. Since then, Brenda has illustrated more than 30 Franklin titles and numerous activity books for the series. Franklin and his friends quickly became popular around the world and by 1997 the first animated episode of Franklin was televised. Brenda helped to launch a series of Franklin spin-off books. She also assisted with approvals for merchandise created from the illustrations.

One other successful collaboration with Paulette Bourgeois is the delightful Big Sarah's Little Boots.

Brenda is still painting and lives in Port Hope, Ontario, with her husband and son.

Birthplace? Toronto, Ontario.

Birthday? February 10th.

Where do you live now? Port Hope, Ontario.

When did you start drawing? As an infant. Just kidding. Can't remember, so I must have been a toddler.

Do you have any tips for young creators? Keep a sketchbook and draw, draw, draw every day. Even simple objects like your toothbrush. Draw people at bus stops and while you're waiting in line for something. If you can't draw, then observe. Use your eyes like a camera and really try to remember what you see. Get inspired from other people's art, but don't try to draw like them.

Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters? It was difficult deciding how Franklin should look in the beginning. Now I have his image memorized so well that I can draw him in almost any pose. My favorite Franklin story is still the very first one, Franklin in the Dark. The image of the little turtle dragging his shell behind him on a rope is only made possible with pencil, paint and imagination. Most of Franklin's world could not happen in reality. That's most of the fun of doing the illustrations for these books. I like to make you believe it could happen.

Do you have any pets? One cat.

What is your favorite food? Unfortunately I like just about everything, but what I really can't resist is eating warm popcorn at the movie theater.

What are your hobbies? Playing squash, tennis, walking, camping. In other words, anything other than sitting at a desk!

What was your training or schooling? Lots of art classes at Don Mills Collegiate, then a three-year illustration and design program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. I graduated in 1977.

How did you get involved with children's books? Went right from college into freelancing for educational publishers. I showed my portfolio to Kids Can Press and the rest is history.

What is your favorite movie? The Wizard of Oz.

What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books? Making the impossible seem real.

Where do you work? In a spare bedroom at home which has been converted into a studio, but it's become so crowded that I've spread out into other parts of my house.

How do you research or create your illustrations? I have a good selection of books at home to refer to for animals, plants and insects, but the library has a million more, so I go there a lot. Sometimes I ask my son or husband or cat or rats to pose for me. They don't like to keep still for very long so I have to bribe them with treats.

What materials do you work in? What is the difference between different materials? I mostly use watercolor, both transparent and opaque. In the past I have experimented with pencil crayons, gouache and ink. Watercolor is fast, clean, easy to correct (I make lots of changes) and reproduces (when printed) well.

Where do you get your ideas? The story gives me my inspiration. Nature and everything on this planet provide an endless source of props, settings and situations.

What's your greatest childhood memory? Our family planned a picnic and packed a huge cooler full of wonderful homemade sandwiches, salads and desserts. It rained. We decided to spread out the blanket in the living room and have the picnic anyway.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An artist or a teacher.

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had? Once I was hired to paint a very large egg breaking with the insides dripping out on someone's kitchen wall.

Franklin and Harriet

2002 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2002 - Young Adults' Choices, International Reading Association, Short-listed

Franklin in the Dark

2012 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Franklin Is Messy

1995 - Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award, Short-listed

Franklin Says I Love You

2003 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2003 - Childrens' Choices, International Reading Association, Short-listed

Franklin's Baby Sister

2001 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Franklin's Christmas Gift

1999 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Franklin's Class Trip

2000 - Children's Choices, International Reading Association and the Canadian Book Association, Winner

Franklin's Valentines

1999 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner