Janet Wilson - Illustrator
Where do you live now?
Eden Mills, Ontario.
When did you start drawing?
I was always pretty shy about drawing, but when I was in grade seven I drew lots of pictures of my favorite Beatle, George Harrison.
Where do you get your ideas?
I try to dream. After I have looked at art books, photographs and read books having to do with the subject, I pick a quiet time to let all the words and images float around my brain. I especially think about it before I fall asleep and when I first wake up. At this stage in the project I bump into things a lot!
Do you have any pets?
We have two dogs: a Chihuahua named Chimi, and Lulu, a springer spaniel.
What is your favorite food?
Everything bad for me --- especially if it's salty and fried!
What was your training or schooling?
I never thought I could become an artist. Although I tried to draw and paint, I never thought I was very good. After high school I got married and stayed home to raise my two little boys. Right from the time they could pick up a pencil, my sons drew constantly, and they asked me to draw things for them. This made me a little nervous, because I believed that a real artist would be able to draw anything right out of his or her head. I couldn't do that. Instead, if they wanted a giraffe, I would get a picture and we would draw from that. Or we would study how a tree looked and we would draw it. Soon I realized that maybe to be an artist all you needed was the desire and some confidence to give it a try. So when the boys were in school all day, I decided to go to school, too, and enrolled in the Ontario College of Art. I worked very hard and graduated with honors in 1985.
How did you get involved with children's books?
After art school I was hired to do illustrations of children for school textbooks. Someone thought I drew children pretty well so I was hired to do my first picture book --- Daniel's Dog, by Jo Ellen Bogart
Do you have any tips for young creators?
It is very easy to get discouraged when you begin to try to make your drawings look realistic. I say don't worry about how it looks. The important thing is to have fun. If you enjoy drawing, then you will do it more often. Before you know it, your drawings will be looking good.
What is your favorite movie?
Casablanca --- I can see that movie over and over.
What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books?
I like having a vision, being able to see it to completion and in the end have a book to hold in my hands.
How do you research or create your illustrations?
After I have read the manuscript from the publisher and have agreed to illustrate the book, I then begin to research the subject. I read everything I can about it. I visit museums and libraries looking especially for pictures. I try to store all the images in my mind, and for all the information I might not remember, I take pictures with my camera. Once I truly understand the subject, I plan the book out on paper by making little thumbnail sketches. If there are any people in the pictures, I choose real live models to pose for me. By using references this way, the pictures will look more “real.”
What materials do you use to create your illustrations?
I work in all different media depending on what my little voice in my head suggests. Sometimes watercolor, other times pastel, and if I have the time I like to work in oil.
What's your greatest childhood memory?
I loved to spend summers at a cottage in Muskoka. Each room was lined with books and I could read my fill. They had the entire collection of Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters?
Everyone tells me that the girl in Imagine That! looks just like me as a child --- and she does! The old lady in Sarah May and the New Red Dress is my mother. She thinks I put in too many wrinkles, but in actual fact I didn't paint them all.