Heather Collins - Illustrator
Heather Collins lives in Toronto with her husband and two children and has been illustrating children's books for more than 20 years. When Heather receives a manuscript she visualizes the story in her mind's eye, even plotting the storyboards, before preparing her rough illustrations. She may work for weeks or even months before the pictures feel right. At this point she is ready for outside reaction and feedback and to begin adding detail and color, usually with colored pencils, paints or pastels.
Heather's body of work also includes many non-fiction books, such as the award-winning A Pioneer Story, which incorporates fact, fiction and over 400 line drawings, all lovingly researched and executed. Her latest book is Out Came the Sun, and was published in September 2007.
Where do you live now?
Most of the time, I live in the center of Toronto. In the summer and on weekends, I live in the country beside a big, long, sandy beach. I love it there!
When did you start drawing?
I was very little, according to my mother.
How did you get involved in children's books?
I put my art school drawings in a portfolio and went to see art directors and lots of publishers --- very scary! I was asked to do some drawings in a math book, then an English book, and then a spelling book. I did lots and lots of school books. Then one day I went to see some children's book publishers to show them my portfolio. They liked my work, so now I work on children's books.
Do you have a favorite book?
When I was young I loved Anne of Green Gables and read it over and over. I love to read and always have a book going.
What are your hobbies?
Walking, cross-country skiing and gardening.
What was your training or schooling?
After high school I went to two art colleges: Sir George Williams (now Concordia) in Montreal, and then the Ontario College of Art in Toronto.
What materials do you work in? What's the difference between different materials?
I work with lots of pencils ... 3H, H, HB, 2B ... the Cottage Books, A Pioneer Story and The Last Safe House are all done in pencil.
When I work in color --- which I enjoy more than working in pencil --- I work with watercolors and gouache. Watercolors are transparent and gouache is opaque. Opaque means I can cover dark colors with a light color ... for example, Bear's fuzzy hair in the Nursery Rhyme board books. I also use colored pencils sometimes for texture.
Where do you get your ideas?
I have to be alone. I look at books, daydream and write down everything I think of.
Do you have any tips for young creators?
Yes ... draw and draw and draw some more. Draw anything you want and everything. Also try copying other people's drawings --- but never trace!
What is the thing you like the most about creating children's books?
I like the fact that I can be silly and think like a kid when I'm deciding what to put in my pictures.
Where do you work?
In the attic of our house, which I share with the family TV and a pullout couch for guests.
How do you research or create your illustrations?
I research at the library and then read, doodle and do lots of pencil roughs.
What's your greatest childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memories are mostly of summers in Metis Beach on the Gaspe Peninsula, which is in Quebec. Every summer, my dad and a big gang built a huge sandcastle on the sand bar, which we decorated with shells and then watched the tide wash away.
What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
On my summer holidays when I was an art student, I used to do portraits at summer fairs.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an artist.
Do you have any special secrets or insights about any of your books or characters?
I have a bunch of stuffed animals in my studio, which I use as models for the board books --- and my family says I talk to them all the time!