Murray Kimber - Illustrator

Lethbridge, Alberta

April 11th

Where do you live?
Nelson, British Columbia

Who is in your family?
My mom and dad still live in Lethbridge. My brother Russell is an architect and he lives in Calgary. I have two children. My oldest daughter, Kristin, is 23 and she also lives in Lethbridge. I am married to a wonderful woman named Kari and we have a 4-year-old daughter, Isabella.

What is your favorite book?
Without Feathers by Woody Allen because the older I get the more I realize how important it is to be silly.

What is your favorite movie?
Miller's Crossing by Joel and Ethan Coen. It's not a silly movie but it's got style.

What are your hobbies?
I am amazingly hobby-less. However, I love to mountain bike, since I live in the mountains. In the winter I go snowboarding. I love going to live theater, and traveling. I have been practicing the guitar for years, but you would never know it if you heard me play. If eating can be considered a hobby, then that is one of my favorites.

When did you start drawing?
When I was three. I finished ten minutes later. Then I started again and haven't stopped since.

What was your schooling or training?
As far as formal art training is concerned, I graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary.

How did you get involved with children's books?
It was by fluke. In 1990 the publisher of what became Josepha, my first book, was looking for an artist to illustrate it. I was recommended to them by an illustrator that I sort of knew. He put the publisher in touch with me and two years later the book was done.
If you want to illustrate children's books as a career have a better plan than that.

What is the thing that you like the most about creating children's books?
It's like making a movie or staging a play. I am given a story and I get to bring it to life. I get to imagine what all the characters will look like, what costumes they wear and what the setting will look like. In short, I get to decide everything the reader will see. Hey, wait a minute, that's a lot of work!

Where do you work?
In my house. My studio is about three feet from my bedroom.

How do you create your artwork?
Most of the hard work is done in the pencil drawing stage. I believe in doing lots of rough drawings to discover what I think will make the best picture. I also roughly sketch out the entire book so that I get a sense of the rhythm and pace of the pictures. In other words, I try and see it as the reader would.

The artwork I created for The Highwayman uses a different technique from what I usually do. After I do a very precise final pencil drawing, I transfer that to a heavy printmaking paper that has been stained with tea to match the color of brown butcher paper. I begin working with conte and charcoal, building the drawing in various tones of black. Once most of the black has been applied over the entire drawing I add thin washes of white acrylic paint that mix with the charcoal to form opaque grey tones. Occasionally I add accents of other colors, but mostly just white. In lighter areas I apply thicker layers of white paint. Finer details in white are achieved with a slim white conte stick. When the picture looks good or I run out of time, whichever occurs first, I stop painting.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
Draw, draw, draw. Draw whatever interests you, and have fun doing it. Despite all the various forms of making images, drawing, like writing or music remains one of the most individualistic forms of communication.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
That is too difficult to say, but it probably involved a summer day and laughing until my stomach hurt. I never laugh that hard anymore. One time the city had to dig up the entire street in front of our house to replace the water main. There was this big trench right down the middle of the street and piles of dirt all along it. For that entire time, all the kids on our street could go out after supper, have dirt-lump fights until it got dark or one of us got beaned in the head.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist or a hockey player.

What is your next project?
I don't know what my next book project is, though I am determined to try and write a story of my own, then do the illustrations for it (wait a minute --- that's even more work!).
I am always doing other art projects between books for all sorts of different uses. Right now I am doing a poster for a conference of lawyers in Seattle, planning an exhibition of the original art for The Highwayman, and doing a book cover.

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you have ever had?
The weirdest? Believe it or not, illustrating the story of acid reflux, also known as heartburn. I always love a challenge.

For more information
To find out more about Murray, you can visit his Web site at