VSS Illustrator Interviews

In doing these interviews, we hope to give you a glimpse into our artist members' unique personalities, a new perspective on their wonderful work, and the opportunity to know what inspires them!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jill Bergman

This week’s interview is with Jill Bergman (me!). I realize it’s odd for me to post my own but I’m in charge of the interviews, and my turn came up, and well, here it is! Thanks for taking a look and I’d love to hear your comments.


How did you get started in illustration?
I only got interested in illustration in the last few years. But looking back, all of the art I did before seemed to be leading directly to children’s illustration. I started out making whimsical art based on nursery rhymes and word play. Then I got into making hand-made artist books. I’ve always been a book and word person. When I was young I wrote a lot more than I made art.



What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
I am definitely a printmaker at heart. I mostly do linocuts. They are like wood block prints but attached to the block is a piece of artist linoleum. It’s like floor linoleum but smooth, flat and gray. I carve away the parts I don’t want to print. Then I roll black ink over the parts that were left raised. I lay paper over the ink and rub the back to make a print. Once it’s dry I paint the colors with watercolor.





Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
I do write. I start out with an idea and rewrite it for quite a while before I start drawing. Then the drawing usually takes over for a long time. I wind up going back and forth refining the writing and art until they both work.

Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio and include some photos?
I live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It’s a ski resort town in northwest Colorado. It’s beautiful here but with long winters.

My studio is a small room in my small house. As long as I keep it tidy and organized it’s a great place to be. I’ve also taken over the guest room, bedroom, dining room and shed as extensions of my studio to some degree.




Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I went to school to study classical music. After college and a couple years playing oboe in an orchestra I sort of fell into being an artist. Along the way I have taken some classes but I am mostly self-taught. I’ve had influential and helpful artist friends through the years. I try to be open to learning any way I can.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
I’m unpublished. I’m having a good time making art and writing stories while mailing out postcards and picture book dummies to slush piles.
Up until a few years ago I was focused on fine art. I’ve had solo and group shows of my original prints, artist books, and photos.

My website is www.jillbergman.com
Tell us about your current project.
I’m reworking one of my stories. It’s about a fellow who lives in a mountain valley all alone and sets off to find friends.


Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
Oh boy oh boy!
Loren Long, Mary Azarian, Beth Krommes, Virginia Lee Burton, Dr. Seuss, Marla Frazee, Pamela Zagarenski, Jane Ray, Carin Berger, Oliver Jeffers, Dan Santat, Eva Montanari, Madeline L’Engle, Roald Dahl, Arnold Lobel, and I’ll probably think of more later.


If you could be any children’s book character, who would you be and why?
Speaking of Arnold Lobel, I think I’d like to be Frog from the Frog and Toad stories that I loved as a kid. Frog has a nice little house with a fireplace, a best friend, and lovely green skin. He goes on lots of adventures with Toad and in the evenings they drink a cup of tea and look at the stars. Aaaahhhhh….

What inspires you?
Looking at other art and books. Talking to artists. I think I’ve gotten some of my best ideas while walking my dog or just sitting around on camping trips.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
An astronaut or author or rock star or hermit or classical musician. It was so hard to choose! (Notice it never occurred to me to be an artist.)

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Well, often when I’m not working on art I’m actually working at my job in a pharmacy. But other than THAT, I like to walk my dog and hike in the mountains with my husband, go camping and skiing. I also read a lot. I heart books!

What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
An artist is the only thing I’d like to be. I’ve already had enough other random jobs for a lifetime.
Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
I really love my illustration critique group. It’s invaluable to have a group of people with similar goals to help you out with advice and support. And there’s always someone around to mention that you accidentally drew a third arm on that little boy if you missed seeing it yourself. So any way that you can, try to connect with other artists.

And, enjoy the process! It’s hard not to be impatient, but every day we work toward our goals we get a little closer.



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ginger Nielson

This week I'm excited to introduce illustrator Ginger Nielson. She has a new book out, Daniel and the Harmonica bRob Dubreuil along with many other great picture books that you can see on her website. Thanks for stopping by for a tour of Ginger's studio and artwork. You can leave her a comment at the bottom of the interview!
How did you get started in illustration?
Like so many illustrators, I have always drawn or painted.  I would spend hours creating my own stories with my wooden dolls and then paint them or draw them into stories similar to a comic strip.  I even taught myself how to make my own paper dolls and paper doll clothing. My mother thought piano lessons would be good for me but I ended up drawing on my music sheets. My music teacher finally allowed me to follow my true interests and we parted company.  She was just as relieved as I was.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
I love to draw with soft pencils, or black pens or use watercolor or acrylic paint. My preliminary sketches and paintings are transferred from my drawing board into the computer by camera or scanner.
Some are very finished, others are a mere quick sketch. In the computer I use Painter X to complete the illustrations.

When I receive a manuscript I spend a few days reading and re- reading it while I form pictures in my mind. I break the manuscript down into what I think will be appropriate pages and write a description of what I want to do with each.   Then I might make up a story board with thumbnails that show either written or sketched ideas.
When I am happy with that I start sketches. There is often a lot of research needed for the picture-books I illustrate.

Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
I enjoy illustrating my own stories and find the illustrations sometimes come first or in between the writing.  I have to admit, writing is “hard.”
In the summer of 2012 a picture-book I wrote and illustrated will be released. I have waited and long time for this and will be extremely happy to see it as a book.

Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I am a full time children’s book illustrator and live in the country and care for my mom who is elderly. My husband and Henry our loveable hound dog complete our immediate household.

Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio?
Our home is at the top of hill near the edge of a forest in rural New Hampshire. We live in a mountainous area so traveling too far in the wrong direction in winter can be a huge challenge.
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I was fortunate to have excellent support all through the 3 high schools I attended and on into college. I completed a double major at Rutgers University which gave me a degree in art and education for grades  K-12.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website. 
A full list of picture-books I have illustrated is on my website. The most recent are Flying Poodles, A Christmas Story  and Daniel and the Harmonica. My client list includes, Stemmer House Pubishers, 4RV Publishing LLC, Pearson/Scott Foresman, Macmillan/McGraw Hill, Sundance Pubishing,
Oxford University Press, among others.

My website:  www.gingernielson.com  lists the books I have illustrated and my  blog which is a journal of sorts at www.gingerpixels.blogspot.com.

Tell us about your current project.
I am currently working on a book by Beth Bence Reinke, Carla’s Cloud Catastrophe, and I am really enjoying the adventure.
In addition to that I am working on the Sketchbook Project.   You can read about that and join in by checking out: Sketchbook Project on my blog.
Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
I am a big fan of Graeme Base and have all his books that I can find.  I will buy anything of his used, new or whatever. I love his work and his vision. I also like Tomie de Paola’s  books.  Maurice Sendak , Robert McKloskey, and Mercer Mayer are on my list of favorites along with Jan Brett and Maurie Manning.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by stories, people, children everywhere, my family, nature, light and shadow, color and design.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I like to get outdoors to the garden or take Henry off on a walk, or read. Sometimes I will take a week off and just read, read, read. *J
What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
I would want to own a bookstore and support my local artists and authors with the most fantastic book signings and opportunities for them to grow as creators for children and adults.
Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
My advice is pretty much the same as many others.  Get to know your craft and the mediums you plan to use.  Draw every day, if you write do that as well…EVERY day.  Join SCBWI and your regional chapter, spend time in your local library and bookstore to see what is going on in the world of children’s literature. Attend conferences, pay your dues, work hard, take criticism and use it to your advantage. Be flexible and never be too proud to apologize for a mistake.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I have a magic wand on my desk and a dragon in my basement. Everything else is perfectly normal.