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.


  1. Jill, I knew your work was fabulous before reading your interview, and now I am super sure! Your illustrations are full of life, color, emotion and accuracy. It is only a matter of time before you are published in Many, Many, Many children's books. Your work is awesome! Any agent out there would be wise to snap you up immediately. This is gorgeous and powerful work!

  2. Very warm interview. I love the first illustration about animals.

  3. Is that your view from your studio? Wow. This was a great interview Jill. I really enjoyed it. :)

  4. Thanks you guys!
    Becky, I do have an excellent view from my studio but the photo was taken from a mountain across the valley. Right now the aspens are turning yellow- I should have posted a fall photo!

  5. Not too late for the fall photos I hope.... Nice interview. Did you interview yourself?..... I think you work is great, and you are in the right place. I think things will work out, and not more random jobs... Laura

  6. What a wonderful interview, Jill!! Your work is so full of life, and is very soothing and restful to look at. I especailly like your animal panels and the children in the moonlight. Your photo of Steamboat makes me want to hop in my Jeep and drive on up to see the fall leaves!

  7. I just want to dive right into your artwork and visit the beautiful scenes you've created! Love, love, love your work!
    -Tahnee Miller

  8. Jill, I love your interview about you! I love your style and how you approach your work. You're so positive! You're studio is lovely and with a gorgeous background. Mountains! Breathtaking!
    Just wondering is your dog is your personal assistant? :)