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!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rosemarie Gillen

Rosemarie Gillen is here for a featured interview this week. Her colorful artwork is full of childlike fun. Check out her website also at www.rosemariegillen.com.
How did you get started in illustration?
I remember when I was very young I went to a friend’s house and their mom set up watercolor paint with very special paper, watercolor paper which made the whole experience feel like I was a real artist. This made an impression on me.

In the 80’s I remember falling in love with a Van Gogh and I imagined myself painting it. So I went and brought supplies and started painting to satisfy my curiosity and much to my surprise I was able to copy the Great Masters. I continued to fill the walls of my home with reproductions of Great Masters and I enjoyed it as a hobby. Then one day when I saw an ad on Craigslist adversting for artists for children books which led me to children’s illustrating.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
My favorite medium for children’s illustration is Photoshop. I begin by drawing directly on the page using my wacom tablet. I find it is very easy to make changes this way and I am able to achieve much better results.

Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
Yes, I do write and when I am writing children’s stories, the writing comes first then the illustrations. Though I find it much easier to illustrate than to write.
Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
My day time job is a full time mother. I consider that the most important job. But when I am not busy taking care of my son illustrating is my top propriority.

Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio?
I live in the mountains of West Virginia. My studio overlooks a mountain range. My desk is situated in front of a large French door where I can enjoy nature as I work.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website.
I was assigned to illustrate a series of American Sign Language Books for Bright Sky Press last year. And I am currently the Art Director at Stories for Children Magazine. My web site is located at www.rosemariegillen.com

Tell us about your current project.

I am currently reworking my portfolio in preparation for yet another round of submissions to publishers.

Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
I like Dr Suess books. I like his play on words.  The musical way the words bounce and the freedom to express yourself through silly made up words.
What inspires you?
Other illustrators inspire me. Being a part of the magic world that brings life to words.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was one of those people that didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up. I had to struggle to figure it out. I realized I was happiest when I was painting and I always believe you should follow your heart and do what makes you happy.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I play the piano and paint reproductions of Great Masters. And I relive my childhood through my son.  I get my physical activity by playing outside with my son and his friends. We sled down our hill in our back yard in the winter, play basketball, ride bikes, fly kites and have Nerf wars.

What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?

I really don’t want to do anything else. I find in order to be content and focused I have to do something creative every day.

Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
It is all about hard work and attitude, it is not a get rich quick scheme. It is not something that is accomplished quickly.  Be prepared for years of hard work and do everything you can to stay true to yourself. Be unique.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Find other illustrators that are willing to mentor you to help you through the difficult job of learning this business and all that it entails. Never try to go it alone.


  1. I love the way you can look outside in your studio. Looks great Rosemarie.

  2. Really nice work, interesting interview, thanks

  3. Very charming illustrations, Rosemarie. I love the bears :)

  4. Just found this site and read your info~ wonderful to see where you are when you are illustrating my books~ inspiring~ and shows me the peace you have when bringing my books to life~ thanks~ LS