A Close Connection to Nature
- Hi June, tell us about you and what made you want to become an illustrator or artist?
As far back as I can remember, making art and reading books has always captivated me. Unfortunately growing up in a northern Canadian town I had no idea illustration could be a career option! While working as a Marine Biologist, I met my husband whose parents were both artists. Their work and passion for art and illustration had a profound effect on me and I enrolled in an MA degree in Medical and Scientific Il-lustration. I was working in Toronto with an agent across all genres of illustration when I came down with a serious illness. It was devastating for me as I was unable to hold a pencil – let alone draw. Over a 15 year period, I slowly regained my strength, working on a personal project illustrating a poem and writing. During this time the world of il-lustration had changed considerably. In 2017, I began working on an entirely new portfolio of illustrations.
2.How do you define your illustrations?
My current work is rooted in my pencil sketches. I have been endeavoring to back up in the process and create works that are closer to the original sketch – more immediate and expressive. I love illustrating for children and aim to bring personality, warmth, and silliness to my characters. Themes that speak to our close connection to nature and the animals that share this planet with us, have always resonated with me.
- What can you tell me about your publications or books? What is the latest?
I’ve illustrated posters, museum exhibits, book and cd covers along with interior illustrations. Recently I’ve started sketches for a book of poetry “A Children’s Zoo” by Henry Beissel. I’ve written and sketched a dummy for a picture book in verse that explores feelings of loss through the lens of special moments and memories with someone we loved. I believe children to be deeply perceptive and that books can be a gentle doorway into what it means to be human.
- Would you explain more about your books? Do you prefer a philosophical story or fictional?
I love all types of picture books but am especially drawn to poetry, humor, and works that delve below the surface and speak to a greater truth. I believe in the power of literature and illustration to challenge our thinking and even affect social change.
- How many times do you tend to draw a character until it’s right, and also how do you know that it is right?
Creating characters continues to be a learning process. Rarely does a character appear with the first sketch? Usually, I work through countless drawings, trying to understand the physical structure while searching for the best way to convey an emotion or spark a moment of recognition.
- How do you overcome a creative block?
I suspect that it’s a common feeling among artists to feel both challenged and enormously frustrated when one’s vision and the work are at odds. At times I need to take a day to draw or paint whatever I feel like. No expectations – just messing about with charcoal or color for the pure joy of it. Rather than wait for inspiration I will continue sketching and exploring even when the results are disheartening. If I keep at it, I know something that speaks to me will eventually emerge.
- What is your favorite piece of work in your portfolio? Why did you make it?
My current favorite is the polar bear. It’s the first illustration I’ve completed for ‘A Children’s Zoo’ by Henry Beissel. It was very meaningful for me to try to communicate the plight of animals that suffer in captivity for our entertainment. The illustration shows a captive polar bear who dreams of his beloved north and awakens startled, still in the zoo. I enjoyed coming up with the concept and keeping the linework loose and expressive.