Joan Waites is the artist of the day here at Chicken Spaghetti. Her beautiful snowflake, "Beauty and the Beast," highlights my final installment of Blogging for a Cure, in which many children's book bloggers feature the unique art pieces from Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure. That online charity auction raises money for cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; please go to the Robert's Snow web site for details on how to bid. Joan's "Beauty and the Beast" is part of the first group of snowflakes to be auctioned; bidding starts Monday.
Joan is the illustrator of nearly 40 books for the educational and trade markets, as well as several children's magazines, posters, and greeting card art. Illustrated works have won the following awards: IRA/CBC Children's Choice Award; IRA/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, and a Benjamin Franklin Award. The artist is also an adjunct faculty member of the Corcoran Museum School of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., where she teaches various children’s programs in drawing, painting, sculpture, and story book illustration. The artist works from her home studio in the metro Washington, D.C., area, where she lives with her husband, three children, two cats, and one rambunctious puppy.
How did you become involved with Robert's Snow?
I became involved in the first Robert's Snow auction after hearing about a call for illustrators to contribute snowflakes from Grace Lin. My father had just recently passed away from esophageal cancer, and my mother was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the time as well. It seemed like a small way that I could help contribute to cancer research.
Where did you get the idea for your snowflake?
I wanted to use a fairy tale as inspiration this year, one of my favorite types of stories to illustrate. "Beauty and the Beast" seemed appropriate...the "Beauty" of a cure overtaking the "Beast" of cancer.
Do you have any advice for children's book illustrators just starting out?
I'd say the best thing to do first is really familiarize yourself with the market. Read and study hundreds of published books in the library or bookstores. Look at how the art enhances and plays off the text. See how your own art compares and fits in. Develop a strong portfolio showing your ability to draw children and animals, and carry those characters through several scenes, like you would in a book. Re-illustrate your favorite fairy fale or fable to get a sense of what it's like to work with text and illustration combined. Develop a postcard mailer, and a simple web site/blog if you can. Get a copy of the latest Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market to research publishers and their needs. Join the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, study its web site and articles, and attend a regional conference to learn about the business and network with other authors and illustrators. Lastly, have a lot of patience and perserverence. It may take several years to get your career off the ground, but it's worth it...I can't think of a better job!
Which books on your bookshelf do you refer to over and over again?
I can't say I have one book in particular that I go back to, but at the start of a new job I often look over my collection of books from other illustrators to spark an idea or color palate. Some of my favorite children's books are the ones illustrated by other watercolor artists such as Jerry Pinkney, Charles Santore, David Wiesner, and Jane Dyer...all of whom have also contributed snowflakes to one of the three Robert's Snow auctions!
[Here is] a sample piece of art for a book I have written and illustrated called Sophie's Seasons, which I am just starting to submit to publishers. It's the first book I have both written and illustrated, so my fingers are crossed!
Good luck to you, Joan, and thank you so much for participating in Robert's Snow. Readers, click over to the Robert's Snow site, buy a snowflake, and raise money for cancer research! Snowflakes by Marion Eldridge and Maggie Swanson, artists whose work also brightened up this blog, are part of that first group, too.