My family immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada from London, England, when I was three-and-a half. I have always loved to draw, so my mom signed me up for Saturday morning art classes in grade one. My interest never waned and at sixteen, I signed myself up for life drawing classes where I learned contour line drawing. A few years later, I moved east to Toronto to study fine art at the Artist’s Workshop and the New School of Art. I went on to study design and illustration at George Brown College, where I would later teach illustration part time.
My professional career began as a freelance illustrator with Jim Harrison, art director at the Toronto Star which led to regular assignments with a variety of newspapers and magazines. It was children’s publisher and designer Kathryn Cole who saw my work and approached me about illustrating “Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper!”, a re-telling of an African folk tale about a group of animals intimidated by a posturing cave monster.
In picture books, I find drawing animals very liberating. Concerns of fashion, age and sometimes gender come second to the expression and presence of a character in a story. The sky is the limit. Animals can exhibit super-human expressions and somehow get away with it.
When I teach, I tell my students to draw! You learn by doing - by drawing and painting as often as you can. You can’t learn technique simply by looking over somebody’s shoulder. Draw every day without waiting for inspiration. Combine that skill with a generous helping of perseverance and the rest will take care of itself.