an interview with illustrator Joan Waites . . . .

Filling the Creative Well

Joan Waites, award-winning illustrator of more than 45 books for children, has a new book coming out from Pelican on September 6. This will be the first picture book that she has both written and illustrated. An Artist’s Night Before Christmas can be pre-ordered from all the usual places online. There is such a short window for Christmas books, I encourage you all to order now! So here is another link, and another one!

“Follow Henri, the French artist mouse living in a French country house, as he tries to paint the perfect Christmas gift for a very special friend. When Henri begins to doubt his own ability, a certain Christmas visitor, jolly and round with black boots and a red suit, steps in to reassure Henri about what’s truly important. With a bit of guidance, Henri discovers the greatest gift he could give: friendship. A story of lost confidence and renewed determination, this picture book introduces young artists to real art terms, materials, and techniques, as well as to art’s masters, cast as Henri’s colleagues and friends.”

I’m so glad to share Joan’s creative process with you.  She has studied art at George Washington University, The Corcoran Museum School of Art and Design, the Maryland College of Art and Design, and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Joan is a talented artist, a gifted art teacher, and is the long-time Illustrator Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI. Take a look at her Purple Crayon Studio where she teaches art enrichment classes for children ages 6 – 12.

CG: Welcome Joan! Describe your earliest memories of yourself creating something.

JW: I  can’t recall specifically, but I was always creating something with construction paper, crayons, and Play-Doh. I also loved to make little dioramas in shoe boxes…in particular, a miniature veterinarian’s office (complete with red food coloring for blood), where my plastic animals would receive treatment. This was during my short-lived phase of wanting to be a vet!

CG:  What does your workspace look like? How does it reflect and enhance your creativity?

JW: I recently re-painted and reorganized my studio, which is a room above my kitchen in my house. It’s now painted in a light gray with white trim, white sheer curtains with some navy accents. I found a lot of cast off furniture that I repainted white to house books and materials.  I now try and keep it uncluttered and simple, but it doesn’t always stay that way! Having things more organized has helped to make me more productive, as I’m focusing on actual work instead of getting distracted by the piles of books, art supplies, and reference material that used to line the floor.

CG: Is there a book, song, or work of art that you return to again and again to refill the creative well?

JW: If I’m stumped on how to start a new project, I always look through my collection of picture books to spark an idea or a particular color scheme.

CG: Do you have a go-to activity that rejuvenates your creative spirit when you are feeling the well dry up?

JW: Taking a walk is always helpful, but I like to take some time out to create something that is non-children’s book related in one of my mixed media art journals or sketchbooks.

CG: Thank you, Joan! One last thing– Where can people can find you?

Are you an author or illustrator who would you like to share your creative process? Send me a note.