Hi Johanna, thanks for doing an interview!
Hi Amanda! Thank you for inviting me onto your blog.
Give us a short background on yourself… your family, your books, your work.
Growing up, my parents let me try lots of things. I ended up going to college for Fine Art and graduate school for Illustration.
My very first projects were for textbooks. I had to work quickly. When I finally got my first little stand-alone books, I enjoyed relaxed deadlines. Having the time to do proper research and put detail into my work made creating fun again.
I have illustrated six short books, four full-length picture books, and many stories in children’s magazines.
I am married with two children.
How would you describe your artwork, in a sentence or two?
It has detail and bold color and it tells a story.
What is your favorite form of expression… words, watercolor, ink, fingerpaint?
I like pencil, paper, watercolors and words. I start out using these tentatively and then build up layers when I feel like I know what I’m doing.
What art has inspired you?
I look at all kinds of picture book art. I see how other artists put a series of paintings together with the text, to tell the story. I am amazed at how other artists’ brains work! Sometimes I think, “Why bother? It’s already been done so well.” Then, after a while, I a strong sense of inspiration grows and I get to work on some thing of my own. And, music inspires me while I work.
Being a mom is a full time job, add art and writing to that and you have your hands full! How do you manage it all?
I tried to do it all, but I couldn’t. I got tired, stressed, and grumpy. Now, I put family first, and the time that is left over is what I have for work. Sometimes, this time doesn’t feel like enough (and I throw a small tantrum in the privacy of my brain.) I do one project at a time.
What do you teach your kids about art? Do you practice it with them, or do you keep your work life separate?
Most days, I don’t have the energy for teaching. But, I do bring out tons of supplies to the kitchen table where my kids and I have fun making whatever we want. I hope that they lose themselves in the process.
I think physical space has a lot to do with inspiration. Do you agree? What spaces drive you, inspire you, or touch your art in some way?
Yes, I agree! I walk through the woods and ideas come to me. I also like to see the neighborhoods in downtown Ithaca, with all the different houses, porches, gardens, sidewalks and bridges. Then, I like to come back home and bring my notebook or sketchbook up onto my bed to draw or write. That takes me back to being a kid again.
Everyone gets rejected in the writing/illustrating business. How do you handle it yourself?
I take the whole rejection in right away. I can’t help it. I might fall into a blue mood for a couple of days, but it never lasts. Once the sting is gone, then I can think about the constructive criticism. The older I get, the more I realize that my work is my own. It has helped so much, too, that I have heard of well-published authors and illustrators who face rejection all the time still.
What are you working on next, and where can we find you or your work/books online?
You can see my artwork online at www.johannavandersterre.com. You can find my books on Amazon by searching for Johanna van der Sterre.
Right now, I am working on art for a Christmas book called “O Holy Night”. It will be available next fall from Concordia publishers. As soon as I have completed that project, I will pick up my notebook again and get back to work on a picture book story of my own.
Thank you so much Johanna. Your work is an inspiration!