Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Interview with Johanna van der Sterre

I recently had a chance to connect with my friend, the talented Illustrator Johanna van der Sterre.  I asked a few questions about her life as an illustrator, emerging writer, and mother, and she graciously answered my questions and shared a bit about herself.



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!

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