Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 20, 2012

Illustrator Saturday – Gabrielle Grimard

Gabrielle Grimard has been drawing since she was a very young child. Born in Montreal, she studied Fine Arts at Concordia University. She began her career as a muralist, painting numerous walls in commercial buildings in the Montreal area. Between 1998 and 2001, Gabrielle had many solo shows in the Plateau Mont Royal area of Montreal.

In 2001, after giving birth to her first child, Gabrielle began her career as an illustrator. She has illustrated numerous books in Canada and the US. Most recently, Blanche-Neige was a finalist for “Best Album 2009” by Enfants-Québec Magazine. Gabrielle also illustrated The Princess and the Three Knights for Zondervan, which has 46,000 copies in print.

Here is Gabrielle and her process:
First I draw the whole book on 2 small pages. In French I call that un chemin de fer.(What would be the name in English? Hum…) That part of the work help me to place my illustrations in a way that it’s dynamic to read. For me it’s the rhythmic part of the process.
When I’m done with that part (It can take 2 days to do…) I take each spread individually and I sketch them with a lot more details. It’s the second part that I send to the publisher to look at.
When everything is approve, I transfer the sketches on my watercolour board with a small blue paper that disappear with water. It’s my magic paper!
After I finish the drawing with a bit with hb pencil or 2h pencil.
For the color part, It’s a mix of watercolour and gouache that I start with. Watercolour for transparency and gouache for the side of brightness that watercolour can’t have. And than I finish with oil paint for the deep side that watercolour and gouache don’t have.
After all that, I finish little details with wood colour pencil.  And I let it dry!
A spread can take me between 3 days and a complete week just for the final part. For the moment It’s the way I work.
I’m an old fashion illustrator but I’m trying to learn Photoshop and new ways to work. Maybe in few years I will tell you a different story!

What type of art classes did take at Concordia University?

I was in Fine Art. I was doing painting, ceramics, and sculpture and drawing class. But Concordia was really a non-pictorial University, those years I felt lost in my own way because what was talking to me in art was the pictorial side of Art.

What was your first picture book?

Cinderella. (Cendrillon at Imagine edition)

When and how did that happen?

They saw my work in the book of the association of illustrators of Québec and they call me!

What was the first piece of art you did and got paid for?

My aunt Eliane buys me two illustrations of three fairies in water, and the other was a dark princess with a castle in background when I was 14. IT was a watercolor piece and I remember she was telling me that she was so proud to be the first buyer of my Art… But as a professional illustrator I was hire to illustrate a school book when I was 25.

Do you feel that you developed you skills at Concordia University or do you feel you found you style after college?

Not  in University. I mostly did it by myself. I was buying children book and look how the illustrator seem to work. I start to do that at 9 years old when I first felt in love with the Art of Sarah Kay. I rent all the books they had in my library again and again and I never read any of the stories! I was just looking for hours and hours the beautiful drawings she was doing trying to catch the way she was doing it!

Tell us a little bit about illustrating murals and how that happened once you graduated?

I was working in a coffee shop when I was studying Art to pay my rent. One day the owner asks me to paint something for Easter in the window of the coffee shop. And when I finish, other owner saw my painting and ask me to do other stuff in their coffees, stores, restaurants and commercial center. And then I start murals in those places and from those murals came the murals in the children rooms. After two years of that Easter painting I was not working anymore in that coffee shop because I had to many jobs with murals. I also had to hire two friends to work with me.


What type of paint and other materials do you use to when doing a picture book?

I use watercolor, gouache, oil, and all kind of pencils

Has your style changed over the years? Materials?

When I first start I was just using watercolor but it was not enough dark ou bright so I had to compose with different materiel in order  to get the effect that I look for. I just never use acrylic paint. I don’t like the fact that it dry so fast.

It sounds like having children made you decide to illustrate children’s books.  Did they provide the inspiration you needed?

They are a good help when I need to figure the size of my characters with their age.  They help me to remember what children like in illustrations. Because sometime I think I see it more like an adult!

How many books have you illustrated?

From just cover to a complete book maybe around  50.

What was the first piece of art you did and got paid for?

My aunt Eliane buys me two illustrations of three fairies in water, and the other was a dark princess with a castle in background when I was 14. IT was a watercolor piece and I remember she was telling me that she was so proud to be the first buyer of my Art… But as a professional illustrator I was hire to illustrate a school book when I was 25.

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Always! In different magazines, books, internet… I do a lot of research. It’s a part where I enjoy seeing all the possibilities for the book. The hardest part is to choose after!

Of the picture books that you have published, which one is your favorite?

Hum… Snow White was my first really favorite album and now , I also like Today, mayb, Fatima et les voleurs de clémentines and La magie de l’hiver…

Do you think you being French Canadian has provided you more opportunities?

No.  But I can’t compare…

Have you done any illustrations for Newspapers and Magazines?

Yes, for Canadian living and some others…

I see you are represented by Painted Words.  How did you connect with them?

An illustrator that I really enjoy the work made the connection between me and Lori. He was already working with her and likes it!

Can you tell us a little bit about the agency and how they work with you?

They make my work visible in USA.

Do you feel you get more work by having an agent?

Yes.  It’s a great addition. Its more possibilities.

Did you set up a studio in your home?

I have my studio on the second floor of my barn. Everything’s there; phone, computer, and all my paint. I have a view on the forest and sometimes I watch roe deer passing by. I love my view!

What do you do on the marketing end of things to get your artwork noticed?

I try to go in more show of illustrators and I try to participate more with my association and all the project of publicities they have.

Do you think the economy has had an impact on the amount of work being offered to illustrators?

Yes I can see it!

Do you try to spend a certain amount of hours each day illustrating?

I try to work from 8am to 3pm every day of the week. But if my work is a little bit late I start working the night and the week-end too.

Have you ever thought of writing and illustrating your own book?

Yes, I have a story in mind since few months. It’s the first time I ever feel writing.

Do you use Photoshop?  How and where do you use it? I use Photoshop only to clean the illustration.  I have to take some class to learn about that entire world!

Do you own a graphic tablet? No, this is the next step! I feel I have to know how to work with that if I want to stay update. I’m a bit old fashion!

What are you working on now?

I just finish this morning an Inuit Album that will come out in March at Annick Press. The title is When I was eight.  I start a new book next week. It’s a story that happens during the night. This will be a new challenge for me! I really don’t know where I’m going …

Thank you Gabrielle for sharing your process and wonderful illustrations.  Please let us know when La Magie De L’Hiver Le Petit Gnouf  or any of your other books come out in English.  I would love to have one on my bookshelf that I could read.  You can visit Gabrielle on her facebook page:

Please take a minute to leave Gabrielle comment.  Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wow Gabrielle! Your work is amazing! I love the colors and the grace of your lines in your illustrations. I am seeking to be an illustrator and work like yours inspires me so much. Good luck in all your en devours. Thanks for sharing your story and the beauty of your talents!


  2. Really enjoyed your illustrations, Gabrielle, and learning how you have developed your fine talent. Especially like the way you depict expressions in people’s faces and love the illustrations with carrots — the shading really nice. Thanks for sharing in this interview!


  3. Absolutely enchantingly beautiful. Thanks so much for posting this. I just love Illustrator Saturday.


  4. i love to my sweet #mother live forever


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