Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 27, 2015

Illustrator Saturday – Janet Kusmierski

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Illustrator Janet Kusmierski was the winner of the NJSCBWI Art Show in the Published Illustrator category. She worked at the Whitney Museum, was a motion picture projectionist at Film Forum, interned at the Museum of Modern Art in the Design Department, was Associate Art Director for the Scholastic Book Group in Cartwheel and Club Originals, written and illustrated her own picture book, worked as a freelance book designer, and exhibited her art in many of the top art galleries in New York.

Here is Janet Kusmierski describing her illustration process.

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First I sketch the scene with pencil on vellum. Next I place the sketch as a layer in Adobe Illustrator and then trace/redraw with multi layers.

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Once all of the work is done I delete the sketch layer and I am left with a final piece of work.

How long have you been illustrating?

My entire life, from childhood to adulthood.

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What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

It was a black and white fine art piece.

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Where did you go to college?

Hunter College of the City University of New York, MA
Parsons School of Design and the New School for Social Research, BFA

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What did you study there?

Fine Art/Painting/Art History at Hunter College. I studied Illustration/Fine Art at Parsons and Fine Art/Painting/Art History at Hunter College.

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Do you feel College helped develop your style?

Style develops over time by working but there were many technical skills I learned in school.

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What type of work did you do after you got out of school?

After the Hunter program I wanted to concentrate on painting exclusively. My biography follows.

For employment, I worked at various jobs starting at the Whitney Museum. For example, one of my positions was motion picture projectionist at Film Forum.

Next, I was offered a one year internship at the Museum of Modern Art in the Design Department. My intention was to transition into the field of graphic design.

Scholastic hired me as a Junior Designer in the Book Group, where I remained for 15 years. I designed under Edie Weinberg and Patti Ann Harris in Cartwheel. My last position was Associate Art Director working under Jennifer Rinaldi in Club Originals.

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Did the college you attended help you get work?

Eventually, but it happened over a period of years while employed in other fields.

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Have you seen your work change over the years?

Absolutely, work has changed frequently.

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Somewhere I read that you had been an Art Director? Where was that and how did that come about?

I started at Scholastic in a Junior Design position and upon leaving I was an Associate Art Director in the Book Group.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

While designing books in Cartwheel I was developing my skills in children’s illustration.

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How many picture books have you illustrated?

Three books: Snowman’s Big Job, Scholastic Inc., My Alien Friend, Yeowon Media

  • Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, Childcraft

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Was Snowman’s Big Job with Scholastic your first picture book?

Yes, for Cartwheel Books and Club Originals.

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How did that contract come your way?

I made a pitch to Ken Geist, the Editorial Director of Cartwheel at the time. We worked through many ideas and eventually I was offered a contract. The publication of this book was also guided by Gina Shaw, Editorial Director of the Book Clubs, and Elizabeth Bennett, Editor.

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Do you still create 3-D characters to make your illustrations?

Yes, I will if requested.

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Was Snowman’s Big Job the first book that you wrote and illustrated?

Yes, but the manuscript was rewritten by Elizabeth Bennett. This was a classic example of the collaborative process in publishing. Thank you Elizabeth!

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What has been your biggest success? 

My one person show at Elizabeth Harris Gallery in Chelsea, my 3 children’s books, and most recently the “Winner” prize, 2015, for a published illustrator at the NJSCBWI.

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Have you ever thought about doing a wordless picture book?

I have some ideas but I have not sketched it yet.

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Do you have an artist rep? If so, who and if not, would you like to find one?

I do not have a rep but I am actively seeking representation.

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How did it feel to win the Artist Showcase Award for the best piece by a published illustrator at the NJSCBWI Conference?

I was thunderstruck! I never expected this so it was a complete surprise.

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2015 Winning NJSCBWI Art Show Illustration in the Published Illustrator Category

It looks like you do a lot of book design. How do you find those jobs?

Most of my art direction and book design was done on staff at Scholastic. Freelance design was through referrals.

Currently, I have been illustrating and not designing.

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Have you ever worked with a self-published author? Would you be open to that?

If the idea is interesting I am open to it.

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Do you do any other type of illustration other than for children books?

No, but I am open to other types of work if offered the opportunity.

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Have you ever worked with a self-published author? Would you be open to that?

If the idea is interesting I am open to it.

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Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

Google images are my sources, I then finalize the drawings. Pencil sketches on vellum, then traced into Adobe Illustrator as a final vector.

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Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Yes, for the 3-D sewn figures.

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Do you have a studio in your house?Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

My husband, Greg Singer. He is my toughest critic. Thank goodness for Greg!
Yes, Greg and I have a live/work loft in TriBeCa for many years. We are very lucky to be able to live here.

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Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

Work everyday to keep “the pilot light lit”. Greg’s favorite words of advice.

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Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Additionally, I am beginning to write my own narratives. This is very new and exciting endeavour.
At the moment, I am working on a few collaborations. One with fellow designer, Kevin Callahan and another with a friend Anne Morra.

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Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Yes, since people can puruse your work internationally.

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What are your career goals?

I aspire to create beautiful, meaningful and humorous work.

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What are you working on now?

I have three works in progress in their early stages. That’s all I can say at the moment.

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Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencils on Vellum for sketching and Adobe Illustrator for final art. Yupo paper, Flashe paint, and fabric for my Fine Art pieces.You can see more on my website: http://www.kusmierski.com

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Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

“A line is a dot that went for a walk.”  Paul Klee

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Thank you Janet for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.

To see more of Janet’s work, visit her Web site, http://www.kumierski.com

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Janet. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Hey! Another post! Well done, Kathy. Hope things are quieting down in your neck of the woods.

  2. Your work is fascinating! Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.

  3. Janet!!! How nice to catch up with and your happenings! Fabulous- three books! Yay!

    • Hi Chris! Missed seeing you at this past conference. Next time in NYC please call and perhaps we can catch up.

  4. Such fun illustrations – love it!

    • Thanks for your kind words Joanne! Nice to make your acquaintance online!

  5. Wonderful illustrations! Thank you.


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