Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 12, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Jill Weber

JILL WEBER doubles as a children’s book illustrator and designer. She began her education at Rhode Island School of Design and completed her BFA at The New Hampshire Institute of Art, where she taught children’s book illustration. Jill collaborated with author Julie Salamon onThe Christmas Tree, a New York Times best seller. Their newest collaborations include, Cat in the City (Dial Books 2014) and Mutt’s Promise (Dial books 2016).

Other works include—Christmas Tree Farm (Holiday House 2006), a Jr. Library Guild Selection and a New York Time’sChristmas pick in 2006. Even Higher: A Rosh Hashanah Story (Holiday House 2009) written by esteemed author Eric Kimmel received an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award. The Story of Hanukkah (Holiday House 2011) by David Adler, was a New York Times holiday pick and the original art was on exhibit at the Danforth Museum Nov. 2011 to Jan. 2012. When Jill is not at her drawing board, she can be found in her garden.

HERE IS JILL DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

How long have you been illustrating?

More than 40 years

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

Right out of school, I worked for an independent publisher as an assistant to the trade, college and children’s department. I did an illustration for the cover for a series on composers and the composer was Delius. I have to say this job was the best education I had.

Have you always lived in New England?

I grew up in CT commuting distance from New York City. And moved to NYC right out of school. I moved here to NH with my husband (actually we were married here) to live what Helen and Scott Nearing called the “Good Life”. We were hippies determined to live a self-sustaining life. We had chickens, pigs, and milk goats and then a baby. All these years later, we still grow our own food, but have a dog instead of farm animals.

Did you go to college to study art?

I went to Rhode Island School of Design right out of high school. But didn’t finish and was in New York working my first job at 20. I would go to a drawing class to get out of my studio at the New Hampshire Institute of Art which ended up getting its accreditation and I decided to finish my BFA almost 30 years later. It was such a wonderful gift to go back and now I am an adjunct illustration teacher there.

Did the school help you find illustration work?

No, but in all fairness to RISD, I did not graduate, and I have been working all this time.

Do you feel art school influenced your illustrating style?

Yes, but also my father had been spoon feeding me art and illustration since I was a child. I also feel that different projects have called for different style solutions, but at the end of the day—it is still me.

Was Who Was John F. Kennedy published in 2004 your first illustrated book?

I did a series of fun Penny Whistle activity books which led me to The Christmas Tree, a NY Times bestseller and then got my first call for a bona fide picture book, called Harp’O Gold for Holiday House.

What type of illustrating were you doing before that first book?

In the 90’s I did a lot of gift books and cookbooks, sprinkled with educational work.

Were you excited to illustrate The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’Engle in 2011?

Who doesn’t love Madeleine L’Engle!

How did that job come about?

I have a sneaky suspicion my editor from Holiday House might have recommended me.

I see you have published a few books with Holiday House. How many books have you published with them?

9 or 10?

How did those opportunities come your way?

I used to take my portfolio to New York a few times every year and usually a project would follow. I do feel that I have maintained relationships along the way which   have led to these wonderful opportunities. Some I have initiated with the author.

Are Mutt’s Promise and Cat in the City middle grade books?

Yes, they are middle grade books, written by Julie Salamon and published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Did you do black and white interior illustrations for those books?

Cat in the City was full color and Mutt’s Promise was black and white.

How long did it take you to illustrate your next picture book, Pippa’s Passover Plate?

Roughly 3-4 months

How did that contract come your way?

Vivian, the author and I are in a critique group together and she brought this charming manuscript to our group. I was so sure this is just what Holiday House was looking for that I asked if I could bring it with me to New York when I went to have lunch with my editor. She bought it on the spot!

How many books have you illustrated?

Several dozen

Do you have an artist rep. to represent your illustrations? If so, who and how long. If not, would you like to find one?

I do not have a rep but I am open to it. The art of getting work has changed significantly over the years.

Have you done any book covers?

I have. I have also worked as a designer.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

It would depend entirely on the circumstances.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I have, but such a long time ago. I believe it was Pearson, D.C. Heath and Brown Network, though I am not certain who is still in business.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

I have illustrated for Cobblestone which used to be located here in Peterborough New Hampshire, Cricket, Ladybug and Faces.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

What a wonderful idea!

What do you think is your biggest success?

I think my biggest financial success was The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon published by Random House, which now has a new life with Open Road Media. The picture book that has keeps on giving is The Story of Hanukkah by David Adler, published by Holiday House. That art lead to a solo original art show at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Massachusetts and just came out as a board book. But I consider my most successful achievement is being able to live the life I want and doing the work I love.

What is your favorite medium to use?

My new favorite medium is acrylic gouache.

Has that changed over time?

It’s a relatively new product, but I have used acrylics and gouache so I consider this the perfect marriage.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

This last year, I have been so busy that I am trying to just keep up! When not quite so busy, I keep a sketchbook handy.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Always!

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes and no. I have mixed feelings. Of course, it is helpful to have a website presence, but I am not sure it is how I get the work. It does make research easier. And I love keeping a visual scrapbook on Pinterest.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Though my method is generally traditional, Photoshop is a wonderful aid. I may use it to rearrange compositions, add a pattern to a traditional piece that I have scanned in or even make last minute corrections. At the risk of sounding old fashioned, there is no replacement for standing in front of a beautiful painting, rather than viewing it on line. Or getting dirty with paint. We are missing the tactile element of making art. I love getting my hands dirty in the garden and getting dirty in my studio. It is a sensory experience that doesn’t happen in digital art.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Not yet! I am going to treat myself to an IPad Pro when I finish this book.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

To write AND illustrate my own book.

What are you working on now?

A really fun Hanukkah picture book.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I love Strathmore 400 and 500 series papers, vellum finish. I am trying to convince this new generation of students that quality paper and quality of paint matters. The pigments are richer. I shop at Blicks online, but miss the local art supply store where I bumped into new mediums and could actually touch the paper.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

There is no question that how I came to be an illustrator, might not be the best way now.  I worked two staff jobs in publishing before I went freelance. It was there, that I met almost everyone I have worked with over the years. I do know that making lots of work, posting often, sending postcards, learning your audience and most of all nurturing relationships are key ingredients.

Thank you Jill for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Jill’s work, you can visit her at: Website: https://www.frajilfarms.com/ 

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Jill. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Responses

  1. Seeing the doggie in the first photo and then learning you were my friend Vivian Kirkfield’s illustrator (and took the ms yourself to the editor!)–I’m loving this post and the lidlit world today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! Everyone has a unique story which is why it is so important to just try! This is the last photo with my sweet Sadie who left us this year at the age of 14! (I know have Loony Lottie) . Anyway it was a great working experience with both my editor and Vivian since we had such a deadline to meet for this Passover. How lucky am I to call Vivian my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We may be friends, neighbors, and critique buddies (does that sound a bit like friends, Romans, and countrymen?), but I learned more about Jill and her work from this awesome interview. Thanks so much for sharing your journey and your process, Jill…and thank you, Kathy, for giving us all the opportunity to learn more about this fabulous artist! And YAY for PIPP…only a few more weeks before she scurries into bookstores…and hopefully into the hearts of children everywhere.

    Like

    • Thank you Vivian for sharing your world. You are a rockstar!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your illustrations so much. Just the other day I was in a chocolate store in the town where I live and saw “The Story of Hannukah” and kept looking through it and loving the illustrations. So excited to read this now. I can’t wait to read “Cat in the City” and also to see your new book with Vivian Kirkfield :))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely stuff. I love the gaggle of rabbis. So fun. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Did you notice any similarity between the gaggle of Rabbis and the gaggle of Santas?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hadn’t noticed, but I do now. Very cute.

        Like

  5. Wow – what beautiful illustrations! So much detail to drink in. Really enjoyed this inspiring post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Soooo interesting when one can’t draw a decent stick figure 🤷‍♀️Thank you ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that phrase : “The art of getting work…” very nice illustrations thank you for sharing !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Freelancing definitely has it’s ups and downs! Often you have too much work or none at all.

      Like

  8. Jill, I enjoyed your interview very much and always love to see the “process,” behind other artists works. Vivian is in a critique group I attend and I was able to see your illustrations in Pippa’s Passover Plate, before and after printing. I love your style and use of bright colors. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! Then you know how lovely it is to work with Vivian!

      Like

  9. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, what a great interview. The background story for Pippa’s Passover Plate is just lovely. Your artwork is fabulous Jill!

    Liked by 1 person


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