Okay, I confess I do seem to have an Australia bias at the moment with these interviews! Maybe the universe is telling me I need to visit my final continent! Jennifer Reid is a 12×12 buddy and has her first picture book coming out soon, so I wanted to help get the word out and give my blog readers an opportunity to know more about her.
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[JR] I’m actually an author and separately an illustrator. I did not illustrate my first picture book myself, which is due to be published later this year; I was too much of a ‘chicken’ for that. I have illustrated picture books as gifts for family. People also commission my images for canvases, cushions and even, jewelry.
My aim this year is to illustrate my second picture book myself. I have started the process, so I’ll just keep plodding along with it.
[JM] Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived influenced your work?
[JR] I am from Sydney, Australia. I absolutely love my city, but I have also had the great privilege and good fortune to have visited some other amazing cities… like New York, Paris, London and Dubai. I think every one of my life experiences influence my work – whether it be where I live, where I holiday, the people I love, or work with, or randomly meet. Life is such a fabulous adventure, isn’t it?!
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[JR] I have loved writing and creating art since I was a little girl. My mum tells me I have loved books since I was a toddler, and she says I started reading when I was 3 years old….not sure if she’s got the dates right, but suffice to say, I still love books!
The sad thing is, as I got older and finished school, I began to hide my creativity from the world. Instead of being something I was proud of, I felt ashamed that I would even consider my work to be good enough to share with the world. So I hid, or at some stages of my life, stopped creating altogether.
But then in 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, at the age of 39 years old… although a cliché, it literally changed my life. I am one of the blessed ones, who 5 years after a cancer diagnosis, am still here to tell my story.
After facing the reality of my own mortality and realizing how absolutely mind-blowing and precious this thing called “life” is, I no longer apologize for pursuing my creative passions. Instead, I now embrace my creativity and acknowledge that it is part of who I am as a person.
I will continue creating for the rest of my days.
[JM] Go Jennifer! Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
[JR] In terms of my writing, I am a primary teacher, so I love reading children’s picture books; therefore, I also love writing them. However, I love writing in other genres too. I enjoy writing for business, as well as blogging. I’m also currently writing a historical fiction novel, based on my own family heritage and my parents’ migration experience. In a few weeks, I’m actually going on an overseas research trip for this novel, which is very exciting.
In my art, I love pencil and ink drawing. I then usually colour my ink drawings digitally. However, I also love experimenting with watercolours, acrylic paints, coloured pencils and charcoal.
[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?
[JR] I love traveling, although I haven’t done near as much as I dream about doing. So, exotic places and destinations are often a common theme in my work. I am mesmerized by nature as well, so I also focus on lots of animals and flowers in my work.
[JM] What does your workspace look like?
I have a workspace that I’m absolutely in love with, and secretly dislike sharing with anyone else in my household. However, I do manage to allow my family to use my art studio at times. After all, “sharing is caring”, as my kids remind me … this is what I always told them as they were growing up!
[JM] you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?
Pencil and black ink drawing, scanned and coloured digitally using Adobe Illustrator.
[JM] Tell us about your debut picture book due out soon?
[JR] I’m so excited that my first picture book will be coming out soon. It has been a lengthy process, but I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my amazingly talented illustrator, who lives in your magnificent New York City. Her name is Victoria Usova, and you should check out her work here… http://www.victoriausova.com/
My book is called Mrs T’s Cranky Pants, and it is based on my own cancer experience, as well as my recent experience of losing a loved one to the dreaded disease. The purpose of my book is to give children (and adults for that matter) hope for the future, even after a devastating loss. The theme is sad, but it is a story filled with life and love and there is a positive ending to look forward to. Victoria’s illustrations are soft watercolours, which help to tell a difficult story in such a gentle and beautiful way…they are truly heartwarming.
[JM] What organizations/groups do you belong to help further your career?
- NSW Institute of Teachers
- The NSW Writer’s Centre
- Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
- Children’s Book Council of Australia.
[JM] What art do you have hanging in your house?
[JR] I have so much art hanging on my walls, that is forever changing… a bit like life. 🙂
- Purchased art
- Family photographs
- Artwork by my children, including collages, face masks, paintings
- A painting by my niece
- An artistic photograph given to me as a gift from one of my students
- My own artwork
I treasure all of them!
Five Fun Ones to Finish? [JM] What word best sums you up?
[JM] If you could live anywhere for a few months, where would you go?
[JR] I’d spend half the time in New York City and the other half in Paris.
[JM] Great choices! What’s your go-to snack or drink to keep the creative juices flowing?
[JR] I love chocolate, and used to be solely a tea drinker, but now love coffee too …but it has to be good coffee, not the instant kind. I love chai lattes, and I love my daily green smoothies, which I whizz up with my new Vitamix blender (a recent Mother’s Day gift).
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[JR] No pets…sadly, when I was a child, every pet I owned died quite tragically (one cat drowned, a dog got run over, birds escaped from their cage, fish jumped out of their bowl)…after which I would cry for days and days. So my parents made a rule …. NO MORE PETS … and I eventually talked myself into not wanting a pet either, as I wanted to avoid the grief of losing one. I know, this is even sadder as I write it, but it’s true. So I have the same rule in my own home… my poor kids. I tell them they can do whatever they want when they get their own place.
Oh, that is just too sad. 🙁 [JM] Which literary character did you want to be when you were a child?
[JR] Alice in Wonderland … I’ve always dreamt of having adventures to new lands!
[JM] Where can we find/follow you and your work?
Thank you so much for sharing your courageous and creative life with us, Jennifer. I wish you great success with MRS T’S CRANKY PANTS and with your determination to illustrate your second book yourself!