A very special guest joins us this week at FIVE ON FRIDAY, award winning illustrator Layne Johnson. Layne and I have collaborated on a picture book to be released in 2010 called Off Like the Wind! The Story of the Pony Express. As an author I couldn’t be luckier to have such a supremely talented artist to work with and I’m happy he’s agreed to share his thoughts on creating his art today. And as a special treat, he’s given us a special sneak peek at some of the art for our new book. See below.
When I was 15, I did a small painting for an article in a local magazine. It was a story about a cougar. That story was a world that the author brought to life for the reader. When I realized that I had the same power – and to expand upon other stories and other worlds – I realized that illustration would be a dream for me to fulfill.
What book or artist do you feel influenced you the most?
When I finally entered the world of children’s illustration, I’d have to say that Chris Van Allsburg’s evocative, ethereal books caught my eye the most. He’s a well rounded storyteller/artist.
What book or books are you currently reading or have recently read that you’d recommend to others?
Being an illustrator, I often listen to audio books while I work. I’m currently listening to C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters which is satirically enlightening. Read by John Cleese – it’s very entertaining. One book I read a while back which I would recommend to others is The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. To me it suspends belief, which is a quality I like in picture books. Unfortunately, most people either love or hate this book.
If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring illustrators, what would it be?
Whether writing or illustrating – Tear Up the Road! This is a journey and road worth traveling. Be passionate about what you do. Don’t talk about an idea, wish, etc. . . DO it! Dig into a story and tighten it but don’t get hung up polishing your little darlings. Don’t get stuck on one story idea or one painting idea. Move on to new projects. In this experience, you will grow and your craft will be honed.
Can you share with us your next project or any information about the next book you’re working on?
I’m about to start the art for The Declaration of Independence from A to Z with Pelican. After that, a sequel to Christmas for a Kitten for Albert Whitman, and after that a book about Heaven for Zonderkidz authored by Anne Graham Lotz – daughter of Billy Graham.
Here is a sneak peek at the art for Off Like the Wind! The Story of the Pony Express