Five Questions for T2 Artist, JANET McDONNELL

1.) How did your career as a children’s illustrator get started?

Well, I took a zigzagged path to illustration.  I started out as an editor and author at a small educational publisher called The Child’s World.  I was drawing and painting in my free time and taking classes at The American Academy of Art on the weekends.  (I had minored in art in college.)  Eventually a larger company bought The Child’s World, and we were all laid off.  The former head of The Child’s World decided to start up a new imprint, and she asked me to write some books for her.  I showed her my art and asked her if she’d let me try my hand at illustrating too.  Much to my delight, she said yes!

 2.) What is your favorite illustration project to date?

 I’m not sure if this counts because it’s not a completed project yet, but I recently totally reworked a book dummy for a story I wrote called “Miss Chicken and the Noisy Nuisance.”  I tried it out on a 1st grade class, and they really yukked it up in all the right places.  It was so rewarding!

 3.) Name two of your favorite children’s books.  One past.  One present.

 I love everything by William Steig, but especially “Brave Irene.”  My favorite new book is “Dogs Don’t Do Ballet,” written by Anna Kemp and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.  Hilarious.

 4.) Who and what influences your artwork?

 I recently watched a very inspiring video of an interview with the brilliant illustrator, Pascal Campion.  He talked about trying to capture a moment of emotion, how that motivates all of his illustration.  That’s my ultimate goal.  I think of the kids who will be looking at my art and what I want them to feel.

 5.) Describe your perfect Saturday night.

 Chicago is such a great city – so much to do!  One Saturday night we took our kids and a couple of their friends into the Portage Theater, one of those beautiful old movie palaces, and saw some Buster Keaton movies accompanied by live music.  Then we had ice cream.  That was pretty perfect.

Illustration by Janet McDonnell