Illustrator Jennifer Hansen Rolli answers three questions she has always wanted to be asked in this special CBC Website Feature!
How did you get paired with Erin Russell(co-author of the Dork Diaries) to illustrate her picture book, How to Trick the Tooth Fairy?
With only one picture book out in the world, my agent asked if I would be willing to do two character studies to help pitch another author’s picture book manuscript. It was for a different agent within Writers House who was looking for an illustrator that could handle creating characters. Honestly, I was dumbfounded that they asked me. I still believe it was because I was new and totally available. They only requested pencil drawings and there was zero guarantee that I would end up being the illustrator for the book. I was realistic and didn’t believe I would get the project…nonetheless, I was thrilled to get my work in front of a few more decision making eyes! I gave it my all and submitted full color, oil painted illustrations, basically final art. Lucky for me, Erin and the editor were sold.
After illustrating books of your own, how was it different to illustrate someone else’s story?
First off, the hardest part for me was already finished. I do love writing, but only more recently have I discovered how much so…whereas, I’ve been painting and drawing most of my life. It takes me quite a while to smooth out a picture book manuscript, illustrating comes more naturally. Also, I often think in pictures and I sketch along the way when writing. Sometimes it is hard to let go of those images, even when the words take another path. Working so close to a project, it can be difficult to edit yourself. When Erin’s hilarious manuscript was set before me, it was freeing to envision the illustrations without any previous editing baggage. Another big plus was that I was able to get a third book out much quicker, I am still currently working on my 4th. Fingers crossed, I am offered the opportunity again, it was a blast bringing someone else’s words and characters to life!
How did you settle on painting your illustrations in oil?
I love the vast array of mediums used in picture book art. But for some reason, when I set out to propose my first picture book, I thought digital was the way to make myself look current. My background is graphic design and illustration, but long before that, my father taught me how to paint with oils. To this day, I still make paintings that sell in galleries. My first editor looked at the fine art on my website and asked me why I abandoned hand painting my illustrations for digital. She preferred the color palette and texture of my paintings, the digital was quite garish, void of neutrals. She was curious to see how my fine art painting would translate to illustration. She asked me to do a character study and a spread in oils. When my agent and I brought her the art, we all breathed a big sigh of relief. Especially me…the painting flowed much easier than the digital art. Thus far, I have painted on dark craft paper. This carries over from tinting my canvas for my fine art. I love the all over warmth it adds but I’m ready to experiment with some new directions.
About Jennifer Hansen Rolli
Jennifer Hansen Rolli grew up with lots of siblings who were always waiting around corners with a trick or two up their sleeves. Today she lives with her own pranking family in Newtown, Pennsylvania (which is really a very old town). She is the author and illustrator of the picture books Just One More and Claudia & Moth.