Jim Burke is the illustrator of Naming Liberty, written by Jane Yolen, which was a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category. I had the chance to interview him for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour, which you can read more about here. I've interviewed several authors before, but this is my first illustrator! It's great to get to know more about the process, etc. I've included two illustrations Jim's done in this post.
Have you been interested in art/illustrating your entire life, or did it develop later on? What encouraged you to work on it as a career?
My parent's knew I'd be an artist when I was three years old. I won "class artist" in kindergarten and have been drawing ever since. My fifth grade teacher constantly had us writing, then illustrating and putting together books. It felt very natural for me. After high school I went to Syracuse University and majored in illustration. In my Junior year, I had a "children's book" class with John Thompson. He brought in "Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters" that he illustrated, and I nearly fell out of my chair. I knew then that I'd be illustrating picture books. A few years ago, John and I traded paintings, and I now own a painting from that book. It was very meaningful for me.
What illustrators/artists inspire you?
Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Richard Diebenkorn, John Singer Sargent, James McNeil Whistler, Degas, Vuilard, Bonnard.
How closely did you work with Jane Yolen on Naming Liberty?
I like to update Jane with paintings as I'm working (via e-mail) but aside from that, we don't really work together. Jane's stories inspire my work, my mind get's flooded with images when I read her tales.
Do you have a favorite piece of artwork that you've done? Can you describe it?
My favorite two paintings in "Naming Liberty'" : "Batrholdi's Studio" from the full title page spread..in which I tried to capture the stillness of the studio, yet show that it's full of life. And also "Liberty's Nod" when Liberty's head was rolled down the Parisian Street with an ensuing parade. I love sticking little things in works that may not get noticed, such as "Librairie du Mirage" The "Mirage" Bookstore, pertaining to the massive head rolling down the street, nodding to folks as she goes, as well as "Cafe du Desert"--the deserted cafe, because everyone has left to cheer on Liberty.
What is your favorite part of the creation process?
Constructing interesting compositions. Making the shapes harmonious and intriguing.
And finally, what are some of your other interests/hobbies?
Spending time with family. My wife and I have a 2 year old daughter who keeps us very busy. Tennis, skiing, and restoring our Victorian home.
Thanks for stopping by, Jim! Readers, feel free to comment, and check out the other stops on the tour!