Interview with Georgia Graham - Presenter SCBWI Collaboration Conference Oct. 1

Not many people (except Canadians) can say this next sentence: I first met Gerogia Graham at her tree farm in central rural Alberta when I drove through a late May snow storm to get to the Young Alberta Book Society meeting. Yes, a late May (the month of May) snow storm! I blogged about my adventures and the high risk life of a children's author.

Georgia is an amazing artist and painter, she's been hooked on chalk pastels since grade four. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art in 1982 and first used her art to entertain children in her sunday school class. Her published works include "A Team Like No Other""The Saturday Appaloosa""Bibi and the Bull","The Strongest Man This Side of Cremona""Tiger's New Cowboy Boots", and more. Here's an example of some of her other work. 

Lots of Barred Rocks 

Illustrating is largely self-taught. What tools did you use to learn your craft and develop your talent?

For me, illustrating was self taught in the way I was a compulsive drawer as a child. My dad would bring "free" paper home from work. I did take Visual Communications at the Alberta College of Art for four years but the instructors never really "taught" a class. They would give an assignment and then they would critique the finished work. The most important tool for me as an illustrator is time -time to draw.     

Illustrating is a solitary pursuit and involves a lot of time in the Sasquatch cave (or what I like to call butt in chair time). How do you stay connected with the illustrating community and how does that help you develop as an illustrator? 

Yes, it is a solitary life. I meet up with other children's authors and illustrators a few times a year at Young Authors Conferences. When I'm at a school, waiting for the children to file into the library for my presentation, I often flip through books that the librarian has displayed. And once in a while I go to see what is new at a book store. That helps me to see what the trends are and what there is too much of. Reading articles in art magazines helps me to develop as an illustrator. 

How has attending conferences contributed to your development as an illustrator and your professional career? Why is it important for the aspiring illustrator to attend conferences?

I have never attended a conference but only presented or instructed. But I still get to talk to other authors and illustrators at conferences and hear their unique journeys and their advice which is extremely valuable.

Was there a turning point in your career when you went from trying to be an illustrator to 'wow, I'm really doing this and making it happen'?

My first two books were sort of "dead ends" that for years did not lead to other books. A steady flow of books began with my third book, and at that time I began to do steady school visits as well. Without the school visits, I never could have made a living. 

"Man cannot live on royalties alone." - Georgia Graham 

True dat, Georgia, true dat!

Georgia Graham will be presenting at the Collaboration Conference October 1st, 2011. Registration is now open and closes August 25th. Contact Pamela for more information or check the SCBWI West Canada web site.