To be a children’s book illustrator was my original dream. It was the Crayola® of the profession as far as I was concerned.
When it came time for me to gather up my portfolio after art school and begin the journey on my yellow brick road to children’s book stardom, I came up against the comment that my work was “ too sophisticated for children’s books”. This comment occurred more than once and I was always somewhat baffled by it. Especially because everyone else who looked at my work said, “You’d be great for children’s books!”.
As my career progressed I did eventually get some work in the children’s book market but usually in the form of textbooks or music books for kids. Not until many years later was I able to break into the hallowed world of picture books.
I’ve tried over the years to figure out what is was about my style that held publishers back from taking more of a chance on me; did my work look too old fashioned? Did I not show that I could be consistent with a character? I know my work isn’t graphic or quirky. It doesn’t have a childlike simplicity or cinematic realism. It doesn’t have that special something that wins artists Caldecott awards or entrance into the Society of Illustrators Children’s Shows.
Maybe I’ll have to pull out my Purple Crayon and start dreaming again… that is if the Wild Things don’t get me first.
©Janice Fried 2012