I was born in Montreal in 1977 and started to draw not long after my birth. In kindergarten I was popular because I could draw princesses with long, spiral curls. Then in high school, girls asked me to draw their dream guys in their agendas. I became very talented at drawing muscles and chest hair, which came in handy later on when I illustrated my book Le Grand Antonio. On the other hand, I’m still pretty bad at knowing how to use an agenda properly.
Later on, I studied graphic design at CEGEP*, during which I figured out that I wanted to do illustration. After my first book, Catalogue des Gaspilleurs, I wrote and illustrated more than 30 others. One of my books, La clé à molette, won the Governor General’s Literary Award in the illustration category, and since then I’ve become really bigheaded and brag all the time.
I live in Montreal with my two daughters, my husband, my cats, and a few spiders. I’m currently working on diverse projects for publication in Quebec, English-speaking Canada, and in the United States. My books have been translated into a dozen languages. I’m hoping to live a long life so that I can make many, many more books, because I still have many, many more ideas.
Questions & Answers: KIDS
Are you rich?
No, but I’m not poor either. I’m ok.
Where do you work?
I have a studio above my house. My studio is full of stuffed animals and teacups (I drink a lot of tea) and often my cats come visit me. While they’re there, they walk on my keyboard, which results in things like aèvponwu^4qvènjv.
What inspires you?
I’m very curious and I like observing what happens around me. My kids, their friends, my neighbours, animals in my back-alley, bugs: all of which give me ideas for characters and personalities. I’m interested in unusual people and animals. I’m attracted to everything that is strange, different, or funny.
I also like to read a lot and I read all kinds of things: novels, comic books, magazines, kids’ books, and non-fiction, all of which expose me to new universes. It helps me invent ideas of my own later on.
I often have my best ideas at night, just before falling asleep. It’s like my head puts itself into ‘sleep’ mode, in which all the weirdest ideas are allowed. It’s good for creativity, but not for sleep: I often have to turn on my light to write down my ideas…
How did you start doing this job?
I studied graphic design at school. Graphic design is a discipline in which you have to try to communicate a message using images and fonts. Graphic designers make, for example, posters, websites, books, magazines, and ads. In the graphic design program we did a lot of illustration, and I liked it.
When I got out of school I didn’t have any clients; I was still an unknown beginner. So I met with professional illustrators who told me: “Develop your style! Clients like to hire illustrators with well-defined styles”. Since I didn’t yet have my own style, I worked on it. I invented imaginary clients and made posters for them. This allowed me to practice drawing. To make it more fun, I invented funny clients and strange products that didn’t exist.
When I had about 20 posters, I put them on the walls of my bedroom and thought: “These would make a funny children’s book”. So I made a photocopy of my book and sent it to an editor called Les 400 coups. Then I waited and waited…a really long time! And one day – surprise! – the editor told me that she loved my funny posters, and Les 400 coups decided to make them into a book! That book was Catalogue des Gaspilleurs.
I liked this experience so much that I kept making books after that. And you know the rest…
How do you make your drawings?
In the beginning, I made my illustrations with acrylic paint on cardboard. Later on, I started to draw on a computer, with a special graphics tablet. I draw directly on my screen, using the software program Photoshop.
I start over often. One, three, sometimes even 10 times! It’s very rare that I achieve what I want to right away. I make mistakes, I restart, I erase, I restart again…it’s important to learn to accept making mistakes if we want to become good at something.
What were you like when you were little?
I was very curious; I liked observing insects and nature. I loved animals and weird creatures. I did arts & crafts or I looked for salamanders under rocks in the woods. I also loved comic books and funny books. I read all the time!
I loved books by Roald Dahl. He wrote really funny books with bizarre creatures, like repugnant giants and witches disguised as normal women. His bad guys were really bad! And his children were really resourceful.
Roald Dahl’s books were illustrated by Quentin Blake. I have a lot of admiration for these two creators.
What advice would you give to a kid who wants to become an illustrator?
Draw all the time! Drawing anything and everything. Look at your favourite books and try to copy the drawings that you see. There’s nothing wrong with copying, it’s really a good way to learn! You can even trace the drawings if you want to: it helps to understand how to draw lines and how to create shapes. The most famous painters, when they were starting out, learned by coping their idols. Don’t worry, one day, you’ll develop your own style.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! This is my MOST IMPORTANT piece of advice. Accept that you won’t be perfect from the beginning. Do you think your drawing is ugly? Take a deep breath. Try to see how you can improve, then restart. And restart again.
Always keep in mind that even the best artists are sometimes unhappy with their work. It’s normal. It doesn’t mean that you’re untalented, or that you’re not good at drawing. It just means that you want to get better, and that’s a good thing!
I often create drawings that I find ugly. Sometimes, I say to myself, “I’ll never get it. It never turns out how I want.” But I restart again and again, and at some point, I’m happy with my work. We learn all our lives!
I read somewhere that the key to success isn’t talent, but the number of hours we spend practicing. So you need to really, really practice. There’s no magic to this job! All the illustrators that I know are people who love to draw and who do it as much as possible. It’s as simple as that. So let’s go, get out your crayons!
Questions & Answers: ADULTS
Do you accept new contracts or requests for personalized illustrations?
I have a lot of projects in the works right now so I can’t do personalized illustrations. I sometimes accept new contracts through my agents in Quebec or the United States. Contact them here, only serious offers will be considered.
Do you do visits to schools or bookstores?
I’ve done a lot in the past, but I had to decide to stop temporarily in order to dedicate myself fully to my books and my family. I try to make up for it by being very present on social media and by responding to my mail, especially anything sent to me by kids. I get a lot of mail from kids, which I love.
Can I use your illustrations on my blog/in an article/in my class?
Yes, if you use them for non-commercial purposes, and if you cite me correctly as the creator of the illustrations.
What advice do you have for an adult who wants to become an illustrator?
That’s a huge question. I’ll try to respond to it bit by bit on my blog. Follow me on Twitter or on Facebook to find out about my latest blog articles. But if I had one piece of advice to give you for now, it would be “Join a local illustrators’ association, like Illustration Québec.” You’ll meet a lot of interesting people and will get many answers to your questions, as well as get to party with super cool people.
I’d like to get a coffee with you someday soon to discuss my project/my portfolio/my art career.
I’m sure that I’d love that as well! But unfortunately I have so much work to do that I have a hard time getting to see my close friends and family as often as I’d like. Since I have a lot of chitchat in me, I’ll try to convert that into lots of talk on my blog or social media. I’m so active on social media that you’ll have the impression you’re sitting across from me.
* Public post-secondary institutions found only in Quebec