Sunday, February 22, 2015

Working as a Children’s Book Illustrator - Artist Shirley Ng-Benitez

This week we are celebrating over 210,000 page views and 4 years of fun, memorable art, and lovely friendships!!

On March 13 we will announce 3 winners of a special giveaway that is being organized (United States only).

I will post photos of the unforgettable prizes starting March 1st on our FB Page, Instagram, G+ and Twitter. If you haven't yet, you will only need to sign up for one of the above social media and leave a comment to qualify for our random selection!

In the meantime, here is a fun interview with the very talented Shirley Ng-Benitez. Her enthusiasm about her creations and life is contagious!

WHO YOU ARE, WHERE YOU ARE FROM AND WHAT YOU DO: I was born and raised in the Bay Area, CA, and after living in Ohio and Arizona I came home to my favorite state and am a happily married mom of two awesome daughters. I've been in the graphic design industry for over 20 years and am now fulfilling my dream of illustrating and writing children's picture books.

YOUR FAVORITE DESIGN/ART STYLE: This is a tough question as I have too many favorites! I've always admired Cezanne's brushstrokes, Cassandre's and Saul Bass' designwork, and am such an admirer of so many artists including Mary Blair, Theodor Geissel, Beatrix Potter, Lisbeth Zwerger, Holly Hobbie, Jan Ormerod, Freya Blackwood, Arnold Lobel, R.W. Alley, Ernest H. Shepard, the list goes on…

THE MAIN INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR WORK: My main inspiration comes from the love for my children and fond memories of my own childhood. After my mom passed away nearly four years ago, being able to connect with moments that bring me joy and peace with a little bit of silliness thrown in is where most of my work comes from. I now see how quickly one's life can fly by, so it's incredibly important for me to celebrate each day and be inspired by the people I love, the surroundings I live in, and appreciate the ability I have to create things. I am also very inspired by music, nature, creators, makers, artists, teachers, and our elders.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: I really love to draw. I have found that it not only gives me peace, especially with such a busy schedule these days, but it gives me strength. Drawing has always been a place of refuge for me as a shy kid. I was the kid in school who would hide in the crook of my elbow as I scribbled and doodled while not really paying attention to the teacher. I have found that I really really love to sketch every day and especially at night which helps me to create the pictures I see in my head. I haven't drawn this much ever in my whole life and I think it truly is what my passion is.

WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: I don't really like the never-ending cycle of laundry that seems to creep up on me every week...but I am grateful for my washer and dryer, so no complaints! Truthfully, what I really don't like is a lot of what has been in the news these days concerning the health of our planet, the health of the people on our planet, and the very tragic horrors across the world we are now so quick to view and read upon on the internet. It's incredibly upsetting to think about what the state of the world will be like for my children in the next 5, 10, 15 years. I am hopeful for a better world for them.

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: A little sticky note on my monitor from my youngest when she was 7…it states: "With your good thing, do it good."

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE: In my Beginning Illustration course in college, my professor assigned us a project to illustrate the Gilroy Garlic Festival Poster. This was the first watercolor painting I had ever entered into anything and it won first place for that year (1988). The best thing about winning was not the $500 cash prize but the fact that they gave me 20 printed posters and that it would be printed for many years to come. It was my first professionally printed piece and I was over the moon with that!

A FUN MEMORY: Probably on the top five memories in my life was spending a vacation just with my mom on a "Watercolor painting trip in France" - we visited the South of France: Nice, Antibes, St. Paul de Vence, Aix-en-Provence, and then ventured up to Paris and finally Monet's home in Giverny. At one fun dinner with the tour group, after finishing our main course, the waiter brought us large spoons and placed them at the top of our plates. These spoons were enormous! As large as cooking spoons one might use for stirring pasta sauce. As we waited for our desserts, I leaned over and whispered to mom, "My spoon is too small." I will never ever forget my mom's laughter that night...it was priceless!

YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: Wow, I thank you for asking this..it now makes me feel as though I need to work on this part! For now, beyond donating some prints of my work to charitable foundations, I feel that my work can be taken as a "warm and gentle place that harkens back to the good ol' times." I hope for a bit of that feeling when people view my work. In this complex and fast paced busy-ness of life, I hope that when people view my work it brings them a smile, or maybe even a good memory of a less complicated time.

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: Recently I signed with my fabulous agent, Nicole Tugeau of Tugeau2.com and I am thrilled to say that my next chapter is to primarily work as a children's book illustrator! I'm currently working on 4 books with a potential of two more (keeping fingers crossed!). I am so very grateful and feel very blessed to be working on such wonderful projects with such great people. I am also working on my writing skills and have a growing collection of books on writing, as that is another chapter I am working on in my professional life.

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS - I have three tips:

1. Build exercise into your job; it's something I have neglected for many years, but have re-committed to recently and it just has so many benefits! My daily walks make for great ideas for illustrations, too…a sweet bonus!

2. Play! I recently completed an online course that basically helped me discover the importance of "play." For me, I have always felt that the picture I see in my mind is what the goal is; and that there is one direct line to that end. But there are so many other avenues to get to the end result, and by "playing" with different tools and approaches, the end piece becomes something "richer" in my opinion. My process had been quite linear and so discovering this has now allowed me to consider new possibilities I'd not ever thought of before. Going back to that creative place we all had as a child where it didn't matter what the end piece was gonna look like has been invaluable in my creative journey and I think if you're more of a linear kind of artist, this is something you might want to try.

3. Observe nature in its tiniest details, from sunrise to sunset; there is an unlimited amount of images you can draw from. Even in the coldest of winters there is so much beauty! A twig, a seed pod, a frozen birdbath. Really examining the small details can give you patterns or images that are right there ready to be made in your own personal way.
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