Artist Interviews: Jane Smith
Jane Smith is an author-illustrator and designer who has created numerous children's books and licensed her art for a variety of products. Thank you so much Jane for sharing your beautiful work and inspiration with the Art Makes Us community!
AMU: Art Makes Us ___.
AMU: Tell us a little about yourself and your art.
Jane: Hello, hello to everyone tuning in! First of all, thank you so much for having me here today! I am Super Jane Smith, and I am an author, illustrator and designer with nearly 20 years of experience writing, illustrating and designing children’s books and artwork for art licensing products. I am the author-illustrator of 8 children’s picture books, including the popular Chloe Zoe series, Hello, New House and Miss Meow.
I’m a Midwestern girl, having grown up in Columbus, Ohio. I spent my childhood writing stories, making pictures and reading all the books my librarian mom brought home. After I earned my BFA in Illustration from the Columbus College of Art & Design (where I met both Paul & Melissa!!!), I moved to sunny Los Angeles, California, where I got my start in publishing as an art director of children’s novelty books.
These days I love getting crafty in my seaside studio and writing stories about robots, cats and all kinds of adventures. I live with my graphic designer husband, superstar daughter and lots and lots of bugs in sun-kissed Wilmington, North Carolina.
AMU: What’s your favorite medium?
Jane: My favorite mediums for drawing are a plain #2 pencil, black or brown colored pencil and Faber-Castell artist pens on paper. For color art, I most like to scan my drawings and then work on the computer in PhotoShop. Because I am a collage artist at heart, I usually select a palette of papers, fabrics and various textures to scan into the computer to combine with digital paint.
AMU: What inspires you?
Jane: Would it be a cheat to say EVERYTHING?! I feel inspired by just living my life and observing and interacting with the people and the world around me. I can get an idea and a spark to create from anything really—sunny days, seashells, cupcakes, the beach, Sunday drives in the neighborhood, travel, museums, walking, cooking, baking, yoga, succulents, sticker collections, aliens, robots, movies, books, cartoons, cats, Halloween, tea and any number of other wonderful things in the world.
AMU: What are your artistic goals for the future?
Jane: My artistic goals absolutely include making more children’s picture books! I’d also love to write, illustrate and publish either a middle grade or YA novel. It’s also been a long time since I did any large-scale mixed media collages on canvas, and I’d like to find my way back to doing some of those again, too—just for myself as a balance to my illustration work.
AMU: What is one piece of art advice you were given that has always stuck with you?
Jane: When I was in art school, the first year included fundamental design classes and one project that was done every year was a self-portrait series in which numerous styles were explored. These included both graphic and loose styles, abstract and realistic. Well, I struggled a LOT with the realistic self-portrait in the series and was really down on myself after the class critique. Afterward, I went to talk to my professor and she nearly SNAPPED my head off for expressing the wish that I was like the students who excelled at realism, instead of being myself, who excelled at abstraction! She gave me a serious talking to about valuing my work, my talents and my voice! Over the years, I have often found myself returning to this moment as a touchstone for remembering there is a limit to the usefulness of comparing yourself to others.
AMU: If they made a film about your life, who would play you?
Jane: A film about my life would most definitely be animated! I would probably be played by Bubbles from the PowerPuff Girls!
AMU: What famous artist would you love to meet?
Jane: Oh, gosh! Honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to actually meet my favorite artists in person! I think so often the public has unrealistically high expectations of who creatives are behind the scenes, especially now in the age of social media. And as a creative professional myself, I work hard to disentangle the ideas that I both am my work and also am not my work. So, in that spirit, I’m happy to let my favorite artist stay behind the curtain, so to speak!
AMU: What do you wish you knew when you started?
Jane: I wish I had understood that visual storytelling is all about believability, not perfection! When I was an art student and during the early years of my career, I felt a lot of pressure to create objectively “good” art—that is artwork that adhered to traditional principles, like realistic proportions, lighting and spatial relationships. However, realism is so far from my natural inclinations and mindset as an artist that I often felt like I was falling on my face. Over time I came to realize that illustrating stories and characters is not about drawing everything “correctly” or getting the perspective or lighting “right”; that it’s actually about creating believability. The point of the artwork is to transport the reader in time, space and emotion. As long as it is believable within the context of the story you are telling, it doesn’t matter if the lighting is off or if the proportions are wonky. As long as you’ve convinced your reader to believe in your story, that’s all that really matters! Once I let go of perfection, it allowed me to create my own unique voice as a visual storyteller.
AMU: What’s your favorite color?
Jane: Blue—literally every single shade of blue!
AMU: If you had an artistic superpower what would it be?
Jane: I think my artistic superpower is being able to teleport myself back into childhood. I have a really deep well of empathy for kids, their intelligence and their emotional lives. As an artist, I have the ability to tap into the universal experience of being a child and draw on my own understanding of what sorts of things are important to kids, what sorts of things are funny to them, and what sorts of experiences connect us all together.
AMU: Where can people go to see your work?
Jane: The incredible power of creating children’s picture books is that my work is easily accessible to EVERYONE! You can see my work in libraries and bookstores! You can even bring it home with you and hold it in your own hands—I absolutely LOVE that so much! To get the full scoop on my books, you can visit my website at www.superjane.com.