Achievable, Artistic Resolutions for Authors and Illustrators
By Naseem Hrab
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love coming up with new year’s resolutions. I love committing to some kind of regular creative activity … no matter the outcome!
Last year, I said I wanted to: 1) complete three picture books; 2) write every night (even if it’s just one sentence); and 3) learn to think in pictures more/learn how to (barely) draw.
While I hardly completed any of those goals, I did write two picture books. Two whole picture books??? Hey, that feels pretty damn great to me! And I started taking singing classes over Zoom. Even though I didn’t complete my precise goals, my intention was there and I think it made a difference!
This year, I’d like to 1) write three picture books, so that I write two; 2) barely learn how to draw, so that I continue with my singing lessons; and 3) take more deep breaths.
For this column, I asked ten authors and illustrators to share their 2021 artistic intentions. Their goals run the gamut of self-care to experimenting with new media to eating more dark chocolate. Hopefully, you may find some that resonate or even inspire you! Especially, the dark chocolate one!
I am team revolution > resolutions. The personal revolution that I am committing my heart to this year is putting my family above all us, but also remembering that I am an important part of my family. As a new mother and wife, I’ve learned how easy it is to get tied up in to-do lists, and to have my own needs drop to the bottom of those lists. This year, I want to focus on the health and happiness of my family, including my own health and happiness.
In 2021, I would like to step out of my comfort zone and experiment with new materials and textures for my illustrations. For example, last year was my first-time using sand! Another thing is to practice drawing more loosely, especially with backgrounds. And finally, I wish to carve out more time for myself to work on personal projects. I hope this year will be a productive one!
2020 was a year of sowing seeds... I transitioned from my digital art style to painting in traditional media, started writing two picture books, and created my Instagram web comic Flora & Liberty. 2021 will be a year of nurturing these babies to fruition and setting a few concrete goals. And so, I resolve to create a solid body of work in my new art style to promote to publishers, get my book manuscripts ready to propose, and draw one new comic episode per month to form a collection by the year’s end.
For this coming year, my intention is to listen to the “younger me” inside my head who wanted nothing more than to write books when she grew up. Sometimes when (as an adult) you follow a career path that can’t compare to the structure and security of a 9-to-5, there’s a nagging voice that has you second guessing yourself. This year I want to quiet that voice and trust that following my dream is entirely rational, and the only path forward. After all, it’s the advice I give my kids!
1. Remain my own most honest critic while letting go of self-doubt.
2. Enjoy all the ideas, accepting that most will never become books.
3. Work on one or two manuscripts at a time, not five.
4. Don't overwrite. Try to keep things simple.
5. Eat as much dark chocolate as necessary.
In 2021, I want to focus my energies on process instead of on getting things published or putting myself out there. I am impatient and always in a rush to get things done; this year I want to embrace and learn the art of being slow. I want to be more thoughtful about what I am writing, why I am writing, and for whom I am writing and just enjoy myself.
This year, I’d like to carve out a daily time for writing, instead of always squeezing it in around other projects. (Now that I’ve said it here, I have to do it, right?!) Also, I want to listen to music more (and catch some live shows online), since that always helps my mind drift to new and creative places. Finally, I want to make more space for silliness in my life, because a good laugh always helps.
I don’t usually do resolutions, but I aim to keep trying to work on the projects I have as best I can. Kids need books especially in these turbulent times, and I hope the work I do can help build a better future for them.
1. Try to stay balanced in mind, body and spirit.
2. Clean up and clean out my studio.
3. Learn more about the technical things I’ve been avoiding.
4. Look at some old ideas with a fresh perspective.
5. Recognize possibilities in new ideas that “speak to me.”
Suzanne Del Rizzo
It’s been a doozy of a year, with so much loss for many of us, all the while trying to navigate, keep connected, and stay safe during this pandemic. Choosing to see and be grateful for the beauty in our world: our relationships, our gifts, gorgeous artwork (TY Instagram), and nature, has helped me so much.
A few keywords for 2021:
I am GRATEFUL for my kidlit/artist friends, who’s encouragement and incredible talents inspire me every day to move forward, keep learning, and EXPLORE new opportunities.
I really want to “go for it” artistically this year, with the freedom of doing art from a place of JOY and to boldly MAKE- experiment with new mediums, new artforms, new writing in new genres, and just have FUN. I also wish to work on being PRESENT- to quietly enjoy a mug of tea from start to finish while it’s still warm (even with 4 kiddos home doing online school!).
Tasha Spillett-Sumner (she/her) draws her strength from both her Cree & Trinidadian bloodlines. She is a new mother, a celebrated educator, author, poet and emerging scholar. Tasha is most heart-tied to contributing to community lead work that centers land and water defence, and the protection of Indigenous women and girls. In her work as a doctoral candidate, she is weaving together her cultural identity, and commitment to community to produce a body of research that amplifies Indigenous women’s demands for justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People, and serves as a continuation of the resistance against the assault of colonialism.
Miki Sato is a Japanese-Canadian illustrator who uses a variety of different papers, fabrics, and embroidery to create layered and textured illustrations. Originally from Ottawa, she currently resides in Toronto where she attended the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) to study illustration. Her first picture books are Golden Threads written by Suzanne Del Rizzo, and Snow Days written by Deborah Kerbel. Sunny Days, also written by Deborah Kerbel, will be out in 2021 from Pajama Press. mikisatoillustration.com Instagram: @MikiSatoillustration
Claudia Dávila is an illustrator and author of over 30 children’s books. Her award-winning books include Child Soldier and Super Red Riding Hood. Her latest books are Fast Friends and Hockey Night In Kenya, and has an ongoing Instagram comic called Flora & Liberty. Claudia was born in Chile and now lives in Toronto with her husband, tween daughter and young son.
Instagram: @claudia_davila_art Website: houseoffran.wixsite.com/claudiadavila
James Gladstone is an author of picture books for children, including When Planet Earth Was New, Earthrise, My Winter City, and Turtle Pond, which won the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction. James’ latest book, Journey Around the Sun, follows Halley’s Comet on its travels through the ages. James lives in Toronto.
Mahak Jain writes fiction and poetry for young people and adults. She is the author of the picture book Maya (illustrated by Elly Mackay), which was awarded the 2017 South Asia Book Award. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in magazines across the US and Canada, and she has been long listed for the Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. www.mahakjain.com
Bree Galbraith is an award-winning children’s book author from Vancouver, BC. She holds a master’s degree in design from Emily Carr University, and a Masters Degree in Creative Writing for the University of British Columbia. Bree likes writing stories that inspire kids and adults to think critically about the world around them, and the ways in which we can challenge the systems in place to create change. She uses her platform to amplify the voices of her two children, and pinches herself daily that she gets to pursue her childhood dream of writing books. https://www.breegalbraith.com/
Sarah Howden is a freelance writer and editor, and the author of several books for children, including 5-Minute Stories for Fearless Girls and Cone Cat. She lives in east Toronto with her family and her two cats.
Charlene Chua is the illustrator of books including Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao, Going Up! and The Pencil. She is also the author/illustrator of HUG? Charlene was born and grew up in Singapore; She now lives with her husband (and cats!) in Hamilton, Ontario. For more information visit her website at www.CharleneChua.com
Karen Patkau is an award-winning author and illustrator, whose work can be found in more than twenty picture books for children. Karen graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours degree, and became interested in visual storytelling while studying for her Master of Visual Arts degree at the University of Alberta. She has been writing and illustrating with a focus on nature nonfiction for many years. http://www.karenpatkau.com
Suzanne Del Rizzo began her career in picture books as the illustrator of the award-winning Skink on the Brink. She left scientific research to make children’s books, creating illustrations with polymer clay/mixed media. Suzanne’s author-illustrator debut, My Beautiful Birds, was a New York Times Notable Book and Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature winner. Her latest picture books include Before You Were Born, written by Deborah Kerbel (Pajama Press), and Golden Threads illustrated by Miki Sato (Owlkids Books) and she contributed cover art and interior artwork to A World of Kindness and A World Of Mindfulness (Pajama Press). Suzanne lives with her family in Oakville, Ontario. http://suzannedelrizzo.com/ Instagram: @suzannedelrizzo
The views expressed by Open Book columnists are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Naseem Hrab is the author of the picture books Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend and Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings, illustrated by Josh Holinaty. Her comedy writing has appeared on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and The Rumpus. Sometimes Naseem likes to get up on a stage and tell true stories. She loves improv and coffee ice cream.
She worked as a librarian for a time and currently works in children's publishing.