On My Mind

-thoughts of a wife, mom, author, illustrator, juggler, toy designer, teacher, camp director, ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Author/Illustrator - Jennifer Thermes

How long have you been creating art for children?

Professionally, for almost 19 years, but I've been drawing since I was a little kid.

How long have you been writing for children?
As with the art, I've been writing in one form or another my whole life. (There are many angsty pre-teen journals in my cupboard!) I started writing seriously for children after my illustration work started to take off, at the suggestion of an editor who was interested in my work.

Can you share a bit about your publishing journey?

I began my illustration career by creating illustrated maps for various publications. My first book came about through an editor who admired my map art, and suggested I try writing stories. We went back and forth for about a year on an idea that was ultimately rejected, but in the meantime I'd also been working on a book about a very old house and the changes it had seen over time. That became my first book, When I Was Built.

Where do you do your artwork? Would you describe your space?

I have a studio at home. (I love calling it a "studio!") In reality it's a small room crammed full of two drawing tables (one for standing and one for sitting), my computer, bookshelves– with sketches, art, and random inspiring stuff taped to the walls. Usually there's a cat (or two) and the dog hanging around, as well. I'm a big fan of cozy clutter.

Here's a picture of some of the final art for my most recent book, Maggie & Oliver, or A Bone of One's Own, hanging in my studio. It took up most of the wall space. (Don't judge the mess on the flat file!):

And here's the book!:

Please tell us about your illustrations. Can you describe your creative process for us? How would you describe your style?
I work in pencil and watercolor, and pen & ink with watercolor for my maps. For illustrations, I try to picture the overall look in my head, while making lots of thumbnail drawings. Thumbnails are one of my favorite stages of a project, because there are so many puzzles to work out, and so many possibilities. Once the ideas have been narrowed down it's a matter of enlarging the sketches and refining them, and then doing the final art. I'm not sure how to describe my own work… I'm probably too close to it to have perspective!

Here's the beginning of a sketch. My thumbnails are usually much messier!
Final sketch:

Transferred to watercolor paper, with the first layer of pencil:

And beginning to lay in the color here:

And the final piece:

I did a series about creating this piece on my blog, if you'd like to read about it in more depth:

Which comes first the story of the illustrations/sculptures?
It depends on the idea. For me, stories arrive in all different ways– from a doodle, a phrase, or a word, or an image that pop into my head. After the initial inspiration comes the work of figuring out what the story is actually about. I like to bounce back and forth between the words and the pictures as the story takes shape.

 Jennifer can be found at:
Twitter: @jenthermes

Anything else you would like to add about your art, your writing, or your road to publication?

I'd just say– find the thing that brings you joy about writing or drawing, and treasure it. Have fun with your art. Take pleasure in the process!

Please leave comments and questions for
Jennifer Thermes
in the comment section below.

Come back every Wednesday all summer to see the
Featured Author/Illustrator of the Week!


  1. Wonderful interview, Alison and Jennifer! Very interesting to get to see the creative process from the artist's side! Thanks for sharing (and your art is beautiful, Jennifer!)

  2. It was so great to see another artist's process. Watercolor is so intimidating to me because it seems somewhat unforgiving with mistakes. How do you make corrections in a watercolor painting? I just love the final look! Beautiful work!

  3. I love Jennifer's work. Nice interview!

  4. Fantastic! Lovely work... thank you Jennifer and Alison!

  5. How beautiful. I love your style. The way you washed everything in rays of sunlight was lovely.

  6. Great interview. I'm glad I'm not the only person (dork) who papers her work space with random inspiring stuff. Your work is beautiful.

  7. Lovely work, Jennifer, and so nice to see your sketches!

  8. Love the final piece of work, well done!