This month’s featured author and illustrator is Rachelle Anne Miller. Rachelle illustrated the delightful board book More Than Balloons, which we've previously included in our Bookroo board book club boxes.
Rachelle is an Ontario-based children’s illustrator and designer. She studied design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (more commonly known as the NSCAD University). After graduating, she worked as a graphic designer before launching her career as a freelance illustrator. As a designer, she has worked on everything from websites to international magazines--and, of course, children’s books!
As Rachelle puts it, she is first and foremost a wife and mother who finds inspiration from her children every day. We were fortunate to have the chance to catch up with Rachelle for an interview, and we’re thrilled to share it with you today. (The interview has been edited for clarity.)
Bookroo: We love your illustrations in More Than Balloons. Can you tell us how you went about creating them?
Rachelle: The beautiful writings by Lorna Crozier lend themselves easily to some sweet imagery! I usually start my process with some rough conceptual sketches which are reviewed by the publisher. Once all ideas are approved, I go ahead and develop the full illustrations. We discussed beforehand with the publisher that we wanted the characters to be animals.
Bookroo: How have you gone about developing your illustration style?
Rachelle: It took years to develop my personal illustration style. I would draw a lot and try to identify the elements of my style that were uniquely my own, and then played off those points. I was also fortunate to receive a bit of mentoring from a fellow illustrator that really helped me along my way!
Bookroo: In what ways do your children inspire your work?
Rachelle: My children are a huge influence in my work (especially in their younger years!). I would observe them in their play and think of how cute that would look in a sketch! Ideas were/are all around me!
Bookroo: We admire that you emphasize that you are first and foremost a wife and mother. How do you balance the different demands on your time?
Rachelle: Children grow up so quickly so it’s a given for me that they are a priority! I try to balance everything by putting them first and then taking on work if it fits into my schedule and the rest of my time. After having my third child, I definitely stepped back from work for a few years. Now that she has begun attending school a few days a week and will be in full time school next year, I am feeling competent to take on more projects. But if something comes up where my children need me - they will always be first!
Bookroo: What do you hope children (and adults) experience when they read books you’ve illustrated?
Rachelle: I hope that they see the sweet and simple side to life. Our world can be overwhelming at times and it can truly be beneficial to step back and take care of yourself and focus on things that bring you joy.
Bookroo: You’ve said that you love to try new things, and your list of creative endeavors is quite extensive (sculpting, painting, printmaking, fashion design, graphic design, web design, quilting, cross-stitching, knitting, scrapbooking, photography, and more!). What have been some of your favorites?
Rachelle: As a creative person, I love having variety in my life! Having all those creative outlets is so exciting and rewarding but in the end, my all time favorite creative outlet would be children’s books! I am actually currently working on writing and illustrating my own book and I couldn’t be more excited!
Bookroo: What is it about drawing characters that makes it your very favorite creative outlet?
Rachelle: That’s a hard one to explain! I’ve always loved drawing characters - even when I was very young in grade school. I would always draw caricatures of my friends!
Bookroo: What does a typical day look like for you?
Rachelle: A typical day would start with me helping my kids get ready in the morning and dropping them off at school. I would then come home and work for a few hours in my studio. My husband also works from home so we often have lunch together or go out for lunch and a walk. After lunch, I would either do a bit more work or get some chores done around the house. We then have school pickup, homework, and supper! After the kids are in bed, I sometimes do a bit more work or if I’m too tired, I would watch tv, read, or hang out and chat with my husband.
Bookroo: What advice would you share with others who are working to raise readers?
Rachelle: Try to expose your kids to all kinds of different books from a very early age. My eldest has always loved books and reading, but it didn’t come so quickly for my second son. Once I discovered that he liked more non fiction books, we started to get somewhere! There is something for everyone out there, just make sure you’re open and expose your kids to variety.
Bookroo: When do you find time to read together with your children?
Rachelle: My husband and I read to our kids every night before bed. Sometimes we’ll read with all three or we’ll see each one individually with books of their choosing.
Bookroo: What book are you currently reading?
Rachelle: If you don’t count all the kids books that I love to read to my children, I am usually reading a parenting book! If I do get the chance to sit down and read, I typically choose non fiction. Right now I am reading Wild Things by Stephen James.
Bookroo: We’re a community of book lovers! Do you have any upcoming books you can tell us about?
Rachelle: As I mentioned above, I am working on writing and illustrating my own book but if you’d like to read some other books I’ve recently illustrated, check out the Gabby series by Bambini Book Club.
(All images courtesy of Rachelle Anne Miller)