Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women who work in the Fantasy Illustration Industry. You will find the links to more interviews at the bottom of the page.
This week’s interview is with the wonderful Dani Jones, who is a comic creator and a children’s book illustrator. Enjoy!
1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
My name is Dani Jones. I have been an illustrator for about 10 years. I work mostly in children’s illustration, so I draw for things like children’s books, educational books, apps, magazines, and comics. I also write. I am best known for the children’s book MONSTERS VS. KITTENS, published by Stan Lee’s Kids Universe, and the comic MY SISTER THE FREAK, which I self-publish and have online as a web comic.
2. When did realize you wanted to make a career out of illustrating?
Not until I was in college. I have always loved to draw, but I never seriously considered it as a career until a couple years into my schooling. It was during this time that I learned that there were a variety of fields available to artists, and it was no longer this vague fantasy that I thought was impossible.
3. What difficulties have you faced in transitioning into becoming a professional artist?
I think the hardest part of becoming an independent artist is learning to think differently. It is not the traditional 9-to-5 job that most people grow up thinking they’re going to have. You have to learn about self-discipline and working for yourself. You have to learn how to create on a consistent basis, and how to run a business. Everything kinda depends on you because you don’t have an employer setting the schedule and work assignments for you. There is a lot of freedom, but also a lot of responsibility.
4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
I like that illustration is about more than just drawing and painting. You get to tell a story. I love creating my own worlds and characters, or being able to add my own voice to someone else’s story when I do client work.
5. What do you like the least about it?
It can be tough to stay motivated sometimes, and not get stuck in the same patterns and ruts. When you are just drawing as a hobby, you kinda have the freedom to do your own thing with no consequences. When you’re working as a professional, you have to consciously up your game on a regular basis so your work doesn’t go stale for both you and your clients. And sometimes that is hard work. It is very fulfilling work certainly, but hard.
6. You have worked with quiet a few publishers on picture books and the like. Can you tell us a little about the process of producing a picture book?
For me, picture books are an exercise in restraint. You have a very limited space for few words and few pictures. It’s not like a graphic novel where you can illustrate almost every action, and it’s not like a full prose novel where the illustrations are just decorating what’s already been said in the text. The words and pictures must work together and must communicate a lot of ideas. I compare it to writing poetry – it may seem simpler and shorter than writing a prose novel, but it’s not. To do it well, it still takes just as much time and thought. So for me, a lot of the work in picture books comes in designing the layout, figuring out page turns, and reworking the manuscript. Churning out the artwork is simple for me in comparison to that other stuff.
7. You’re an avid teacher, I’ve been really impressed by all the great content on your blog. Have you always had a love of teaching and what’s your philosophy behind it?
I am just an art nerd who loves sharing my process. But I also believe that helping people is just a good thing to do. Sharing my knowledge and experience allows me to do that. It’s a great way to get involved in the art community and give back to it.
8. I have to ask – how cool is it to be a triplet? And what was it like growing up?
It is awesome! We moved around a lot growing up, so when I entered a new school, I always had at least two automatic friends in my grade. And then we all went to college together and roomed together.
9. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
I can’t remember any one specific piece of advice from my teachers that stands out, but they were highly influential and overall just guided me in the right path when I was in school. A couple professors had a heavy influence on me going into children’s illustration, which I actually avoided through most of my schooling. I wanted to get into editorial illustration or something.
One piece of advice I like to give other artists that has helped me personally is to create your own projects and FINISH them. I can be scatterbrained and do many things at once. I like starting new things, but then forget about them sometimes when I find something new. For every project you take on, reach some form of completion on it. This will give you a body of work. It’s much better than having a collection of half-finished things. And you gain so much experience just by completing something, even if you don’t necessarily like the result.
10. What are some of your goals for the future?
My career started as purely illustration, but I’ve been enjoying writing more and more. So one of my goals right now is to build up my writing work and transition to working on more of my own stories full-time. I still enjoy freelancing on other projects though. I’d love to get more into graphic novels in addition to the picture books. I’ve got many things I want to do!
Thank you for your time and best of luck with it all, Dani!
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview. If so please take a second to share it so even more people might enjoy the series, thank you!
View all Women in Fantasy Illustration interviews here.