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Bringing Words to Life

Monday, 1 February 2010

What interests me most are people and their environment. I love drawing people ~ big, small or weird ~ and creating the worlds they live in.

And creating a world for Izzy, his family, and friends is exactly what Stéphane Jorisch has done with his artistic rendering of April Halprin Wayland‘s New Year at the Pier. Using both watercolour and gouache, Stéphane fashions a quiet, yet vibrant, world in which young Izzy discovers the power of a genuine apology and the healing nature of the ritual of Tashlich.

Influenced greatly by his illustrator father, drawing came naturally to Stéphane Jorisch. Born in Brussels, Stéphane grew up in Lachine, Quebec. Nestled on the St. Lawrence River, Stéphane spent the majority of his youth on the water which, as he recalls, was “a great place to dream.” Since childhood, he has put images onto paper, filling the margins of his notebooks with sketches. Ultimately, he chose to make illustrating his career “because,” he says, “he could not do much else besides draw—images for museums, magazines, and books. All sorts of books.”

I have often wondered how an artist takes an image, real or imagined, and recreates it. Is it necessary, for example, to refer often to a photograph in order to capture every finite detail? Once he starts to draw, Stéphane’s approach is to rely on his memory rather than reference materials. This freedom enables a more fluid hand. And his inspiration? His inspiration comes from everyday things, daydreams, and time spent delayed in traffic.

Each artist approaches a project with his or her unique method. I asked Stéphane to walk us through his process for creating:

I try not to begin with any preconceived idea when I’m starting a project. In the past, when I’ve done that, it doesn’t work. I avoid trying to determine what the end product will look like till I get to the end. I get the best results if I let things happen spontaneously and gradually.

So the first step [when beginning a project such as this one] is to let it sit. Images and ideas start coming together as you start associating everyday events, magazine arcticles and pictures, books you are reading, stuff you notice as you drive about, people and kids you meet. As for the locations I illustrate, they are usually inspired from pictures in magazines or books. However, the garden scene was inspired by my own back yard.

I usually start by sketching the main characters. If the characters don’t work in a sketch session I put it away and wait a day or two to work on them later. The failure to arrive at something makes me mull over things without getting frustrated because in a few days, in a new sketch session, the characters just pop off the page.

Intuition is the sum of experience, talent and knowledge and this is what usually gets the work done.
I then break up the text in key places and make a layout with the text in place. I use this to make rough action sketches that the editors don’t see. I then make a final layout in the computer onto which I place the final sketches that are scanned and fitted in place in Photoshop.

On this project I worked with watercolour. I love watercolour because I can’t spend too long on an image. I have to finish quickly with watercolour because it dries so quickly. The images are traced onto the watercolour paper with the help of a lightbox. The sketch being backlit makes it possible to see through the watercolour paper. The images are then carefully packed and sent off the to the editor for approval.

Given his beautiful and creative renderings, it is difficult to believe that Stéphane began his career in the very structured world of architecture. A place, as he came to realize, that left little room for imagination. And it is imagination, combined with curiosity and a keen sense of observation, that Stéphane believes feed the soul of the artist.

Stéphane has received several prestigious honors for previous books, including the 2008 TD Canadian Children’s
Literature Award
, the Governor General’s Award (2008, 2004, 1999, and 1993), nominations for Governor General’s Awards in 1995, 1997 and 1998, and nominations for the 1997 and 1999 Mr. Christie Book Awards. And he is now, along with author, April Halprin Wayland [see Practically Paradise, who is hosting April’s stop on the Blog Tour], the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category.

Mazal tov, Stéphane! May you go from strength to strength.


The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) since 1968, the Award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. Thirty-three outstanding books were selected from among the over one hundred and twenty titles evaluated by the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee during 2009. The Committee recommends them for library, classroom, and home use. List of all 2010 Award, Honor, and Notable Books.

You won’t want to miss one moment of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour 2010! Check out the Association of Jewish Libraries for up-to-date tour info.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Monday, 1 February 2010 5:50 am

    Thank you for this interesting information. Now I know why the water scenes in the book look so natural and beautiful.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 1 February 2010 12:51 pm

      Kathe — it was so interesting for me to learn about the process of illustration. I am glad that you enjoyed it!

  2. Monday, 1 February 2010 10:33 am

    nicely done! great interview 😉

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 1 February 2010 12:52 pm

      Thanks, Phyl 😉

  3. Monday, 1 February 2010 5:08 pm

    A very nice artist profile, you really gave us a great sense of the context for his work. Thanks for creating such an interesting stop on the Sydney Taylor Book Award blog tour!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 1 February 2010 7:19 pm

      It was such a pleasure to participate!!! I learned a lot and am glad that I was able to share. Thanks for including me.

  4. Monday, 1 February 2010 5:20 pm

    What a wonderful interview. I love to hear about the artists’ process. I happen to know the Manhattan Beach, California area upon which this story is based. The pictures in this book absolutely do it justice.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 1 February 2010 7:20 pm

      I know! I am always fascinated by the artistic process. Thanks for stopping by Frume Sarah’s World!

  5. Monday, 1 February 2010 5:36 pm

    Dear Frume Sarah,

    I learned SO MUCH about Stephane’s process in illustrating our book in this wonderful interview–mazel tov and thank you! I’ve yet to meet him, but I have to tell you that he’s a kind and generous human in his email correspondences.

    Thanks again!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 1 February 2010 7:22 pm

      Mazal tov to you!!! Tashlich is such a lovely part of the RH observance and we who live in SoCal are so blessed to have the expansive Pacific in which to cast our sins. Thank you for bringing the beauty and power of tashlich to so many.


  1. Bringing Words to Life |
  2. People of the Books » Blog Archive » Blog Tour: Day 1
  3. Convention Countdown, Week 5: April Halprin Wayland «
  4. New Year At The Pier
  5. Bringing Words

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