Danielle Krysa is the author and illustrator of the new children's book How to Spot an Artist. Her other books, for adults, include Creative Block and Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk. She lives in British Columbia.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for How to Spot an Artist?
A: The idea actually came from talking to people who were reading my adult books about creative blocks, inner critics, and self-doubt. Literally hundreds and hundreds of people, ranging in age from 20 to 80, have told me stories about being stopped in their creative tracks when they were just little kids. It always goes something like this:
“When I was [6, 7, or 8] I was told I couldn’t be an artist because [I wasn’t talented, art is just a hobby, you’ll die a starving artist], so I haven’t made art since.”
I decided that instead of writing another book about “jumpstarting your creativity” for grownups who’d be stuck for decades, I’d just sneak around to the front of this problem and talk to the 6, 7 or 8 year olds directly. Hopefully, if they’re ever told to quit, they’ll remember this book and say, "NO WAY!"
Q: Did you work on the text first or the illustrations first, or both simultaneously?
A: I had the story completely written before working on the illustrations. For the longest time I couldn’t “see” what the characters should look like. Should they be boys or girls, which race(s), what about their age? I didn’t want any of those elements to be present, because artists run the entire gamut!
And then I had a eureka moment while swimming laps at my local pool (that’s where all of my aha moments seem to show up), I pictured a juicy stroke of paint with little graphite legs, and voila, everything came together in an instant.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I want them to believe in themselves, even if “an art bully” shows up somewhere along the way and tells them to give up. That happened to me, but not until I was 21 and about to graduate from art school.
I WISH I’d read a story like this over and over and over again when I was little so that I didn’t believe my painting professor when he said, “You should never paint again.” I quit for almost 20 years, and I don’t wish that on anyone.
Q: How did you first get interested in creating children's books?
A: Writing/illustrating a children’s book has been my dream since I was a kid, but it just seemed like exactly that — a dream. However, after talking to all of those people I mentioned earlier, I realized NOW was the perfect time — and the perfect reason — to finally put this dream into action!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a new idea for another kids’ book, but I figured I should wait until this one was out in the world — I guess I can get going on it now! Lately I’ve been concentrating on my daily posts about other artists on my contemporary art site The Jealous Curator (est. 2009) and on my own personal artwork.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: You can find me on Instagram at @thejealouscurator or listen to my art podcast, Art For Your Ear (interviews with contemporary artists about their stories, victories, and struggles).
--Interview with Deborah Kalb