Work-at-Home Illustrator Turns Constraints into Advantages for Charming Picture Book
Because she’s a mom, Janan Cain knew she had a marketable concept for her first book. But it was her responsibilities for two young children that dictated how this book was created.
An illustrator and graphic designer since 1982, Cain has worked with many different techniques, including pen and ink, gouache, acrylics, airbrush, colored pencil, scratchboard and computer illustration. Much of her work has been realistic: Norman Rockwell-esque paintings of Butterball turkeys, for example, and aerial-style drawings for a travel agency’s maps. But she chose pastels for the vivid illustrations in The Way I Feel because she was so frequently interrupted by her young daughters.
“With pastels, I could stop in the middle of a drawing to make lunch, bandage a knee, help find a lost toy–or even take an ice cream break. I don’t have that freedom when I’m painting because paint has to be blended quickly, before it dries,” points out Cain, who adds that the immediate clean-up required by painting also makes it a difficult medium for artists who combine work and parenting.
Like many other work-at-home parents, Cain struggles to separate her professional and personal lives. When she worked full-time as an illustrator, she often had eight hours at her drawing table with almost no interruptions. Later, having even an hour without a child needing something was unusual.
“This book took more than two years because I only had six ‘child-less’ hours during the week and I often had to stop in the middle of a drawing–sometimes for weeks at a time.”
Cain got her start playing with artists’ supplies in her father’s merchandising business. Besides the weekend afternoons with paper and markers in the office, Cain spent hours with ceramics and other arts and crafts with her hobbyist mother. She took as many art classes as she could at Downers Grove High School South (Downers Grove, Ill.) and earned an Associate of Arts degree in visual communications at the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. She worked in package design, graphic design and illustration, both in Colorado Springs and the Chicago area, until beginning a free-lance design and illustration practice in Riverside, Ill. in 1993. The Way I Feel is Cain’s first book, a picture book that explains emotions such as excitement, sadness, jealousy and pride from a child’s perspective. But, she promises, it won’t be her last: both children are now in school full-time, and Cain is already considering techniques for her next book.
As she tries out concepts for that next book, Cain continues to reap praise for her book. School visits, where she demonstrates how to draw facial expressions and convey emotions with shapes and colors, result in compliments for her, too. As the Pleasantdale School principal recently wrote her, “I am confident you sparked writing and illustrating ideas in the children—maybe even in the teachers. It is obvious that you are passionate about what you do. . .”
The Way I Feel (hardcover and board book)
Así me siento yo
The Way I Act