Monday, November 28, 2011

Drawing Dreams Foundation Fundraiser

I am very proud to be selected for the Drawing Dreams Foundation's first fundraiser and art auction held at the Society of Illustrators in New York on Thursday, January 19, 2012. You will be able to buy an original painting of mine and art from illustrators from around the world in an on-line auction prior to the show. Please visit the website in December for more details at

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kirkus' Review of A Stranger At Home

A STRANGER AT HOME (reviewed on October 15, 2011)
After two years in Catholic residential school, 10-year-old Olemaun returns to Tuktoyaktuk on Canada's Arctic coast, a stranger to her friends and family, unaccustomed to the food and clothing and unable to speak or understand her native language.
Margaret Pokiak's story continues after the events of Fatty Legs(2010), which described her boarding-school experience. In this stand-alone sequel, she describes a year of reintegration into her Inuvialuit world. At first, her mother doesn't even recognize her: “Not my girl,” she says. Amini-Holmes illustrates this scene and others with full-page paintings in somber colors. The sad faces echo the child's misery. Gradually, though, with the help of her understanding father, she readjusts—even learning to drive a dog team. She contrasts her experience with that of the man the villagers call Du-bil-ak, the devil, a dark-skinned trapper no one speaks to. She has a home she can get used to again; he would always be alien. The first-person narrative is filled with details of this Inuit family’s adjustment to a new way of life in which books and reading matter as much as traditional skills. A scrapbook of photographs at the end helps readers enter this unfamiliar world, as do the occasional notes and afterword.
Olemaun’s spirit and determination shine through this moving memoir. (Memoir. 8-12)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Painting Process

sketchbook concept phase

final sketch

applying matt medium

brushing out matt medium

applying image to board

applying matt medium to top of image

flattening image to board to remove bubbles under the paper

image drying on board

applying acrylic washes to image

 applying dry brush to image

almost done!

adjusting color and levels in Photoshop

final art

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview for Tussayaksat Magazine by Shafia Usman

I was wondering if you would be able to tell me exactly what and how did the story inspire your illustrations? 

Firstly, thank you for inviting me to talk about Fatty Legs!

I was paid the highest compliment by being offered the book Fatty Legs to illustrate, as the story of residential schools where the abuse children experienced is such an important topic. Working on Fatty Legs I learned so much about the Inuit’s strife during this dark time in Canadian history. The forced the assimilation of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada into European-Canadian society by separating children from their families is a horrifying notion along with the painful legacy they must endure throughout their lives.

I was captured by the strong imagery in manuscript when I read this passage “They plucked us from our homes on the scattered islands of the Arctic Ocean and carried us back to the nests they called schools…” as well as  “the spectacle of the strange dark-cloaked nuns, whose tongues flickered with French-Canadian accents.” Eerie!

So much of Christy’s words fueled my artwork, as her writing is darkly poetic, which made my imagination run wild. Thankfully, there were many emotional beats for me in the story to illustrate. Fatty Legs gave me room to make evocative images conveying Margaret’s fear, loneliness, and determination as well as allowing me to create a visual bittersweet experience for the readers.

For me emotional truth is key to making a picture book, especially when creating a character. This is more than the character’s facial expressions, or body language rather understanding the heart and soul of the character that helps me make her come alive. Although her story is sad, she is not a victim. Her characters transitions allowed me to take her through a range of emotions and give her depth. The claustrophobic environment of the school also played big part in the story, as it is a character itself. Fatty Legs reminded me of Jane Eyre, gothic and dramatic which the editors and I talked about a lot, about when we first discussed the image ideas. It was important the images convey a lot of drama and mood. My personal illustration dream job! When I am working, like many book illustrators, I look for the emotional moments in the story much like a film director does. Fatty Legs had so many dramatic moments to show Margaret’s trials at the hands of the nuns and priests it was easy for me to find the key scenes. My goal in all of my work, and certainly Fatty legs, is to have the reader to feel the art, not just look at it so makes an emotional connection. You are first grabbed by the images then want to read more about what is happening in the story.

I tried to put myself in Margaret’s place and feel her fear. For example, she is described as sleeping under her bed the first night she is at the school. How would a child feel in a strange room with other kids sleeping, feeling homesick, and missing my parents? I decided to pick the image of her bundled in a cocoon of blankets under her bed trying to maker self feel safe all the while crying. Once I felt for her, the images flowed out.

And did you feel that the reverse was true as well: your illustration inspires or impacts the mood of the story? 
I feel the art more compliments the story than impacts it. That my job as an illustrator is to pique the reader’s interest and set the tone for them to want to keep turning the pages to find out what is next. Especially younger readers I am sure it helps them to understand the more complex scenes going on in the story by looking at the pictures. One example of how the images inspired the story is when Christy wrote a passage specifically for an illustration I had done but we were unsure of where it was going to go. It is the scene where Margaret is dreaming she and the other children are trapped in the nun’s skirt. She added in that scene for my art, as she liked the illustration! I was blown away that an author would write a passage for my artwork.
I think we are fortune the art and the work in concert with each other. We have our amazing the editors at Annick Press to thank, as they knew, as editors often do, we were a prefect artistic match!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 Nautilus Silver Award for Fatty Legs!

The good news just keeps coming in! Fatty Legs received a 2011 Nautilus Silver Award. This is one of the most prestigious and hard-to-win international book competitions. I am very, very grateful to be involved with Fatty Legs and it's sequel A Stranger At Home. The Nautilus Awards recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living & positive social change, while at the same time they stimulate the "imagination" and offer the reader "new possibilities" for a better life and a better world. Previous winners are: Deepak Chopra, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Caroline Myss, Marianne Williamson, Gail Straub, Masaru Emoto, Susun Weed, Barbara Kingsolver, David McKay, Robert Kull, Ian Shive, and many others... speechless to be in such company.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Awards and reviews for Fatty Legs: A True Story

Fatty Legs has been on a remarkable run this past year. The book has been honored with many awards and stellar reviews.

  • Ten Best Children’s Books of 2010, The Globe and Mail
  • 2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books Honor List
  • 2011 PubWest Book Design Awards, Bronze
  • Book of the Year Award finalist, ForeWord Reviews
  • Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize finalist
  • Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Award nomination
  • Hackmatack Award nomination
  • Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award nomination
  • Cybils, Blogger Literary Award nomination


“A moving and believable account.”
—Kirkus Reviews,*starred review, 11/10

“An excellent addition to any biography collection, the book is fascinating and unique, and yet universal in its message.”
—School Library Journal, 12/10

“… presents a unique and enlightening glimpse into the residential school experience and, most importantly, one little girl’s triumph over her oppressors.”
—Quill & Quire, 11/10

“Margaret’s character is engaging—her persistence, her strength, and her curiosity touch the reader.”
—CM Magazine, 11/10

“This book is definitely worth having in a public library.”
—, 13/1010

“The way Olemaun chooses to deal with her humiliation and face her tormentor is inspiring to anyone who has ever felt different.”
—, 11/18/10

“I highly recommend this book for the discussion it would stir with students … Makes the harrowing residential school stories accessible to youth.”
—Resource Links, 12/10

“This book makes the harrowing residential school stories accessible to youth.”
—, 02/11

“A perfect companion to the study of First Nations issues, this story helps readers empathize with a real person whose determination never waivers in the face of adversity.”
—, 03/11

”… will surely gain more and more attention as devoted readers share the gold it holds.”
—, 03/15/11 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"A Stranger At Home" Sequel to "Fatty Legs"

News is on the way!

Sorry my blog has gone static for so long! For the past seven months I've been working on the art to the sequel of Fatty Legs titled Stranger at Home from Annick Press coming out in Fall 2011. The art is all done now so I can post new art and information soon.
Love and Rockets!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Safe Journey Home Book Cover

Hay House UK asked me to create a cover for "A Safe Journey Home" by Felicity Warner 
About the book:  "A Safe Journey Home" is a  guide to help a loved one or friend to die gently and with dignity once medicine has reached its limits. You can honor their experience and nurture it, by giving them all your attention, kindness and love. Accompanied by beautiful illustrations that will act as a comfort to all those experiencing death or bereavement, this book is a powerful guide to a subject that affects us all.