'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 12 December 2019

Meet The Illustrator: Cheryl Pilgrim

Name: Cheryl Pilgrim

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Realistic, painterly, colourful children’s book illustrations.

What items are an essential part of your creative space? 
These are my go-to items: pencils, erasers, acrylic paints, computer and scanner. I usually draw on copy paper for my roughs, smooth  Bristol for my pencil finals, and multimedia board for my paintings. Oh, and there a couple of cats that oversee the whole process.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium? 
Acrylics and pencils 

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
It is very hard to pick just three but here are a few of my favourites. Norman Rockwell for his characters, expressions, and storytelling. Shaun Tan for his painterly, loose style. Brian Floca for his middle grade pencil illustrations.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I would like to go back in time and visit the Renaissance period and hang out in Michelangelo’s and Leonardo da Vinci’s studios. They not only had a vast amount of talent and knowledge, they worked and studied constantly in order to improve and reach new levels in their art. I would not want to stay long, however, because I’m a big fan of central heat/air, hot showers, and Torchy’s tacos.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator? 
As long as I can remember, I spent time drawing and painting. My kindergarten teacher wrote a note to my parents about how I showed a talent for art. I still have that note and the artwork. When I went to college, art did not seem like a practical career and I never knew anyone who made a living that way so didn’t even know it was a real possibility. I became a teacher but continued drawing and painting in my spare time. As a teacher, our school had an author/illustrator visit from Loreen Leedy. When I heard her presentation, I thought this is what I want to do! At the time I was in my late 30’s and had two small children and a full-time job so I didn’t get serious about it until I was in my 40’s and my children were older. 

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it. For years, I had a very tiny art space in a room off the garage. A few years back we expanded that area, and now I have the most beautiful room overlooking the backyard. My husband is the gardener and bird and butterfly enthusiast so I get to enjoy this incredible view. The floors are concrete so I don’t have to worry about spots of paint on the floor. It’s not always this neat, but I do try to keep my work space organised.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I like when I’ve worked out all the drawing and composition issues and it’s ready to paint or draw. I especially like playing with textures. I struggle so much with the initial drawing process, but if I can get that right, the rest is so much fun.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Don’t wait to start! But if you do, know that it’s not too late to become an illustrator. In fact, my work ethic and drive is much stronger now than in my 20’s. I’m not sure if I had it in me back then to go through all the struggles and rejections to become published.

Cheryl is a writer, illustrator, and art teacher living in the Houston area with her husband. She has two grown children and a menagerie of rescue cats and dogs. She works mainly in pencils and acrylics. Her debut picture book is Big and Little A Story of Opposites (Spring, 2019 Holiday House). Cheryl also illustrated a middle grade chapter book, The Littlest Voyageur (Spring, 2020, Holiday House). 

For more information please visit Cheryl's website or follow her on instagram or twitter.