Jennifer Faria is an illustrator, painter and graphic designer who studied at Central Technical School and George Brown College in Toronto. Her works can be found in the collections of celebrities, politicians, and especially parents, as one of her specialties is portraits of babies and small children. While illustrating the grandfather in Raven, Rabbit, Deer, her first picture book, Jennifer drew inspiration from her maternal great-uncle, of whom she has warm memories. Similar to the boy in the story, Raven, Rabbit, Deer has been a walk of discovery for Jennifer as she learns more about her cultural heritage as a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.

Illustrator Q&A with Jennifer Faria

What made you interested in becoming an illustrator?

As a child I would spend countless hours drawing. It was an escape for me, and I loved the feelings of control and excitement I got from making things how I wanted them to be on paper. Over time I noticed it was a skill that was more unique to me than my young peers, and was garnering some attention. As it turned out, the decision was actually sealed quite early on. In Grade 3, my class was summoned to the computer lab, where I sat and answered what felt like endless questions. I didn’t know what we were doing at the time, but afterward, it was explained to me that we had taken a career assessment. I received a dot matrix printout informing me of the top three careers I would be best suited for. They were all art-related, but I remember number one was “Illustrator.” It had a little blurb beside it describing what an illustrator was, and when I discovered what the term meant, I was shocked and delighted to learn that having a career as an artist was actually a practical possibility.

What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?

When I was in Grade 1, we had to keep a log of the books we read in a notebook. My mother thought that it was important for me to read classic literature, so my notebook was filled with things like A Tale Of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, and the works of Anton Chekhov and Edgar Allan Poe. This was all very amusing and surprising to my teacher. I can’t say that I enjoyed those books more than George and Martha, The Berenstain Bears or Garfield comics, though. I liked looking at pictures from the encyclopedia and various fairy tale books, too. As an older kid, I also enjoyed things like Archie comics and the Sweet Valley High series, always preferring real life and everyday human interest stories to anything too improbable.

For me, I don’t think I saw myself in the books I read, as much as the books I read helped form who I’ve become. For instance, I have long since had an extremely strong conscience, developed, in part I suppose, after reading The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe at an impressionable age. It really showed me the value of honesty.

What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?

Hands down, my favourite subjects to draw are people, and faces. I also like fanciful and ornamental details like plants, flowers, borders, elaborate clothing and hairstyles, banners, etc. More than specific subjects though, I often tend to be more interested in conveying a particular mood and atmosphere. My personal work often reveals intense emotion, and I seem to gravitate toward picturesque, idyllic, regal, powerful and ethereal themes.

What is a challenge you have faced as an artist?

I’ve faced two main challenges as an artist. First and foremost, I have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, which I think is a very complex and widely misunderstood condition. Just scratching the surface, for instance, it often makes communication, as well as many routine tasks, difficult for me. However, it also allows me to hyper-focus on my work, which is an incredible asset. Also, I didn’t have an upbringing that included the kinds of support people typically receive from their family. That’s been a struggle, but I suppose in a way it’s also made me more resilient and resourceful.

What advice do you have for kids who are interested in art and illustration?

You have to love drawing. So, draw what you love. If you love to draw trains, draw all the trains and don’t stop. If you love to draw animals, keep drawing animals. If you love it, draw it.