Spotlight on Sara Gillingham

Sara Gillingham will be speaking and demonstrating her craft at the Annual 2018 Illustrator’s Breakfast on October 13. We asked a few questions to get to know her better. Here’s what she had to say . . .

Is there an art medium you have never tried but always wanted to? If you could, what would you do with it?

Watercolor! I’d love to make super loose, gestural character drawings – something totally different from my usual work.

Do you have a special place that you go to for inspiration? Tell us about it and why it works?

First – I go to where the children are (which, lucky for me, is my home!) – they are a constant and primary source of inspiration: how they think, what matters to them, how they draw. My second favorite place for inspiration is flea markets or my collection of vintage children’s books. I love seeing the way that people made and packaged things before the age of plastic mass-production we are in now. The materials, color palettes and typography that were used 50-60 years ago often inspire the textures and colors I use in my work.

What other jobs have you done besides children’s book illustrator?

I have (and still am) an art director and designer in children’s book publishing. I have also taught children’s book illustration at the university level and to continuing education students. Back in the old days, some other jobs I had were: substitute teacher, fabric store sales clerk, bead-party-lady, hotel front desk clerk, waitress, children’s-clothing-store clerk, tutor. As a child, I was an entrepreneur and started my own: library, stretch-pant business, jewelry business, stationery business.

Is there a children’s book illustrator whose artwork you absolutely adore and why?

There are so many incredible illustrators working today whose work I love, it is impossible to pick one. If I’m allowed to go back in time, I’d say that Bruno Munari is one of my all-time favorite illustrators. He really understood book-making and brought an elegance to children’s book design that has inspired generations of bookmakers.

Tell us about a museum or art gallery that you have visited that you really enjoyed and would recommend to others.

The Nordic Museum in Seattle, The Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood in London, The Nuremburg Toy Museum, The new Whitney Museum in New York.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I can never pick one! Professor Wormbog in Search of the Zipperumpa Zoo by Mercer Meyer, The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.