Spotlight: Illustrator Joanne Renaud

Joanne Renaud is an illustrator, who graduated in illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Before moving to Southern California, she studied graphic design at Central Washington University and art at the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

At present, she lives in Los Angeles. Recent clients include Simon & Schuster, Random House, Harcourt Inc., Trillium Publishing, McGraw Hill, Zaner Bloser and Astonishing Adventures Magazine.

Joanne is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and enjoys travel, history, costume design, classic movies, old musicals, and cheesy fantasy art.

Have you always known you wanted to be an illustrator?
Well, I always knew that I wanted to do something in the visual arts, but I was never sure exactly what that was…. for the longest time, I was preparing to go into graphic design and advertising, but that didn’t work out. Amusingly enough, I didn’t figure this out until after I’d gotten my graphic design degree, which was a bit awkward…

Why choose the Art Centre College of Design?
Well, my graphic design prof at my old university went to Art Center, and he always spoke very highly of it. He told me several times that if I ever wanted to get into illustration, then Art Center was the place to be.

How has your family been about your decision to pursue art?
I think it depends on how one defines “family”– my extended family has been very supportive.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Sometimes I’m inspired by movies, TV shows, and other artists from the past and present, but I’m most inspired by reading and writing.  For some reason, looking at pictures does not inspire me as much as the writing process.  Speaking of which, I’ve had a few short stories published in online magazines like “Astonishing Adventures Magazine” and “Dark Valentine,” and I just finished a time travel romance novella, which I have just started sending out to various e-publishing houses. Whenever I hit a dry spell artistically, I often revisit some of my favorite books– to name a few, I just reread “Jane Eyre,” and Lloyd Alexander’s “The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha.” So now I want to draw medieval Persians, or Mr. Rochester…

Are there any illustrators in particular that you greatly admire?
I really admire people who can paint and draw in their sleep, since I know a lot of digital illustrators who’ve allowed those skills to atrophy. Rebecca Guay is one of my favorite traditional artists– I’ve actually met her in person several times, and she’s really gracious and wonderful to talk to. (Her paintings also look amazing when you see them in person.) The late Trina Schart Hyman is another favorite artist; I also love Valerie Valusek, Donato, Kinuko Craft, and Owen Smith.

You enjoy costume design? How’s that working out for you? Any favorite creations?
I don’t actually sew, but I did do some costume design for a student webseries recently.

Your recent clients include the likes of Simon & Schuster, Random House,McGraw Hill, and Astonishing Adventures Magazine, and some of these are big names. Is there a particular body of works that you would really want to do illustrations
Well, I love history–all types, all periods–so I would love to illustrate anything historical in nature.  (I just finished an illustration of Cleopatra and her handmaidens, which is coming out in the summer issue of “Dark Valentine” magazine– I really enjoyed working on that, and putting all the ladies in suitably Hellenistic attire.)  I would also love to illustrate fairy tales, or any kind of myths and legends; besides Greek myths (doesn’t everyone like those?) I also like ancient Middle Eastern myths, like the story of Gilgamesh. I’ve also been getting into Indian legends, like the Ramayana.

How would you describe your work in your own words?
Detail-oriented, organic, ornate, soft, atmospheric, well-researched… and definitely costumey!