Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mr. Pig Visits. . . Jennifer Thermes!


Mr. Pig here. Guess where I'm off to today? I'll give you a hint: it's a little studio in the big Connecticut woods. That's right! I'm visiting the lovely and talented Jennifer Thermes, children’s book author, illustrator, and map illustrator, who most recently illustrated the book: Little Author in the Big Woods, A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough.

Fascinating read! And such lovely artwork.

You know, I could use a map right now. I think I'm lost. Oh dear. 

Over here, Mr. Pig!

Jennifer! I'd recognize that smile anywhere.

Come on in.

So the truth is, my studio is tiny and un-glamorous, but it works. If I had a bigger one I'd probably fill it with junk I don't need anyway. I didn't straighten it up much before your visit... this is the real deal! I like to call it "cozy clutter." This room was a crumbling, ant-ridden greenhouse when we moved in to our home, but it had a solid foundation, so we were able to enclose it. It still doesn't have a door, which was perfect when the kids were little, because I was always just a step away. Ooo, I'm noticing a bit of wall space in the upper corner! Must fill it with something!

How about a photo of a dashing Pig?

Haha. Sure! Here's the view from my drawing table. It's a changing tableau throughout the seasons. I especially love summertime, when the windows are open and I can listen to the birds and the wind chimes outside. On the left is a permanent cat fixture given to me by my daughter.

The portable cat fixtures usually hang out in a basket and a box next to the windows. And yes, I take way too many pictures of them...

... because, cats.

Cats, indeed!

Except for family photos, the wall in front of my table is constantly changing, depending on what I'm working on at the moment. Lots of bear and bird reference pictures here, from when I was illustrating BEAR AND BIRD.

Here's a piece of finished art from that book. I loved those two characters.

Just lovely, I adore your line work and color.

Thank you, Mr. Pig. Behind my drawing table is a flat file that my husband built for my birthday almost 20 years ago. Isn't it beautiful? It must weigh a bajillion pounds. And, of course, it makes another good place to pile things. I'm very good at piles.
I've also managed to squeeze a standing desk in here, because... spine! Seriously, it's important not to sit all day. I've paid the price over the years in back pain, though it's in a manageable place now. Best to always make time for exercise, too, no matter how many deadlines are pressing. Good for the body, mind, and art!

The shelves hold just part of my writing-and-art craft book collection. They are quite addictive. I always want to keep learning, though I've found over the years that reading too much about craft can be a seductive form of procrastination. At a certain point it's better to sit down and do.

I'm in waiting-mode on my next book project, so here's a photo I took of work-in-progress shot of promo postcard art.

And the finished piece.

I love that. I hope she ends up in a future book!

She just might. And of course, the computer. When I'm in the midst of a book project the wall to the right and around the doorframe is filled with sketches. (One must use every piece of wall!) One of the cubbyholes above the computer has some of my years worth of sketchbooks and notebooks.

Here are a few more. My sketchbooks are completely messy– they are really just a holding spot for ideas– but to me, they are gold. This past summer I took a few days and looked through some old ones. It's amazing to rediscover ideas that you had no idea you'd thought of, and to see how other ones have grown over the years into viable stories. It's also fascinating to discover themes that run through your work. 

Finally, here's a sneak peek of part of a sketch from my Next Big Book Project! It's called CHARLES AROUND THE WORLD, and it's a picture book biography of Charles Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle...

with lots and lots of...

...maps! It's due out in fall 2016 with Abrams Books for Young Readers. I am over-the-top excited to start working on this one.

My latest book, released this past September. 
LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS, A BIOGRAPHY OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER (Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, 2014) Written by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Illustrated by Jennifer Thermes

Here's a couple of the interior illustrations:

And me, age 11, wishing I was Laura!

You look splendid in a bonnet!

You are too kind, Mr. Pig. Well, that's the tour! Please do come back again. Do you know how to find your way home?

Hmmm, I may need you to draw me a map.


Jennifer Thermes is a children’s book author, illustrator, and map illustrator. Her second book as author/illustrator, Sam Bennett’s New Shoes, was a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book. Her books as illustrator have received a Kirkus starred review, been included in a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book list, and been recognized in 3x3 Magazine’s Children’s Illustration Annual. A Horn Book Magazine review for the middle-grade novel Maggie & Oliver described Jennifer’s black & white art as “warm pencil drawings reminiscent of Lois Lenski.”

After earning a degree in Communication Design from Parsons School of Design, Jennifer began her career working in a magazine art department, before becoming a freelance illustrator for magazines and book publishers. She specializes in illustrated maps, and has created frontispiece maps for books such as The Vine Basket, The Water Seeker, and Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party.

When not making art, Jennifer loves to read and work in her garden. She lives with her family, two cats, one dog, and an assortment of uninvited mice in an 18th century farmhouse in Connecticut.

See more of work at

(Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, 2014)
Written by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Illustrated by Jennifer Thermes
ISBN 978-0805095425

“The illustrations are lovely pencil drawings that pay homage to Garth Williams' work while maintaining originality.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Thermes’s playful, Lois Lenski–like pencil illustrations add welcome spirit and character, evoking Helen Sewell’s original illustrations of Wilder’s books more than Garth Williams’s well-known artwork of the 1950s editions.” – Publishers Weekly

"The narrative is simple and straightforward, and the illustrations are innocent and cozy, calling to mind the original illustrations in the "Little House" books themselves.” —School Library Journal

1 comment:

  1. I so enjoyed learning more about Jennifer and her work. Thank you!