Sunday, October 9, 2016

Chickengirl Jannie Ho to the Rescue!

Jannie Ho's work runs the gambit of the children's illustration market. Not only does she do picture books, but also does product design and product illustration. Jannie's illustrations are vivid, adorable and polished. I couldn't pass up the chance to interview Jannie this year and steal... er... find out all her illustration secrets. (Mwa, ha, ha!)

I forgot to ask Jannie why she is called Chickengirl and instead of asking I'm just going to tell you why. One night the Cosmic Fox came to Jannie in her dreams. Cosmic Fox told Jannie that she is the Chickengirl of legend and shall henceforth be his rival. Chickengirl later destroyed this fox and continued to fight evil in all it's forms. That sounds pretty true, doesn't it? Yep, that's probably how it happened.

Jannie Ho's debut picture book as an author/illustrator, BEAR AND CHICKEN, will be published by Running Press in Fall 2017!

Dani: How does your product design influence your picture book illustration and vice versa?

Jannie: I've worked on many projects that have both a product and book component to them, and that usually means it is for a younger age set. So my style usually looks younger even though I may not intend it to be so. I also have a lot of patterns and design elements in the products I work on, which I can see crosses over to my picture book illustration work.

Dani: What have been your biggest challenges in the illustration market?

Jannie: Being a freelancer always comes with the roller coaster ride of working for myself. Its been a challenge keeping up with the needs of the ever changing illustration market. What can I be open to or adjust so I fit in better in the market? The constant personal need of improving my art, while creating more opportunities for myself. I have a headache just thinking about it! But these are good things to think about. I would not want to be doing the same exact art I was doing when I first started.

Dani: Which illustrators do you admire most?

Jannie: This is such a tricky question because I can't possibly name them all! But when I was little, and still love today, is Richard Scarry. Many people can see his influence over my work. I remember being obsessively studying his art from Busy, Busy Town. In college, I fell in love with J. Otto Seibold. He was one of the first artists to create children's books with his funky digital style. The industry at the time still posed the questioned the validity of digital art. It inspired me to think I would be able to work on children's books my way. And now I find myself enjoying the style of many French illustrators, such as Marc Boutavant and Delphine Durand.

Dani: How did you break into illustrating in the children's market?

Jannie: I majored in illustration in art school and my style has always been much more suitable towards children. When I graduated, I worked as a designer/art director for various publishing houses, but doing illustrating on the side. I was slowly building my portfolio, eventually getting an art agent, whom I am still with today. Years later, I left my design job to commit illustrating full time, with great experience knowing how editors and art directors worked "from the inside."

Dani: Do you have any advice for people participating in the Smart Dummies challenge?

Try not to be overwhelmed and take it one step at a time. As an illustrator first, I tend to want to jump into the illustrations right away. I've learned to be not so precious with the sketches in the beginning and care for the story most. There will always be alot of revisions and accepting that as part of the process helps tremendously. Having a buddy/critique partner to check in with was an amazing motivator. And the most important thing- read! Read lots of picture books, and study it. Count the words, type out the story to see how it is being paginated, check out the design. Look up the font. You may find one little detail in the art of picture book making that you've never thought of before. It can inspire you in a whole new way.


  1. I loved what you said "I would not want to be doing the same exact art I was doing when I first started." This is exactly how I feel on this journey!

    1. thanks Lisa- may you be always be evolving and doing amazing art!

  2. Jannie, thanks for the sound advice. I noticed your illustrations on the MB Artists' Agency site yesterday after watching a video interview with Mela Bolinao. Today I read this and see why you've been with them for so long - it looks like a fun agency. Mela was talking about licensed characters. Are your characters licensed? Please delete this post if it's too personal.

  3. I can so relate to the jumping into illustration head first. i find rough sketches a challenge!

  4. Jannie's style is darling! And I feel such a kinship with her: we have the same last name (my maiden name); I've owned chickens for close to 15 years now; and, I have a cousin named Janny. ;) I also need to learn to not be so precious with my first drawings. Often, I hate to give them up but I know I should as the story is being refined.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience and congrats on Bear and Chicken, can't wait to see it!

  6. So many cute characters, Jannie!