Joyce Hesselberth is one artsy parent.

One-half of the creative talent behind Spur Design, Joyce’s illustration works has appeared in national ad campaigns, theater productions and numerous major newspapers and magazines. She’s also the blogger who keeps KidBaltimore up and spinning. We always love to check out what art projects and fun places Joyce and her kids have gone around Charm City!

One of Joyce’s latest projects was illustrating A Child’s Book of Animal Poems and Blessings. This marvelous little treasure pulls poems and blessings about animals from all time periods, religions, traditions, and cultures. Today, she shares a bit about her design inspirations, literacy, being a mom and cultivating creativity in your little thinkers!

She’s also been kind enough to donate a signed copy of A Child’s Book of Animal Poems and Blessings to a lucky (cool) progeny reader. Want to win it? Just leave a comment with your email address! You have until Monday, October 25th!

Tell us about A Child’s Book of Animal Poems and Blessings. How did you get involved in the project? How did you begin conceptualizing the illustrations? Can you describe the illustration technique?
The publisher, Skinner House, originally saw some of the children’s work I had developed for PrestoBingo (our children’s line of artwork). They contacted me, and I thought it would be a perfect fit. I love drawing animals. As soon as they sent me the selected poems, I started working through rough sketches in my sketchbook. The editor had obviously put a lot of thought into the order and selection of the poems, so it made my job easy. Once I had thumbnail drawings that I liked, I tightened up the sketches and sent them all to the publisher. After a few tweaks to the sketches (the publisher really gave me a lot of freedom), I got to work on the finals. I work in PhotoShop and use my sketches as a templates. I love to work with textures. I cut them into shapes with the pen tool, then color them and add any shadows or details. If there is a lot of line work (like in the birds) I may create some of it in Illustrator, print it out, distress it by adding a texture or sanding the printout, and then bring it back into PhotoShop.

Which poem or blessing in the book was your favorite to illustrate? Why?
Definitely the horse poem. I have always thought that drawing horses was a challenge. Since my style is rather distorted, I’m never really trying to depict the animals realistically, but their features still have to communicate the animal’s characteristics. The horse became rather fat, so that the poem could be tucked in his body. And his tiny little legs look like they would barely hold him up. He also has birds balanced all over him, and I’m pretty much always happy when I get to draw birds.

What is your personal philosophy about literacy and kids? What does “literacy” look like in your house?
I’m a huge fan of picture books, so unfortunately, literacy looks like a bunch of overflowing bookshelves in my house. I read to my kids every, every day. We go to the library constantly and I frequently have 20 or 30 books checked out (seriously). My rule with my oldest daughter, who has moved onto novels, is “you can only check out what you can carry.” The library is my saving grace because I could never buy all the books we go through. That said, don’t listen to me. Go buy my book!

We frequently post about exposing even itty bitty children to the universal language of art. What are you favorite art activities to do with your kids?
Anything messy. I write about a lot of my favorites on my blog, Kid Baltimore. But really, nothing beats simply drawing or painting with your kids. Since all of our kids have spent some of their early years at our studio, we always have kept a good supply of paint, glitter, markers, crayons and glue on hand. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s always available.

I notice that you and your husband are both illustrators and share a studio space in Hampden. What is your favorite project that you worked on together? Why?
Dave and I actually work separately on projects most of the time. That said, we share ideas and opinions frequently, and there is no one whose artistic judgment I value more than his. Being an illustrator is a very solitary endeavor. It’s great to have someone there to bounce ideas off of.

Favorite Baltimore-area place to cultivate creativity?
I absolutely love the American Visionary Art Museum, in particular, the mechanical sculptures in the Jim Rouse Visionary Center. There are so many buttons to push and cranks to turn, so kids can actually interact with the art. I think kids need to be exposed to work that pushes the edge of how you define art, and AVAM certainly does that.

Photo Credit: WhatWeekly.com