Chickadee caught up with Jay Odjick, a super talented illustrator, writer, television producer and comic creator. We asked him a few questions about illustrating Robert Munsch’s latest children’s book, Bear For Breakfast.
Congrats on Bear for Breakfast! What does having this book published in both English and Algonquin mean to you?
For me it is a dream come true. As a kid, I couldn’t have imagined seeing a book like that. I’m proud that Bear for Breakfast is an entryway for people both on-and off-reserves to learn the language. At the end of the day, this book is about a kid having an adventure, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what race you are, you can read the book and have a good time.
What is it like to collaborate with Robert Munsch? Why does your collaboration work so well?
What I appreciated most is that Robert really trusted me to tell the visual part of the story. I think that comes from him being very comfortable and confident in his abilities as a storyteller. He understands that the best way is to be collaborative, and that to me is invaluable.
What kind of technology do you use to draw?
I did Bear for Breakfast 100 percent on the iPad Pro and did the colouring on an iMac computer. I also use an app called Tayasui Sketches School, an app called Procreate and one called Clip Studio Paint for Manga. I think the coolest thing is to be able to show kids and say, “Look, you can draw on the exact programs that I do, use the exact same hardware, and use the same apps.” It’s really cool.
What do you love about illustrating for kids?
I think it’s getting back to the things I loved as a kid and trying to think in that mindset. It’s fun to think, “What can I do here that would really capture my imagination?” If I can say I spend half of my day trying to think like a kid—that’s a good job to have at the end of the day.
What did you love to draw as a kid?
Superheroes. When I was a little kid, I learned how to read through comic books. The over-the-top and in-your-face bright colours were comic book hallmarks I really dug as a kid, and I try and bring in that same level of dynamic action into my illustrations.
Do you have any art advice for kids?
Try to find balance between working on what you need to improve while still having fun. Be your toughest critic but also recognize and celebrate your improvements. There are many ways to do things and try to find what works for you—be bold and embrace technology. Try what I use, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, which is great gear and environmentally friendly! Practice, practice, practice, and remember, the only thing you can control is how hard you work!
Have you ever eaten bear for breakfast?
I’ve had bear, but not for breakfast. Growing up on the reserve, we ate a lot of wild game, but bear meat is a little less common. But at one point as a kid, I did have bear… but it was for lunch!
Thanks, Jay. It was great chatting with you!
Readers, what is your favourite breakfast food? Comment below!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.