In which Jillian Tamaki illustrates my books

Given that I’ve written twice about Jillian Tamaki in the last thirty days, you can imagine how chuffed I was to meet her at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.  The queue at her signing was short but snail-slow. When I finally approached her table, I realised she was inking a different sketch on the flyleaf for each person.  So kind! So PR-savvy! But really, SO kind.

I’d brought along my copy of Margi Preus’s Heart of a Samurai , for which Tamaki had done the cover illustration, and she drew me a picture of the novel’s protagonist, a fourteen-year-old Japanese boy. Don’t miss the birds in the background.

I also bought the graphic novel  Skim at the venue, thus ensuring that my $13 went directly to her bank [update: and Mariko Tamaki’s too].  She drew this picture.

As this willowy snake-person bore no resemblance to any of Skim’s characters or to me, I looked up her blog and found she’d drawn something similar for the New York Times recently. And like two hundred people before me that day, I asked about her  magnificent embroidered Penguin covers, and I learnt something new–the inner cover will look like the back of the embroidered cloth! I don’t know why the prospect of viewing a seething mass of threads excites me so.

I also mentioned how much I liked her illustration for Hiromi Goto’s Half World, especially the fact that her women aren’t drawn as pencil-thin caricatures of real women.

See the chunky arms? The double chin? And Skim’s characters aren’t Size Zeros either.  She replied (and I’m paraphrasing very approximately here) that an illustrator needs to dare to find beauty in reproductions of reality too. Bravo!

Incidentally, Tamaki drew both the sketches in under three minutes, all the while carrying on a conversation with me and a friend. Being in the company of such talent was simultaneously exalting and humbling; I had to drink a restorative Orangina before I could gather my wits and head back home.


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