Jim Harris Answers
Frequently Asked Questions
How did you become an illustrator?
It was pretty much an accident. I was going to be a mathematician… but I took a summer job drawing cartoons and after that… I never went back to math.
Where do you come up with the ideas for your stories?
My parents and my kids and even my pets give me a lot of ideas. Another good place is comic books.
How long does it take to do the illustrations for a book?
Well… that depends. I’d say four to six months was an average. Part of that time is waiting to hear back from the publisher about their comments on character sketches and layout sketches… so the actual drawing and painting time is less than that.
What’s your favorite piece of art equipment?
My Windsor Newton Series 7 size 10 brush. It’s about as big around as my thumb… and costs about $200 (a lot more than most of my brushes). You have to like it to pay that much!
What are your favorite colors?
Ultramarine blue and red.
When you write a book, do you think of the pictures or the story first?
Usually, the pictures and the story idea pop into my head at the same time… and they both change a lot in the process of finishing the book.
What are your favorite children’s books?
The Chronicles of Narnia.
Who is your favorite illustrator?
What is your favorite food?
Pizza with pepperoni.
Your least favorite food?
Do you have a favorite sport?
Basketball and weightlifting.
Where were you born?
My mother tells me it was in a hospital in North Carolina. She says the whole country set off fireworks a day in advance… which ended just as I was born on the 5th of July.
Do you have any sisters and brothers?
Only brothers. But I have nine sisters-in-law, so that kind of makes up for it.
What were you like as a child?
Skinny and shy.
What was your childhood like?
Very happy. My mom and dad weren’t artists themselves, but they generously supplied me with several truckloads of art supplies in the course of my childhood, and put up with a couple decades of my bedroom looking and smelling like an oil-paint factory. I didn’t really appreciate this enough at the time… but it means a lot to me now.
What was your best subject in school?
What was your worst subject?
Hmmm. Do I have to pick? I guess it would be spelling. I also had a hard time with reading. After I finished school I learned to love to read… but I’m still not a fast reader.
Did you ever do any other jobs besides illustrating?
When I was a kid I worked for a dentist, boxing up a product he was selling. When I was older I was a camp counselor, and a janitor, and an art gallery guard. And for a while I worked in film animation. (Also, my mother paid me to clean my room.)
What do you like to watch on TV?
I liked “Wild Wild West” as a child, but I don’t have very much time to watch TV now. It always seems like there are more important things to do.
Where do you live?
In the country -- at the end of a dirt road outside a little village in New Zealand. By “little,” I mean one general store, one fish-and-chips store and one gas station.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, there’s Shep, the Newfoundland/Collie cross. His fur is a getting white around his muzzle because he’s so old. Mostly he likes to lie around and sleep. We tease him because Newfies are supposed to be water dogs, but Shep doesn’t like to get his feet wet.
Then there’s Grace, the calico cat. She only lives at our house part-time. We aren’t sure where she goes the rest of the time… but I think she goes hunting in the forest behind our house.
Lollipop and Aiko are our guinea pigs. Lollipop tends toward the double-chin side of things. Aiko is more your athletic go-getter. But they both love cabbage. And grass. I have not yet figured out how two small guinea pigs can consume, daily, a pile of grass twice as tall as they are.
And there’s the horses: Sonny is a retired racehorse. He loves to blow warm air down my neck on a cold winter day. I think he is saying something in horse language… but the closest I can come to a translation is… Hey, Big Guy, got any carrots today?
Ginger is your basic old gray mare. She is almost 30 years old, but when she races Sonny up the pasture hills, she gets to the gate first more than her share of the time.
Itty Bitty Smitty, the Shetland pony, actually owns the farm. He just lets the rest of us live here. He wanders around the yard, nibbling roses, dahlias, lettuce plants and whatever else strikes his fancy. If you sit down on a log—to get down on his level—he will come over and have a chat with you. And he is always happy to give you a ride, if you are not too big.
Do you have any hobbies?
I like archery. And I love to read books to my kids.
In-Frequently Asked Questions
I would say my top three infrequently-asked-questions are, without a doubt…
- Dad, can I clean your studio today?
- Dad, did you lose some weight?
- Dad, do you want the last piece of pizza?
Images and Text © 2009 Jim Harris. All Rights Reserved