Applying for a job as an illustrator can be a tough sell, said Jo Rioux.
Kanata Lakes woman publishes graphic novel.
Jo Rioux has recently published her first graphic novel that she both wrote and illustrated. The Kanata Lakes woman is already sifting through several dozen ideas for her next book.
Illustrators fresh out of art school ritually pepper magazine and book publishers with postcards decorated with their art, hoping to catch someone’s eye.
Rioux spent several years developing her craft and waiting to get noticed before she got her first big break.
After she graduated from the art program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., Rioux sent out hundreds of postcards, with no reply.
“It’s one of those things,” said the 30-year-old Kanata Lakes woman. “It can really get lost in the shuffle.”
The trick is meeting someone in person, said Rioux, who presently holds a full-time job designing graphics and animations for Smarter Apps, located in downtown Ottawa.
Rioux, who recently published The Golden Twine, a graphic novel for young adults, landed her first publishing deal after cornering the editor-in-chief of Kids Can Press during a book signing at Ottawa’s Museum of Nature in 2007.
At the time, Rioux was working at a boutique in the museum.
The fledgling then-25-year-old artist introduced herself to the editor and handed her a business card along with samples of her work.
A few days later, Rioux received a contract offer from Kids Can Press, asking her to illustrate a children’s comic book series called Sam and Friends Mysteries.
“I was pretty ecstatic because in Ottawa there’s no book publishing business that will employ illustrators like me,” she said.
In 2007, the publishing company was just starting out its graphic novel program.
“I checked out her portfolio and I just loved it,” said Karen Li, editor of Kids Can Press.
“What I was looking for was something that would appeal to kids who love manga,” she said. “I knew she could speak the language of manga.”
Rioux produced four books over the next three years, publishing the last of the series in 2010.
Last month, Rioux published her first graphic novel that she wrote and illustrated.
The Golden Twine, the first book of the Cat’s Cradle series, is set in a fantasy world and is about a little girl, abandoned at birth, who teams up with a giant dog and an imp to find her family.
The book sells for $9.99 in paperback and $17.99 in hardcover and is available at Chapters, Indigo, Coles or online at www.amazon.ca.
So far, 2,700 copies have been sold.
Rioux’s long road to becoming a paid illustrator started when she was a child growing up in Gloucester.
The young artist loved to read French-language comic books, devouring titles such as Spirou et Fantasio and later, when she learned to speak English, comics illustrated using the Japanese manga style of art.
“I was definitely influenced by it,” she said. “Anyone who gets my book (can) see that.”
Later, she attended De La Salle French public school in downtown Ottawa, where she studied in a special arts program that included one hour of visual arts everyday.
KIDS LIT GALA
Rioux will share some advice about breaking into the publishing business during the 12th-annual Kids' Lit Gala, scheduled to be held in the Chamber Room of Ben Franklin Place in Nepean on Oct. 16, starting at 7 p.m.
She will be one of 10 artists and authors appearing at the children’s literature gala.
Rioux said her first tip for new artists is to learn from other illustrators and authors.
“Don’t try to re-invent the wheel,” she said. “There’s a lot of great authors out there.
“Take some paneling here and there, glean from what’s already been done.”
Artists can also take advantage of the tools available on the web, she added.
“With the Internet you can get exposure for your own work,” she said. “Definitely put your stuff out there so you can get feedback and get better.”
Artists should learn their trade by drawing in black and white, she said.
“I would advise people to start black and white,” she said. “It teaches you what’s important visually and then you can move on to colour.”
Much of Rioux’s art is produced on her computer.
“Invest in a good tablet, draw on it with a stylus or plastic pen – it is so much easier to draw.”
Rioux still does much of her work on paper, drawing her panels using a blue col-erase pencil. She later scans the drawings onto her computer, where she adds colour, text and special effects, such as shading, using Photoshop.
“I love my undo button,” said Rioux with a laugh.
The artist said she’s slowly moving to actually sketching on her computer using a stylus pen.
“Once I get good at that it will really speed things up,” she said. “If you can do it all on the computer I would suggest people start that way, because it’s a huge time saver.”
There’s never been a more affordable time for artists to create graphic novels, said Rioux.
“It’s almost all digital now,” she said. “You can almost never put a pen to paper and still do it.”
With her first solely-created graphic novel under her belt, Rioux is ready for her next big project.
“I have about 20 ideas for future projects and now I have to choose which ones to pursue first.”