MEET THE MAKER: Nicky Johnston - author | illustrator | speaker | educator
How long has your business been operating?
I have been painting and drawing for many years, but entered into the world of children’s book publishing about 10 years ago.
What do you make and create?
I am a children’s book author and illustrator, with five published children’s books, three more coming out this year and two in 2018. Along with illustrating for children’s books, I also create custom portrait illustrations, vision board illustrations and I produce original artwork and archival prints (both limited edition and open edition). I visit schools as an ‘Author/Illustrator’ presenting to both primary and secondary students sharing the process of writing and illustrating as well as running illustration workshops.
Tell me about the person you are in everyday life?
I am a busy mum to four boys with a pretty chaotic life! When I am not writing or illustrating children’s books, I work for RACV as a ‘Traffic Safety Educator’. I am an incursion visiting teacher educating primary students about road safety. It is quite funny when I go to the same schools I have been as ‘author/illustrator’, the kids will often recognise me and want me to do some drawings on the whiteboard!
I am the Director of a online creative community called 52-Week Illustration Challenge (with 5600 members)supporting and encouraging others to produce an illustration once a week for different themes for the whole year. It is so much fun!
Tell me about why you love to create your products or brand?
No matter what employment role I have had, it has involved me being creative. Sign writing, teaching art to youths at risk, decorating corporate businesses and painting murals in workplace toilets – I have always loved being creative. I am a passionate teacher and I love educating children, so combining the two together and becoming a children’s author and illustrator is the perfect thing for me.
Tell me about the space you work in or from to create your products?
I am extremely lucky to have an art studio where I illustrate. It is a little granny flat separate from my house and it is my creative haven. I can go out there to work and lose all track of time. Once I worked so late into the night. my family all went to bed and locked the doors and I had to phone my husband’s mobile to let me back in!! (needless to say I now have a separate house key!!)
Even with my special art studio, a lot of my initial sketches are first drawn in my ‘carry everywhere’ sketchbook, so I will sketch out concepts and first roughs in all sorts of places like – doctor’s surgery, while waiting in the car, at swimming lessons. I have even been able to work on roughs at the Mermaid Sorority markets!
Does your family help or have any input into what you do?
A lot of my stories and illustrations are inspired by my family and friends, and although my youngest son did once tip ink over a final piece of art when he was three years old, no they don’t really help me!
What are some of your proudest achievements?
Hmmmm......this is a great question as I don’t often spend much time reflecting on my achievements. Some of my biggest achievements:
- Having a theatrical production based on my first children’s book Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts! and winning an award in 2013
- Receiving hundreds of letters/cards/emails from parents whose lives have been changed through using my books as tools to help children overcome anxiety
- After nine years still reprinting my first book (five reprints so far)
- Winning ‘Illustrator Portfolio Award’ at the last Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Sydney (a meeting with HarperCollins)
- Having my own ‘star’ at Karingal Village Star Zone – for my artist contribution through my books.
Why do you believe people love your products or designs so much?
I think people have an immediate emotional connection with my art as well as my books. This is further cemented when I meet and chat with parents and at the markets. People get to know me personally and appreciate my authenticity and emotional nature and this comes through in my books and illustrations. Parents appreciate having great books that they can also use as tools to help support anxious children. Knowing that they are not alone in dealing with emotional resilience in their children is very comforting.
What are your short term goals?
I have two books and a gift card range I am currently working on – that will keep me very busy this year!
What are your long term goals?
I am planning to continue to illustrate children’s books as well as produce more books both written and illustrated by me. My goal is to work for some large publishers and to have my books translated overseas.
Why do you love being a part of the Mermaid Sorority Markets?
I love that both stall holders and customers have an appreciation of the work that goes into being a creator. Being a creative person takes a lot of hard work and effort both physically and emotionally in ‘putting yourself out there’. The Mermaid Sorority Markets are like no other, in that they create a community of people supporting each other. It is a joy to be part of such an amazing group of people.