I am excited to present to you, today, a recent interview that I conducted with one of my long-time blog pals, Jana Winters Parkin. Jana, in addition to being a wife, mother, teacher, and gifted writer, is also a water color painter and desiginer of reknown. Jana has recenlty collaborated with author Ester Rasband and illustrated a wonderful book about Christmas, called "What Think Ye of Christmas?"
Jana was good enough to send me a copy of the book, which I now treasure (thank you so much, my friend), and I would like to tell you about it, but I am not sure that I have the words. Since we are great pals, Jana consented to grant me an interview, which I am pleased to share with you, so I will get right to it.
Jana, I am excited about our interview, but even more excited about this book. I have been proud to call you friend for several years now, just because you are such a good person, but I am prouder still because of this accomplishment, so thanks for giving me the opportunity to share you with the people who read my blog!
I'm honored GF. In fact, you were one of my very first blog friends I hadn't met in real life. In fact (chuckling) I remember when you first commented on my blog, and one of my friends called me, concerned. "Did you know someone named Gunfighter is reading your blog?" I think she was concerned about my safety. :) I was happy be be able to reassure her that you are a man of faith, a father, a law-enforcer, and all-around great guy!
Well, I am glad that you weren't scared off. I'm only dangerous to some people. ;) I would like to get started by asking you to give us a little biographical information about yourself .
Although I was born and raised in the mountains of Utah, I spent most of my adult life in Los Angeles, and still consider it home. I am the mother of three amazing children, including a college freshman, a high school sophomore, and a sixth grader...about the same age as Soccer Girl, right? My husband is a filmmaker. We left the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for a more family-friendly environment (and a steadier paycheck) in Utah about six years ago. My husband teaches film production at BYU. You can see my professional bio on my website.
Indeed, Soccer Girl is a sixth grader, and we are enjoying this time immensely, as I am sure that you and your husband are. Now, I understand that although you have been a professional artist for a long time, this is the first book that you have illustrated.
Yes, I've designed other books, and have had countless illustrations published, but this is the very first book that I illustrated from cover to cover.
How did all of this come about?
It all started about four years ago, when my dad and I had an exhibit of our watercolors in a gallery in Park City. The author came to the opening, fell in love with my work, purchased a giclée of one of my paintings, and later approached me about collaborating on a book project. You can read the whole story on my blog, starting here. The story is rife with impossibility and frustration...and bonafide miracles.
How long did the creative process take?
Would you believe eight weeks? I (along with an intern) did all the breaking down of the manuscript, research, sketches and layouts part time over the first six weeks. Then (and this is one of the miracles) I did all twenty original paintings in just two weeks!
Two weeks? That is amazing! Were there paintings that you did that the author or publisher wanted to do differently?
Great question -- and the answer is No. She was amazing to work with, loved every idea I presented, noticed every detail and symbol I incorporated. The only suggestion she made was this: She felt that the 2-page spread with the shepherds and star didn't say enough about the line, "God gives us symbols by commandment" -- which refers of course to the Last Supper, which we emulate each week when we take the sacrament or communion; as well as baptism, which Paul tells us is a symbol of death and resurrection; and other symbols we have been given. I answered this request by incorporating a line drawing of a silver challis, representing that "bitter cup" Christ spoke of, and also the wine goblet used in the last supper, a subtle but significant symbol for any and all sacraments. It is right next to that paragraph of text.
That is awesome. As soon as I read this, I had to go back and re-read the book (again). To be sure, some of your illustrations put me in mind of the quintessential small town American Christmas. Are these the Christmases of your memory?
Yes. My grandmother (You can see a painting of her pictured on the page opposite the earth!) was a living, breathing Mrs. Santa Claus and always created the most magical, old-fashioned Christmases for us as children. The cookie spread is inspired by our Christmases with her. She also made up a bedtime story for us called Cozette, which was about a little girl pressing her nose against the glass of a store window at Christmas. I talked about that wonderful bedtime story in this post, and that story also provided some of the imagery for the illustration on the first two spreads. The opening illustration is a village in England I visited while I was a student there and had always wanted to paint.
Jana, I have always known you be a woman of great faith and it shows even more in your answers, do you find that your faith plays a large part in your painting?
Absolutely. Watercolor as a medium is dependent on water and light, which are both spiritual elements. But that water and light, much like our own lives, implies a certain amount of risk, a lack of control. It can't be overworked or it loses its freshness and that luminous quality we love. There is faith required just to begin. Then to proceed. And often to keep working on it when you feel like you've blown it. There are even repentance elements...lifting and softening...that can help "save" a botched painting.
In addition to the inherent spiritual quality of painting with watercolor, this project was in itself a giant exercise in faith, which you can read about on my blog. The deadline was impossible. There was no time to rework or redo any paintings. Life kept getting in the way. The biggest challenge of all for me was painting the Savior. I was daunted by that task; felt incapable and unworthy. Yet by the end of the project I had spent eight weeks immersed in the text, and two weeks focused only on Christ and his birth...through music, words, and the paintings I was creating...and as I began I realized He'd been with me all along, that I knew Him better than I had before, and the painting just happened very naturally.
Can I just tell you how wonderful it is that you use your gifts in such a way?
Okay... I know that you lived and worked in L.A. for many years, but have recently relocated to Utah; has that had any effect on your painting?
I've noticed that my palette has changed slightly since moving here. The color of the landscape is different and my palette has adjusted to reflect that. On my website there is a separate page for both Utah and California landscapes and you can actually see that shift when you see them all together like that.
The biggest change that occurred with the move here, though, was TIME. When we lived in Los Angeles I was running a full-service design studio out of our house AND teaching graphic design at Glendale College. My painting was limited to Wednesday nights...unless I could incorporate painting into my design projects, which I often did. Here? I teach watercolor painting at Utah Valley University, and the rest of my time is devoted to mothering, painting, and writing, in that order.
Tell us about your commissioned work. You have done some work for pretty famous names. Can you tell us about them?
Sure. I used to design the invitations and collateral materials for a lot of celebrity galas when we lived in Los Angeles, which made me sort of a Designer-to-the-Rich-and-Famous. But it's not quite as glamourous as it sounds. The one that usually raises the most eyebrows was designing the invitations to the Golden Globe Awards party for InStyle magazine. I've also been to Melanie Griffiths and Antonio Banderas' house, when I was working for Melanie's Sabera Foundation. I did a lot of projects for Paul Newman's charity, the Scott Newman Center, including one where they blew up my watercolors in these giant floor-to-ceiling banners at the gala. That was exciting. I did a piece for Michelle Pfeiffer that was a pop-up of a country carnival, and she liked my mock-up so much, she asked if she could keep it! (That also made my day. I didn't mind making another one for the printer after that.)
Now, I am pretty sure that you know that the Gunfighters are a serious Disney family, so I would really like to hear about doing work for Disney. What did you do and what was it like working with Disney’s people?
I designed the fundraising campaign for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Lilian Disney passed away just before I was brought on, so I never got to meet her, but I heard she was wonderful. I worked with the marketing staff at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who were regular clients of mine. But if you ever make it to Disney Hall, my name is in one of the bricks on the patio!
I am just about out of questions, Jana, is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Thank you so much for conducting the interview. It was great fun! And thank you to your readers, assuming they actually made it through all this! :)
I especially appreciate your time and airspace, knowing you are planning to retire your blog soon. Thank you for supporting me and my book.
Jana, I want to thank you once more for taking some of your busy Christmas time to talk with us. This is a wonderful and richly illustrated book, and I wish you every success in your future efforts, and all of the blessings of Christmas for you and your family.
Friends, you can go to HERE to visit Jana’s website and view more of her wonderful artistry. I think that you should go there right now.