In November 2021, we launched The Picture Book Gallery as a way to generate funds for Canadian Children’s Book Week, which connects Canadian creators with children and teens across Canada. The Picture Book Gallery supports our annual tour that allows 28,000 young Canadians to participate in over 400 readings and workshops in a single week. Illustrators set their own prices, with 60% of the value of their art sold donated to Book Week. This event is a great opportunity for illustrators to showcase their work to a wider audience, all while generously contributing to a love of reading in children across Canada.
Richmond, BC’s Jeni Chen is one of the artists featured in the Picture Book Gallery. Her artwork was also featured on the poster for Canadian Children’s Book Week 2023, during which she toured virtually. Jeni is the author-illustrator of Emet’s Box. Since colour plays an important role in this picture book, we invited Jeni to answer a few questions related to the theme of colour.
What does colour bring to our lives and the world?
I love colours. Colours make life more exciting! In Emet’s Box, colours represent the feeling of being alive, excitement, curiosity, passion and creativity. I think very young kids were born knowing how to live in the moment and experience those wonderful emotions. As we get older, sometimes we forget that knowing and our life becomes “monotonous." With Emet’s Box, I hope the kids will never forget that light they were born with.
Even if we forget, that’s okay. We can find it again by following our bliss, as Joseph Campbell said. When people are in love with what they do, they can inspire others. Just like a single candle light, by sharing itself, it can light up the whole world.
How can we use picture books to engage in conversation about colour with readers?
There are several conversations that I would love to discuss regarding colours. In Emet’s Box, there’s a page where the kids shared what colours they like and later, what activities they enjoy doing.
As an artist, I would talk about colour theory such as analogous colours, complementary colours, warm colours, cool colours and how to use colours to express emotions.
Recently, I have been fascinated by how we see colours with our eyes. Colours are basically reflections of light. If you shine a beam of white light through a prism, you can see all the colours on the rainbow. We could have a long conversation about science, biology and who we really are physically, and even spiritually. We said kids are rays of light and I believe everyone was born with light within them. We just have to remember to rediscover and shine our light!
Which medium do you use to bring colour to your artwork?
I used both traditional and digital media, including acrylic paint, acrylic ink, Chinese ink and lots of digital colours. I combined everything on my computer using Photoshop.