Spend some time looking at a Jill McDonald piece and you’re likely to find yourself spending more time looking at a Jill McDonald piece. That’s because her fine art for kids is so detailed, whether it be with scientific facts about the solar system or fun little vignettes of kids at a party. We spent some time talking with Jill recently:
Oopsy daisy: Do you have formal art training?
Jill McDonald: Yes, I went to Rhode Island School of Design and majored in textile design.
OD: How did you make the leap from textile design to illustration?
JM: I always drew. That was kind of my first love. I also really love patterns. So the work I do now is about 50/50 drawing and pattern. I incorporate a lot of textile design aesthetic into my work.
OD: It looks like you incorporate collage into some of them, too. Is that correct?
JM: I do incorporate collage a lot. I love to cut things out. When I’m cutting paper I’m just really at home with that. It seems to organically flow. I like to paint and build back on top of it.
OD: How do you decide what technique to incorporate into a particular piece of kids’ art?
JM: It’s kind of like emotion. I just sit down and allow myself to be inspired—to be open to where the piece is going. It’s just so intuitive, being true to what needs to come next. And I think that that kind of freedom and security with the process gives it a fun comfortable, happy look in the end.
JM: Factual. I love a touch of education in things, and I focus on fun facts. I look at it as a chance for me to learn, as well. With A-Z of Tropical Fish, when I started I didn’t know anything about them, but by the end I knew the whole alphabet of fish from a-z. I don’t want to just do a safari theme and put in all the expected animals. I want to research it and make it accurate and bring education to it.
Also I try to pack a piece with details so when kids come back to it they can find something new each time. I love that there’s so much going on in my work, and I love when a detail is cropped and turned into something new, like a nightlight.
OD: How does it feel knowing that your fine art is in so many kids’ rooms?
JM: I feel really honored to have my art in kids’ bedrooms. My brother works at Boston Children’s Hospital and they have lots of my art there. It’s just really an honor to know it’s there, providing comfort and inspiring kids.
OD: Judging from photos, your son’s room is full of your art as well!
JM: Yes, even the bedding and color wheel rug in Luca’s room are mine. Luca is 4 almost 5. He spent Monday through Friday the first 3 years of his life with us at the studio. My husband was an architect but now works with me. We got less done, structured the day differently but loved having him with us. If he’s not at school then he’s here. It was important to my husband Antonio and I that he knew that he was part of our family business. (Being cooperative is part of that!)
OD: What’s on your iPod these days?
JM: Pandora, because I love all sorts of music: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Edith Piaf, Foster the People. I love different things and different sounds.
OD: What animal would you like to be?
JM: A zebra—I love the stripes!
OD: Rainy days or sunny days?
JM: Both. I’ll take rainy if there’s thunder involved, sunny if it’s not too hot. ’Cause I want it all.
Feel free to have a look at Jill McDonald’s Oopsy Daisy Collection