Q&A with Nahid Kazemi, the 2018 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence

The Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence was launched by IBBY Canada in 2013 and offers a published children’s book illustrator a one-month residency in a public library.

The 2018 Illustrator in Residence was Nahid Kazemi. Nahid has illustrated 60 books for children and adults and has been published around the world, including in Canada, the US, the UK, Slovenia and Iran.

Her Canadian publishers include Groundwood Books (I’m Glad That You’re Happy) and Éditions de l’Isatis (Les mots d’Eunice).

Her most recent book, Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon with JonArno Lawson, will be published in February 2019 by Enchanted Lion Books.

Nahid was born in Iran, moved to Canada in 2014 and currently lives in Montreal. She has a BA and MA in Visual Arts (Painting) from the Art University of Tehran and has taught drawing, illustration and graphic design at the University of Sooreh in Iran.

Nahid completed the residency in October 2018 at Toronto Public Library’s Northern District Branch. We are pleased Nadid agreed to share a bit about her experiences as Illustrator in Residence.

What interested you about this opportunity?

This residency honours a great illustrator who passed away but left her legacy, like a treasure in this country.

It made me curious about Joanne Fitzgerald. I was glad that people are cherishing her. It proved to me the value of my new country. The reason for establishing this program was so valuable and interesting to me.

What were your expectations of the residency? Did you have any goals or things you especially wanted to do or see?

Canada was a new shore to me.  As a newcomer, who has worked widely internationally, I was seeking ways to show my art to my peers, publishers, and people in Canada. I was searching for new opportunities to extend my career. I wanted to show who I am and what I have in hand, and in mind, for the world of kids. This program truly helped me.

What were some of the activities that you did as Illustrator in Residence?

I did workshops for kids. I started with a creative activity like a simple collage. I tried to get them motivated and excited, and then asked them to do their own artwork, while guiding and encouraging them throughout the workshop. The results were awesome!

[Pictures from a children’s workshop Nahid led at Toronto Public Library as part of the Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program. During the workshop children illustrated their names using collage techniques.]

I had a few talks for illustrators and students about my experiences. Portfolio reviews were also a good part of this program. I had the opportunity to review a lot of portfolios from new illustrators and illustration lovers. I tried to give them career advice and share my experience in developing ideas and style.

On the last day, I gave a student talk at Seneca College. Some of the students were newcomers like me. I guess I was able to make them hopeful and inspired — to see a person who was like them and could continue to develop and extend their work in a new country.

Were there any highlights of the residency? You received some good news!

While I was in Toronto, I learned about the nomination of one of my books — Les mots d’Eunice (Éditions de l’Isatis) — for the Governor General’s Liteary Award. This book also won the Association québécoise des professeurs de français (AQPF) Award.

My other book — I’m Glad That You’re Happy (Groundwood Books) — made it on the CBC’s recommendation list of “14 Canadian picture books to check out this fall”.

All of this is unforgettable to me.

What words of advice or encouragement would have for the next Illustrator in Residence?

Enjoy your time with nice and creative people. Share the details of your experiences so that it is interesting for everybody. This program will give you opportunities to find new friends and be more creative.

What is next for you? Do you think your work will be inspired or influenced in any way by the residency?

I had my own publishers and workspace before this program but this residency helped me to meet them in Toronto, in person, and talk about new projects and ideas. It was also wonderful to have the opportunity to meet new authors who are close to me in style and ideas.

I am working on a few new books for 2020. At the moment, I am trying to do my best for these new ones.

Please visit Nahid’s website at: http://nahidkazemi.com/

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