I have lived almost all my life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I grew up surrounded by stories. My parents owned a barber shop where I listened to conversations that seemed to me stories about adult life. When I wasn't at the shop, I spent hours at baseball games, sharing the stories about the teams and players. My grandmother, who lived nearby, shared stories about her earlier life on a farm with my three brothers and me when we kept her company during thunderstorms.
Drawing was how I captured the stories I heard. My older brother sketched cartoons and I began by copying him. I drew mostly at the kitchen table, but also used my crayons on stairwell walls. My early pictures still decorate the basement of my mother's house.
When I approach a story, I think of myself as a choreographer adding movement to a score or a movie director bringing a script to life. I read the story many times, just to let the wonder of it wash over me and feel it stretch and deepen in my imagination. I really work in three worlds at once: the world of the imagination, the world of myth, and the physical world; children seem to live comfortably in all three. Successful illustrations link these worlds together and give a visual voice to the story.
As I begin to draw, I try to keep the child's viewpoint foremost in my mind. For each book, I keep a journal of my sketches. Every journal has a child's drawing tucked inside to remind me that a child's imagination is the starting and ending point for my art.
Selected Titles to be Published in March 2011 by Will Hillenbrand (For a comprehensive list, visit his website)