Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Joan Waites

© Joan Waites

Nov. 11, 2022

We are excited to feature author-illustrator Joan Waites and her new book A BONE FOR BO: PAINTING WITH GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (Schiffer Kids), coming out on Nov. 22. Enter to win a copy!


Tell us about yourself and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

​ My path to becoming a children's author and illustrator was definitely not a straight line. While I was encouraged by my high school art teacher to study art in college, and by my English teacher to study writing, I decided the struggling artist route wasn't for me, and ended up with a bachelor of science degree in Nursing. I took a job in a Philadelphia hospital ​in the NICU, and spent 15 years in Philly, then Washington D.C. working in hospitals, as an educator for Johnson and Johnson medical products, then finally as a home care pediatric nurse. 

© Joan Waites

Along the way, I slowly started taking some art classes whenever I could squeeze them in at both George Washington University and The Maryland Institute College of Art. I missed being creative, and studying art helped with a stressful job. While I wasn't sure exactly what type of art I wanted to eventually pursue, I decided to take an elective class in children's book illustration. During that class a light-bulb went off and I finally found my true passion. I learned everything I could about children's books, took whatever illustration jobs came my way, and after building up a client base, left my nursing career after my third daughter was born to work as a full-time illustrator. 


Congrats on your forthcoming book, A Bone for Bo: Painting with Georgia O'Keeffe! Tell us about the book and what inspired you.

​In addition to illustrating, I teach art enrichment classes for children and adults. For my children's classes, I often use picture books about famous artists as a way to introduce students to artists and their art, and decided to try and write one with a different approach-using a fictional story about an animal that lived in the artist's environment, or was one of their pets. ​ That first artist/animal book, A Colorful Tail: Finding Monet In Giverny, sold to my current editor, who wanted to potentially turn it in to a series. The second in the series, A Purr-fect Painting: Matise's Other Great Cat, was the second, and A Bone For Bo is now the third. 


You've been a long-time illustrator. When did you transition to also writing picture books? When you write and illustrate a book, what comes first, the images or the words?


I worked as an illustrator only for most of my career, but about ten years ago, with the illustration market getting more and more crowded via the internet and social media, I decided I needed to do two things to help myself in terms of staying current-change my style to a more contemporary one, and learn how to write my own books. Both took a lot of work, experimentation, and in terms of writing, taking classes, attending workshops, reading books on craft, joining a wonderful critique group of talented writers, and then taking the leap submitting as an author-illustrator. I'd say it took me about seven years to land my first author-illustrated title.

© Joan Waites


What projects are you working on now?


I have two picture books out on submission, and I'm working on the final draft of another artist-animal book for the series.

© Joan Waites


What is your preferred medium and illustration process?


All my work is done traditionally with gouache paint, or in cut paper collage that I also paint myself.


What is your best piece of advice for aspiring author-illustrators? 


​Create work that YOU love to do-don't try and write or illustrate to a current trend or try and fit in to what is already out there.  If you truly enjoy what you are working on, it will shine through. It took me too many years to figure this out!

© Joan Waites


What is one thing most people don't know about you?


Even though I participate in a lot of book events, school visits, and conferences, I'm really a total introvert and like a quiet day alone in my studio more than anything else!


© Joan Waites

Where can people find you online? 




Joan Waites is an award-winning author-illustrator, with numerous illustrated or author-illustrated titles published for the children’s trade and educational markets. A former adjunct faculty member of the Corcoran Museum School of Art and Design’s aspiring artists programs, Joan continues to teach art enrichment classes for children and adults. She is a member of SCBWI, The Children’s Book Guild of Washington D.C., and the National Art Educators Association. Her latest titles, A BONE FOR BO: PAINTING WITH GEORGIA O'KEEFFE will be released on 11/22/2022, and FINLEY FEELS in June 2023, both from Schiffer Kids Publishing.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Post a Comment