Putting pictures to words
Barb Jonkisz illustrates children's books

Karen Lander
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 10/99) - For Barb Jonkisz, drawing is more than just fun. Last fall, Jonkisz started illustrating a children's book for local author and publisher Diane Brookes. The book is about leopards and how they got their spots.

"Patience, you need a lot of patience when you're illustrating a book," explains Jonkisz. "It's very time consuming and it's a very detailed, oriented style."

Jonkisz uses up to 120 coloured pencil crayons to do the illustrations.

The main reasons she took on the job was to gain experience and include the drawings in her portfolio.

"I like the fact that I can work at home," Jonkisz adds. Jonkisz, born in Poland and raised in Africa, came to Yellowknife in 1986.

She attended the Alberta College of Arts and Design in Calgary for two years before taking this year off. She plans to return in September for two more years to complete her bachelor of fine arts. She is specializing in graphic design.

Jonkisz also works part time at the Great Slave Animal Hospital as a veterinarian assistant/receptionist.

As for writer/publisher Brookes, she says this latest book, How the Leopard Got Its Spots, was written for fun.

"It was originally for Grade 2 students," says Brookes.

"I know that Rudyard Kipling wrote one," adds Brookes. "There's a moral to the story, it's all to do with how the animals became camouflaged or so forth, so I know I'm not (intruding) on anything that he said because mine is just totally silly, and has a lot more to do with mud than with camouflage."

Brookes maintains that there is no particular moral in her book, just a jealous leopard and a not-so-jealous leopard. There are also things happening on the very muddy banks of the river.

"The story started just by entertaining some Grade 2 students, who were working on a bit of advanced math, and starting to do grouping as a preliminary multiplication," says Brookes.

The author explains that she then read them the story and gave them a black outline of a leopard.

"It looks a lot more like a cat, but that was the best I could do at the time... And they had to pretend it was splattered with mud and draw dots all over this leopard, put the dots into groups of five or groups of four. They count up how many groups they have. This is just preliminary multiplication."

Afterwards, Brookes went back to the story and worked on it. It was during this time that she met Jonkisz.

Lately, Brookes has been garnering much attention with her last book, The Man in the Moon. Besides having been optioned for film, the American Book Readers' Association announced that Diane Brookes had won the annual award for children's literature for The Man in the Moon, illustrated by Ann Timmins, another Yellowkinfe artist. Also illustrated by Ann Timmins is Brookes' soon-to-be-published All Alone.