Joy Sikorski : Interview with Author Joy Sikorski (April 2004)
Interview with Bestselling Author Joy Sikorski
'How to Draw' Artist, April 2004
By Chris Dunmire
A little background: I first learned about Joy Sikorski in the mid-1990s when I read a review for her book How to Draw a Radish: And Other Fun Things to Do at Work in a local newspaper.
I was so curious about the book after reading the review that I went to my town's library and asked if they had a copy or if they could find it through their network.
The helpful librarian searched the database and informed me that no, they didn't, nor did the other libraries, so they would go ahead and purchase a copy to satisfy my request.
In a week or so the book came in and I was the first to check it out. There's nothing like cracking open the spine of a brand new book!
And as soon as I read it, I declared Joy Sikorski as one of my new favorite authors. It wasn't just the whimsical drawing lessons in her books... it was her fun sense of humor and coaching that "everyone is creative" that won me over.
Reading her books brought out my child at heart and reminded me of the importance of creative play... at home, in the office, and within myself. Her influence planted a seed in me that helped make the Creativity Portal Web site possible... and a little cartoony venture of my own that I've named NitWits.
So I am not only thrilled that Joy agreed to be interviewed for this Creativity Portal, but I am also amused at how the opportunity presented itself one day after I innocently visited Joy's Web site and responded to the invitation to take some of the surplus "clam money" for her Bumpy Road board game (featured in the How to Draw a Clam book).
At the time I didn't even have the Clam book, I just wanted the money! Next thing I knew I was asking Joy if she'd like to share her insights as a bestselling author with Creativity Portal readers, and what you see here is the result.
I'm grateful to Joy for this wonderful collaboration and also for allowing Creativity Portal to host several of her how-to drawing lessons from two of her books: Squeaky Chalk and How to Draw a Clam. EnJOY!
The Joyous Interview
Chris Dunmire Interviews Joy Sikorski
Q: In Squeaky Chalk you wrote:
"I worked in my father's factory at an early age. I sharpened pencils and played on the typewriter. Meanwhile, out in the back, big pots of metal boiled. Later in life, I picked apples in an orchard. Now I write and draw."
Have you always been aware of your creativity, or was it something you discovered later on in life?
A: I've never questioned my creativity from our earliest days my mother gave us pencils and paper to keep us busy. There were six children, and Mom went to school as a commercial artist, so she passed that interest along to us. In fact, Mom would unroll white shelf paper along the table and give us a big box of crayons, and we could play for hours.
Q: When did you first get interested/started in writing and art?
A: When I was 5 or 6 years old, my much-loved grandparents moved to Florida and we children couldn't visit them as much as we once did. We started writing letters to them. These were my Mom's parents I think she inherited her creativity and good humor from them they were absolutely heavenly in our eyes, warm happy people who loved us and encouraged our creativity and play. At some point I started a newsletter and had my brothers and sisters contribute to it. Every month or so I would send Nana and Grampa an edition of "The Daily Dribble," with a bouncing basketball as it's logo. Why a basketball? I have no idea!
Q: What inspired you to write your first book, How to Draw a Radish? How long did it take to complete it?
A: One evening I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. My husband Nick Sunday and I had stopped in the museum cafe in between galleries. I showed him some of my drawing lessons - things I did on a chalkboard at work to entertain my colleagues and Nick said I should put them into a book. I did! It took about 6 months to assemble them all and design the pages.
Q: How did you feel when your book was accepted [by the publisher] and when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
A: I was delighted of course, that How to Draw a Radish found a publisher, and very thankful to the friends who pointed me in the direction of Chronicle Books. They have been very supportive and encouraging, and a perfect place for my creativity. I designed the cover myself, and in fact was alarmed that they gave another person credit for it. That person's role was to add a green spine and to change the typeface somewhat, making the "a" between "draw" and "radish" a strange dark red color. There's always a little bit of angst involved in book covers. I let it go, though.
Q: How does it feel like to be a published author and see your books gracing the shelves of bookstores and coffee shops?
A: I feel lucky, especially knowing from the inside how very difficult it is to get through to editors and publishers. It's really sort of a miracle, and it definitely depends on knowing someone on the inside. I also feel a bit silly when people make much of me and my books. "It's only me!," I tell them.
Q: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
A: Keep at it, don't give up, and publish it yourself until you find someone who will publish it for you.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Edward Lear for his persistent silliness, Charles Dickens for his wonderful writing, Kamalo Kupihea (a surf instructor in Maui) for his goodness as a teacher, Greenpeace and the Central Park Conservancy for their mission, my grandparents Nana and Grampa for all goodness and sweetness, my Mom for her completeness, my husband Nick Sunday for his creativity and hard work, all my readers and fans for their appreciation and their talent. I also like the word "Ahimsa", which means, "love embracing all creation" that's a wonderful guiding word.
Q: What other creative projects are you working on?
A: I have a daybook that I published for 2004, that I am sending out to publishers as a sample for 2006 perhaps. Stationery coming out from Galison/Mudpuppy in the fall, and a few more projects with them. A project for a museum too soon to speak of now, and a class I conducted last week at a historical society/museum which was very much fun, and an upcoming arts fair.
Q: If you had to choose another line of work, what would it be?
A: Something to do with the sea - a ferry boat captain or oceanographer in Maui.
Q: What do you do to unwind and relax?
A: I read, right now Dickens and Charles Mayhew and William Hickey, and I love boat rides, and I love strolling about in New York City.
Q: What is an unknown fact about you?
A: I have a very nutty mother-in-law, Frances, upon whom is based the Frances character in How to Draw a Cup of Coffee. I would love to do a video documentary about her.
Q: If you could leave your readers with one legacy, what would you want it to be?
A: I hope my legacy is to let everyone know that they can draw, it's easy and fun! And to be silly, which helps in everything in life. •
Postscript: Joy Sikorski died August 18, 2009, following a 10-year battle with ovarian cancer. My tribute.