Illustrating their message

WATERFORD-Students of Waterford Elementary School lined the halls for a “walk of fame” to honor illustrators Christopher and Jeanette Canyon before they spoke to students on Tuesday afternoon.

Christopher and Jeanette have a combined 27 years of experience illustrating for published picture books and shared some of their work and ideas with the children during a daytime session and with parents Tuesday evening.

“We want to inspire kids to use their creativity and imagination,” said Christopher.

He added that he and his wife travel to a number of schools in their spare time in order to teach the students the importance of expressing themselves.

“We visit literature conferences, college lectures and many other events, but we are at schools most frequently,” said Christopher. “We advocate whatever allows students to express themselves and we try to show them what we do to give them ideas.”

Cris Baker, in the Special Education department at Waterford Elementary, said having guests like the Canyons is a great opportunity for all the students.

“I think that a presentation like this shows them there is a whole world out there besides Waterford,” said Baker, “It gives them an idea of something they could do someday and encourages to work on their own skills.”

The Canyons met when they were both students attending the Columbus College of Art and Design.

When they aren’t traveling to schools or conferences, they both work from their home in Columbus.

Christopher said his first published work was in 1994 and that Jeanette’s came in 2004.

For their presentation they each chose samples of work from the books they illustrated to help explain their personality and style.

Jeanette’s work is unique because her art is fashioned out of polymer clay.

She explained to the children that the art she creates is accomplished through the molding and shaping of these pieces of clay with some very unique tools.

“I actually have several kitchen appliances that I use when I’m working with the clay,” she said. “I’ve used a pasta machine to help flatten out or cut the clay into long strips many times in the past.”

However this type of work takes an extremely long time and a good deal of experimentation, according to Jeanette.

“I always leave myself at least a good year from when I get the manuscript until when I need to have everything complete,” she said. “I make sketches with ideas, then I really have to just experiment with the clay to get the shapes and colors I need.”

Christopher said his inspiration to express himself came at a very young age through his love of music.

“When I was just a boy my family used to sing and play songs together,” he said. “I loved John Denver’s music. The first song I learned to play on my guitar growing up was “(Take Me Home), Country Roads.'”

Many of the books that Christopher has illustrated are adaptations of John Denver’s songs.

Christopher explained to the Waterford students the process of how he and his wife go through when they work on a project.

“Research is always important because you never know what might inspire you,” he said. “I always record my ideas in a journal because we all need a place to explore our ideas.”

Christopher stressed that everyone had stories to share, and that each person has to find out how to express those stories.

“We are surrounded by stories every single day, they are a huge part of our lives,” he said. “When you figure out how to share your stories with the world you are giving a gift.”

Eighth grader Madison Ohse, 14, said she enjoyed the presentation because she enjoys expressing herself.

“I enjoy drawing and I really love music,” said Ohse. “I’m in the choir and I play piano sometimes.”

“I think most people are afraid to express themselves,” she said. “But everyone has ideas that are unique and should be expressed.”