Q&A with Brett Helquist
The illustrator talks about how he prepared for Chasing Vermeer and what advice he has for young artists.
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
What was the most challenging part of creating art for Chasing Vermeer?
The hardest part was finding a way to hide the pentomino code in the pictures. I didn’t want to make the code too difficult or too easy to figure out.
What kind of research did you do for the project?
I spent a few days in Chicago with Blue Balliett exploring the neighborhood described in the book. The architecture is very important to the story, so I thought it was necessary to see it for myself. I also looked at some books about Vermeer, and just for fun I played with some pentominoes.
Who’s your favorite painter? Why?
My favorite painter is N.C. Wyeth. His pictures are full of pirates, cowboys, and knights, all the things I love. His paintings tell great stories, they are full of adventure.
You read a lot of comic books as a kid. Do you still?
I read them sometimes. I like Hellboy and Bone.
Any advice for aspiring young artists?
Learn how to draw very well. I know this sounds obvious but it really is the most important thing. Drawing is a skill that should be studied and practiced just like learning to play a musical instrument. I keep a sketchbook and try to draw every day. I also recommend reading and learning how to tell stories. Illustration, after all, is just telling stories with pictures.
This bonus feature about Chasing Vermeer was adapted from the After Words edition of the book. Find more interviews, information, and interactive features for Chasing Vermeer and other favorite titles at the After Words site.