ABOUT TANJA BAUERLE

  • I have always been an
    artist but my vocational path has not been the most direct. I worked full time
    while earning my B.A. in Computer Animation. Working in animation would have
    meant moving out of state, which I was reluctant to do at the time. I ended up
    working in graphic design and marketing.

    Eventually, when my
    repressed inner artist was suffocating horribly
    , I escaped from the rigid world of corporate graphic design to
    start my own illustration & design business in 2003. Since then I have
    worked on design & illustration projects with my main focus being
    children’s illustration.

    To
    date, I have illustrated 3 picture books and a middle grade series.
     My books have won awards including the Bronze Medal for the 2011 Moonbeam
    Children’s Book Award, the 2010 Arizona Book Award and the 2008 and 2010
    Annual International Latino Book Awards.

    I’ve
    been an active member of the SCBWI since 2003 and am always working on
    improving my craft in both writing and illustrating by attending workshops and
    conferences. My passion for what I do takes me to many schools where I aim to
    inspire kids to read, write and draw. Seeing the immense value in such visits
    led me to create the Visiting Authors Committee at my children’s school. Since
    its formation in 2014 I’ve been able to bring authors and illustrators to our
    school to inspire the students from Kindergarten through eighth grade. These
    have included Tony DiTerlizzi, Brandon Mull, Pseudonymous Bosch, Dav Pilkey and
    many more.

    My
    daughters attend a local charter school which is providing them with an
    outstanding education. However, the school does not offer formal art classes.
    Being an artist and having always found refuge in the art room during my school
    years, made me sad to know that my children would miss out on this. It
    motivated me to bring art to them myself. Since my oldest stared Kindergarten,
    I have been teaching art to each of their classes. It is so rewarding to mold
    the future generation of artists. I recently had a second grader analyze an
    Andrew Wyeth painting and describe how warm and cool colors created a focal
    point in the painting. This made my artist’s heart sing!

    I
    teach art, exhibit my art, lead workshops on the craft of illustrating &
    writing children’s picture books, participate in illustrator panel discussions,
    and lecture at school districts about the importance of books and reading. Some
    of the venues I’ve presented at include the Tucson Festival of Books, the
    Arizona Reading Association, the Sacaton School District, the SCBWI-AZ, The
    Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Tempe Center for the Arts. Nationally,
    I’ve had book signings at the Book Expo of America, NY, and the El Yunque
    Rainforest, Puerto Rico.

    When
    I was eleven my family moved from Germany to the suburbs of Melbourne,
    Australia. Not being able to speak English when we arrived, meant learning very
    quickly as I attended a regular English speaking school. To this day I speak
    with a jumbled German Australian accent which many find difficult to place.
    Needless to say, speaking broken English that was heavily accented made me an
    easy target in sixth grade. It was a rough time for me, which is why the art
    room became my sanctuary. I could hide there and draw my cares away while at
    the same time avoid the bullies.

    That
    aside, growing up in Australia was wonderful. I worked at a German Restaurant
    where I had to wear traditional dirndls that made my Bavarian roots happy. I
    was passionately in love with horses and so spent most of my free time with my
    horse, Calypso.  The hours I spent riding by myself through the Australian
    bush are still some of my fondest childhood memories.  The Australian
    wildlife and environment hold a very special place in my heart and have found
    their way into several of the stories that I am writing.

    When
    I was twenty I moved to the United States and I now live in Arizona, with family.
    Having always been an animal lover, I share my home with my menagerie of two
    Golden Retrievers, three cats, one foster horse, two alpacas, several
    chickens and a tortoise. My backyard is filled with inspirational picture book
    fodder and it is a wondrous place for my children to grow up.

ARTIST STATEMENT

  • In order to understand the illustrator that I am today, follow me for just a moment back to my childhood in Germany.  This is truly where my love of drawing began, when I was old enough to hold a crayon.  While my dad and brother were sitting at the table solving math problems for fun (no, I’m not kidding) I could always be found drawing. Unfortunately, my German heritage was not necessarily conducive to a career in art. It was understood that kids draw, but grownups work. Drawing is just for kids, at least that was the sentiment that was echoed to my budding artistic wings.

    If ‘coloring’ was limited to childhood, then my flight would soon have to take a different path.  My journey of artistic discovery steered me to the world of graphic design. If drawing for a living was not to be, then perhaps I could find fulfillment in the arena of design and visual communication. Creativity is an integral part of this vocation, so I was somewhat content but there was always that proverbial hole that needed to be filled.

    When that hole became a huge chasm it was time to finally follow my inner voice and pursue that which I always envisioned myself to be; a children’s illustrator. 

    There is something about creating images that touches that inner something that can’t be explained and is often only understood by other artists. When I’m creating, painting, or drawing, I feel at home. Feeling the paint move under the brush and bringing the story to life has a euphoric effect. My medium of choice is Acrylic Gouache. It is such a versatile vehicle that any type of effect can be achieved. The transparency and sensitivity of watercolor, the luminance of oil, the dimensionality of collage, all can be realized using acrylic gouache and the various mediums, gels and additives that work with it.

    Looking at a blank sheet of paper is like a treasure hunt. The illustration is hiding; you simply need to uncover it. For the illustration to be truly successful it must be more than simply an image. It must convey the story, express emotion, transport the viewer, and make them identify with what is happening.

    Marrying the narrative image with the tactile art form is very exhilarating even though I tend to be somewhat restrained in the creation of the actual artwork. My goal is to completely free myself of this limitation and create dimensional pieces that rival Van Gogh whose surfaces are so seductive one simply wants to be absorbed into them. 

    Illustration, especially for picture books, needs to be enticing and draw the viewer in. I love that when kids experience a picture book, they read the illustration first. Illustrators have the opportunity to connect with their audience and provide an enticingly rich experience that goes so much further than mere words. Kids spot the tiniest of details in the artwork and this is tremendously motivating to me. I want to provide an interactive experience to my readers by enthralling them visually with multitudes of facts about the subject matter that I am illustrating. This is even more amplified in a wordless book because there are no words to fall back on. The art must stand on its own and convey story, emotion, setting, atmosphere, factual elements, and the list goes on.

    Each of the books that I have illustrated to date, included detailed research before I even begin the sketching process. Becoming familiar with the subject matter and looking for opportunities to engage the reader and provide additional knowledge is vital to my creative process. Kids are amazingly attuned to the visual and they discover and point out elements in the artwork that grown-ups usually miss. This is what I live for!