Anisa Claire Hovemann is both a fine artist and an illustrator—two different professions that draw on the same skills, but each with a very different process.
In the realm of fine art, Anisa creates lustrous, thoughtful and expansive paintings, especially of the California and Pacific Northwest landscapes, as well as intimate portraits and still-lifes. You can see some of her art on her website, www.anisabazan.com.
When she illustrates books for children, however—she has illustrated four books for Dawn—she also brings to the project a high degree of collaboration with the author’s manuscript and integrity to the natural world. For example, Anisa remembers well one of her first illustrations for Earth Heroes: Champions of the Wilderness that depicted both a blue jay with its nest, and, not too far away, a nuthatch. Not OK! In reality, a blue jay is a highly aggressive bird that would never let a nuthatch anywhere near. Likewise, the plants of a locale, whether it be Arizona or Africa, need to accurately represent the actual flora of those regions. “It was an honor to work on both Earth Heroes: Champions of the Wilderness and Earth Heroes: Champions of Wild Animals, and to illustrate the lives and work of these great naturalists.”
But illustration still has lots of opportunity for creative freedom. “One of my intentions when illustrating is to create interesting and dynamic compositions and perspectives,” Anisa says. “I also work to integrate the illustrations with the text, so they nestle within the text harmoniously with it or around it – not only supporting the story but providing something visually cohesive. Ultimately, my goal is to express the mood or atmosphere of the story and the qualities and personalities of the characters.”
In Eliza and the Dragonfly Anisa sees how her Waldorf School education came through—what she describes as the “whimsical, imaginative style we learned.” That book was honored at the ‘Children’s Picture Book of the Year” by the International Reading Association. Anisa used a unnamed small pond near her home —since named Dragonfly Pond—as the setting. “Eliza and the Dragonfly is special to me because it was so personal. It was a familiar California landscape that I love, in a summer filled with dragonflies, and the hills were inspired by that landscape.” The most challenging part for Anisa was finding “my style and voice. Most of the work I did in three months, but it took a lot longer to find my style. “
Her book If You Give a T-Rex a Bone is a “historical fantasy” of sorts, in which a boy encounters a variety of dinosaur-era animals. Since it all occurs in an unknown ancient habitat, Anisa had pretty much free rein to create landscapes.