Jennifer Cooper, one of New Zealand’s best known illustrators, has been illustrating children’s books for 30 years. She trained as a graphic designer at Christchurch Polytechnic graduating in 1991 and her first book was published while she was still a student.
As with most illustrators in New Zealand, Jenny is largely self-taught. Her focus is on books for very young children and, in particular, Pacific Island children. Having lived for three years in Western Samoa, she has continuing ties with her husband’s family, which lend warmth and authenticity to her drawings.
Jenny is not limited to one style but is able to choose from a number, ranging from realistic through to cartoon. She enjoys the variety and contrast this brings to her working day. She loves developing the different characters for each book, and begins each one thinking it will be her best. Jenny particularly loves drawing animals of all sorts, although she is in fact wary of almost all animals, which makes her research difficult. She has recently collaborated with Glyn Harper, Professor of War Studies at Massey University, to create 6 picture books based around World War One and the Vietnam War.
After the Christchurch earthquakes, she moved to Amberley in North Canterbury with her partner Chris, where she battles the nor’wester and nurses an acre of young trees.She works from a sunny studio at home and loves the freedom and flexibility this gives her, to garden, see friends, spend time with her partner – when, strictly speaking, she should be working!
“Illustrating for children is the most wonderful job to have. I get to stay home all day, and do the thing which I love the best, which is to draw and paint. Every book teaches me something new. When I stop learning, I’ll stop illustrating.”