I had heard of Mike Wohnoutka and seen several of his enticing, saturated-with-color books.
But I don’t know if I had ever officially met him before a Children’s Literature Network event last year. Arthur Levine came to Minneapolis and sat down for a conversation with 30 or so local published authors and illustrators. Then most of us headed across the street for dinner. I sat at an empty end of the horseshoe-shaped dinner table and won the dinner-seat lottery. I spent the next couple of hours chatting with Arthur Levine, his cousin (a teacher, I believe, in Wisconsin), and Mike Wohnoutka. Mike was funny, soft-spoken, and gracious, and we all had great conversation about children’s books (not to mention a tasty cheese plate).
So I was happy to pick him as one of the local illustrators I wanted to feature here on Blogging for a Cure, an orchestrated bloggers’ effort to help raise funds for cancer research by spreading the word about Robert’s Snow.
Mike is the illustrator of many children’s books, including the award-winning Davey’s Blue-Eyed
Frog, by Patricia Harrison Easton and his most recent, When the Wizzy Foot Goes Walking, by Roni Schotter. He is also a regular contributor to the Cricket Magazine Group. Mike has been busy in his studio and will have two new books coming out in 2008.
Even though Mike was a trouble maker [Laura: no, it can’t be!] when he was in grade school, and thus gets a little nervous around principals, he still enjoys visiting schools and talking to students about illustrating children’s books.
He grew up in Spicer, Minnesota, and now has made his home in Minneapolis with his wife, son and brand new daughter.
About the Snowflake
Isn’t it gorgeous? I love these snowflakes that really celebrate the joy of winter. I think the rest of the country thinks we in Minnesota hunker down and feel miserable for six months of the year. That is just not true! Here’s what Mike had to say about his snowflake.
How did you (honestly) feel when you were approached to participate in Robert’s Snow?
I was honored to be asked again, but at the same time I felt overwhelmed with work and didn’t feel I was going to have the time this year. Then I realized this was a perfect opportunity to make a little difference by being a published children’s book illustrator, so I was happy to make it a priority.
Which of your books is your snowflake most ?like??
When I painted the snowflake I had just finished a new picture book that comes out in February called Mama’s Little Duckling. It has a softer, more atmospheric quality than my other books.
How did you come up with the idea for your snowflake?
The snowflakes are small, so I wanted to do something fairly simple and graphic. I decided a snowman would be fun.
What did you think about while you were working on it?
I kept thinking that I want to keep this simple and not worry about the details. The mood was most
What medium is your snowflake?
More About Mike
6 Words to Describe His Art and Style
6 Highlights of His Career
1. My senior year in high school won a statewide art contest with a drawing I did of my dad. This led to a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design.
2. Meeting David Shannon my freshman year in college. After seeing his presentation I knew I wanted to be an illustrator.
3. Doing a cover illustration for Spider magazine.
4. When Random House called me to illustrate my first book, Counting Sheep.
5. Meeting editor Michelle Copella at a SCBWI conference. I illustrated three books with her.
6. Visiting New York last fall and meeting with 12 publishers.
Mike has a truly excellent website, and I hope you’ll visit it and browse through all the great art and info. But here are 6 facts about Mike that you won’t learn from that site:
1. We just had a baby girl, Olivia, at the end of October.
2. I share a studio with 8 other artists in Northeast Minneapolis in the Northrup King Building.
3. I enjoy running, reading, doing crossword puzzles and playing softball.
4. My favorite TV show is The Office.
5. I come from a large family. I have three brothers and three sisters.
6. I love being a dad.
I love the joy in Mike’s snowman, the feeling that he’s about to dance right off the page. In that spirit, I wrote a silly snowman poem (all three of the illustrators I’ve featured have used snowmen on their flakes, and I’m starting to feel quite a camaraderie with them, especially since I sat here this morning watching the first snow fly).
Feel free to email Mike to let him know what you think of his snowflake. Like many of us, he’s juggling work and (new) parenthood, and you know how nice a few pats on the back are!
And the Robert’s Snow auctions start on Monday, November 19. Have you picked the flake(s) you want to bid on yet? There are so many cool ones. This year I’m determined to snag one. Outta my way!