Illustrating Fairy Tales: A Childhood Dream Come True
by Rehanna Mae Grant
When author Jessa Sexton first approached me about illustrating a book of fairy tale sonnets, I was over the moon. I had worked with Jessa on a few of her previous books, and working with her as a friend and author is always a treat. For me, illustrating children’s books has only been a reality for about four years. Prior to meeting Jessa, it was nothing more than a dream.
My love of animation and character art goes all the way back to my childhood. Bedtime stories included fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Goldilocks,” and our family television entertained a constant parade of Disney movies. Even now the illustrations that surrounded me as child inspire my work.
I was originally only going to Illustrate only one of the twelve stories, but I was so intrigued by her idea to condense these beloved fairy tales and give them new life that I simply had to be involved in the whole project.
I received my BFA in fashion design from O’More where Jessa taught all of my language arts courses. It was at O’More that I fully realized my desire to illustrate children’s books. After taking fashion illustration classes and growing my skill, having a future as an illustrator became a reality. I got my first taste of the business when Jessa commissioned me to illustrate the cover art and logo for Live the Blessing. With every book I worked on after that came a stronger pull to make the leap into the world of children’s books. When Jessa shared her brilliant fairy tale sonnet idea with me I was blown away by the originality of the concept, and naturally began dreaming up illustration ideas. At the time I didn’t know that this book of fairy tale sonnets would be the book that made my dream come true. (Super cheesy I know, but I couldn’t help it.)
So this big, illustrious dream I keep talking about: the first time I remember really knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up was after watching the movie Anastasia. I was about eight and completely obsessed with the animation and the portrayal of Paris fashion designers. I spent the next year drawing Anastasia-inspired dresses on everything. So when Jessa asked me to work with her on this book, my eight-year-old self nearly lost her cool. I took a deep breath and very calmly accepted the invitation, but I was so excited to get the chance to reimagine the characters I had grown up loving.
Originally I was going to be one of twelve artists chosen to illustrate one sonnet. I had already been pulling inspiration for a “Little Red Riding Hood” illustration, so it was my first choice when it came time to pick a sonnet. Upon reading several of the early sonnets Jessa had finished, I was inspired with illustration ideas for all of them. I could see it in my mind’s eye: a portrait drawing of each story’s main character. I was so passionate about this project, and I really wanted to try my hand at illustrating an entire book on my own. After sharing my desire to expand my work in children’s books and the inspiration I had for the illustrations, Jessa suggested I be the sole illustrator on this book.
Every part of working on Stories of Enchantment has been magical. This project is so dear to my heart. I feel like I have come full circle. Jessa and her brilliant mind have afforded me the chance to be a part of something brilliant and beautiful, live a childhood dream, and be an inspiration to someone else the way my childhood and current muses have been for me. Fairy tales are essential to our lives. They teach us about strength, love, loss, and fighting for what you believe in. For me fairy tales also mean chasing your dreams and creating the life you want to live. If only one person follows his or her dream after reading this book, then I will feel that we were a success.