Chico artist Josh Harwood, 37, has just had a major breakthrough. All three of the children’s books he’s written and illustrated—the Edward and Victoria series—will soon be published by Engage Press, a local publication company. Harwood took fine arts courses when he was in college, and those art classes led to a passion for pen and ink drawing. Before long, “people wanted to know the stories behind the art,” he says. The first book in the series is scheduled to hit online stores at the end of the month. Harwood also sells high-quality framed prints and can be reached at jbih1020yahoo.com.
How do you write?
The way I write is initially for the child who lives in us all—there’s always that thing inside us that never grows up. Basically, I started out writing adult books in children’s format, but … people wanted to share it with kids. What I really turned my attention to after that early feedback was creating books for people of all ages.
What kind of books do you write?
They’re written in the classic children’s adventure book style. Once you read one, you’ll recognize the format. The first book is about a little boy who goes into the woods and gets lost, and there’s a girl. It’s about how they interact. At the same time, the books are written like classic morality tales that could provoke a discussion between the adult and the child about morals or problem-solving. One thing that really rings true in my books … is that preparation and preparedness are not about what you bring with you, it’s about who you are with and the people you surround yourself with.
Who have been some of your artistic influences?
Edward Gorey has influenced my art style, and when it comes to my writing style, I write in the style of, say, Lewis Carroll. In my heart, what I’m going for is what Shel Silverstein and Jim Henson did—trying to leave you better than when you came in and give you something that makes you happy, makes you laugh, and makes you want to share—with anyone and everyone.
What is your process for illustrating?
I do pen and ink drawings, and I edit them in Photoshop.
Will there be more books in this series?
It’s a five-book series, as I understand it in my mind. What was very important to me was that every character gets a chance to be the hero.
What are your thoughts about being an artist?
A lot of people do art when they retire. Some people say to me, “Why don’t you get a regular job and be an artist for fun?” But that would be like saying to a doctor, “Why don’t you have a regular job and be a doctor for fun?” The idea of success and being successful is that you have to put everything into it.
What’s art to you?
Art is about enriching people’s lives and making people happy, even if only for a moment. Don’t go into art because it’s easy—go into art because you love it and you have to do it.
I want to get an MFA and teach art.