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Navigating The World Of Illustration With Maggie Vandewalle

Local Artist Maggie Vandewalle on what it was like to illustrate a book for the first time.

Maggie Vandewalle is by no means a new artist. She has been creating for practically her entire life and has become a well-established artist in Chattanooga through the Area 61 Gallery and her involvement with local art events. She took on a bold new challenge in 2020 though when she was approached by Susan Weisberg, author of the Chester Midshipmouse series, to illustrate her second book in the series.

Illustration has always been an area of interest for Maggie. She has always seen her artwork as a way to tell a story and she gained an appreciation for storytelling early in her life.

“I knew that I either wanted to be a writer or an artist. Because I didn’t have the patience to work my way through a storyline, I focused on art,” she said.

When she was approached by Susan Weisberg, she was instantly interested by the premise of the book and how it focused on mice, a common focus in Maggie’s own artwork.

Maggie described the process of illustrating as “incredibly hard”. She loved being able to work with Susan though, even if there were a lot of moments of ‘give and take’. The only real changes to her style that Maggie feels she had to make were finding ways to make every single detail of each scene feel like it was a part of the illustration. She had to find ways to incorporate the environment, intrinsic objects, and of course the characters themselves into the scenes in a way where there was no single point of focus.

“I’m a pretty detail-oriented artist, but this took me to a completely new level,” Maggie said.

As for her favorite part, Maggie shared that she loved seeing the finished product. Where the illustrations fit into the stories is hard to see while creating them, and being able to actually see them flow with the story was gratifying. Seeing her name on the cover was also a great source of pride for her.

“It’s a great story! Susan is a wonderful author and I look forward to seeing how the story ends!” Maggie said.

Maggie intends to be the illustrator for the third book in the series as well. You can learn more about Chester Midshipmouse here and make sure to follow Maggie on Instagram!