COVER GIRL: QIN LENG
Though she’s perpetually busy, Toronto artist and animator Qin Leng managed to squeeze creating the gorgeous cover art for this issue into her schedule. (“I am swamped, as always, but there is always time for a project this fun!” said Leng when asked if she could take the assignment.) With no fewer than three freelance gigs on the go at any given time, Leng generally has multiple books coming out each season. This fall sees the release of two titles she illustrated for Inhabit Media: A Walk on the Shoreline by Rebecca Hainnu (Nov.) and Kamik’s First Sled by Matilda Sulurayok (Oct.); and, for Second Story Press, Kathryn Coles’s Fifteen Dollars and Thirty-five Cents: A Story About Choices (Oct.).
By the end of 2016, Leng’s byline will have graced no fewer than two-dozen covers since her debut as an illustrator, for Sarah Tsiang’s A Flock of Shoes (Annick) in 2010.
Given her prodigious output, it may come as a surprise that Leng spends her days toiling as a layout supervisor on animated TV shows, fitting in her book work during off hours. While she appreciates the security of a regular paycheque, Leng admits it may be time to ditch the day job in favour of illustrating full-time. “There are so many things I would like to try – editorial illustration, graphic novels – and I realize there aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything,” she says.
Like many illustrators, Leng’s path to kids’ books started with animation. She had already been accepted to study biology at McGill University (as a child she emigrated with her family from China to France before settling in Montreal) when she discovered the film animation program at Concordia. After graduating and working in the field for three years, Leng felt the need to do something more personal, and began contacting publishers. It didn’t take long for the offers to start pouring in.
With several new projects just completed, in progress, or on the horizon, and a scheduled appearance at the American Library Association conference in June, Leng won’t be slowing down any time soon. But she still finds time to enjoy her work. She’s particularly excited about next spring’s Happy Birthday Alice Babette by Monica Kulling (Groundwood), which is set in Paris during the 1920s. “Having spent my childhood in Bordeaux, this opportunity to illustrate a story taking place in one of my favourite countries was a real treat,” says Leng.