A chat with Valerie, Harry & the Fisch

A chat with Valerie, Harry & the Fisch

This month we have the pleasure of chatting with New Yorker Valerie Jagiello, from the collaborative team of Valerie, Harry & the Fisch. A lifelong artist (literally!,) Valerie has an amazing talent that she has decided to share with the coloring community in her artwork and books.

Color On!: There are two distinct styles to the art you’ve submitted to Color On! Magazine, a nostalgic style reminiscent of vintage illustrations, and an art deco style. What made you decide to use these styles for your coloring book designs?

Golden Sunset1 @ Valerie Jagiello.

Valerie: As a working artist, I’m constantly researching new, exciting ways to create and view the world. This research is then reflected in my work. Take, for example, the sketches/illustrations I used in our first coloring book “the write your own story coloring book,” by Valerie, Harry & the Fisch. They are in a loose pen and ink style. Since the book is a concept book we created to be an interactive family coloring/writing project, we wanted the illustrations to mirror the look of old or vintage-styled artwork done in the 1850’s. A side note – these drawings were actually created many years ago on spec (any work which is done without pay until sold) for a fellow writer…who sadly never published his book.

Color On!: How long have you been drawing?

Valerie: I was a child prodigy and started creating the minute I opened up my eyes. I was always placing blocks, mobile parts, and other stuff into pleasing visual and colorful groupings. My next step – discovering tools! The world exploded with color when I discovered colored pencils, crayons, finger paints and pastels.

My mother, a dress designer, fashioned a special catchall to fit on my highchair. It had large pockets all the way around to hold my art supplies including blank paper. This became my first studio. Even at that very young age, I was a prolific artist, working feverishly creating one “masterpiece” after another! I would sit for hours, happy in my own world, creating. The only time I got cranky or upset was when my blank paper ran out!!!

I created a mini gallery along the wainscoting that ran down the hall, where potential customers could view my works. My own room was filled with art just waiting to be enjoyed and/or sold. As I became mobile, nothing could stop me from running up and down the block, visiting neighbors and selling them my artwork. To this day I still marvel at the amounts of ‘art’ I sold, all the while telling potential customers that “my art was going to be worth money someday”!!!

Color On: What made you decide to create art for coloring books?

Holiday Flowers2 @2015 Valerie, Harry & the Fisch
Holiday Flowers from December 2015 issue of Color On! Magazine

Valerie: For me, it was the next natural step. When you look at the coloring page you create…you can see it completed in many different ways. I love to see what wonderful variations the colorists come up when using my original sketches as a base. It is a creative partnership of sorts. Many artists I speak with frown on it being a partnership. They lose sight of the fact that through digital technology anyone can create a Mona Lisa if they choose. There is software available for everything. All you need is a computer/tablet/iphone, and you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll!

This was one of the basic reasons behind the creation of our book. An artist can create a themed book on dogs, cats, cities, etc., but these are basically meant for one person to enjoy. Even coloring journals are meant for the individual to enjoy. The lads and I are proud of our book being the first (of many that are on the drawing board) which will allow members of a family to sit down collectively to either color or write the story.

Color On!: How do you create your art? Tell us about your process for creating new work.

Valerie: If you are talking about Valerie Jagiello, the fine artist, graphic designer and photographer, my work takes form in many ways. The thought process of what I’m trying to do or say happens first. Now, I’m not saying I never just start sketching, painting or taking photos without any plans, ‘cause I do. This happens all the time, too. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it depends. For example, I work very quickly. When whatever I’m trying to create doesn’t work out the first time around, I just walk away and start something new. The next day, when I return to the project, as if by magic everything works out correctly. I do a lot of work digitally, and because I work fast this medium is very helpful to me. But it’s not my first choice. I miss the touching when one works in a more traditional way. I just let my mind figure out what I want to do…then do it!

le Miz from the Visions collection1 @ Valerie Jagiello

Color On!: When coloring your own art, what is your favorite medium(s)?

Valerie: I have none really. The cover illustration I created for this issue started out digital (the background) and the boy in pen and ink with colored pencil. Then I moved on to watercolor for the textures in the dog’s coat. Next, I wanted to add a more subtle color change within the background, so I worked some pastels into the mix. I have read on several Facebook groups that some really creative colorists incorporate makeup into their work. I’ve been doing that for years with both paintings and illustrations. I once did a series of landscapes using mud and mud washes. I was wandering around Brooklyn looking for different colored dirt. I found several different shades. They looked great…but were very impractical as they did not stand up very well, like, say a watercolor rendering. A hint to the colorists who use watercolors…if you mix a VERY small amount of baby powder into the paints, they will become very translucent and the artwork will smell nice, too!

Color On!: Do you enjoy relaxing with coloring books by other artists? If so, do you have a favorite?

Valerie: Yes, I do! Besides actually coloring, I like to envision what the other colorists would do with the same base image. I often scour coloring sites and compare my renderings with others. I have many, many, many faves… to single out just one or two would be unfair to ALL of the others I enjoy so very much. Besides coloring, I always enjoy just looking at other coloring books – at the incredible talent of other artists – it doesn’t matter who’s book or the subject matter. I equally enjoy spending time in toy stores getting ideas for product creation, to enhance the selling and promotion of our books.

FYI: We’re presently finishing up a line of rag dolls featuring characters from book one, (along with some from book two, due out in February 2016.) You’ll be able to color the dolls with fabric markers. Check www.coloryourstory-thestore.com (after December 15th) for info about our dolls, other colorable clothing, furnishings, mini coloring cards, and greeting cards. We’ve targeted January 1st for the boy doll, BUT as I’ve learned, that’s subject to change without notice… ha!ha!ha! We’ll also have “Harry,” “the Fisch,” and “Me” dolls available, so don’t forget to check the site after the 15th!

Color On!: What color or colors do you most love to work with?

Valerie: I consider myself an artist from the old school – to answer this question you have to look at the whole person! For me, the artist IS the palette. They are every color under and above the rainbow! Like a good mother, I love all of my colors equally!!! When you create, you want to form a physical engagement with the viewer – whether it’s a coloring page, illustration or painting. Color, and understanding its impact on a piece of work, is extremely important to both the artist and colorist alike.

When you look at the same designs being completed by colorists, you can see variations of the same piece executed in red, green, yellow, teal, etc. Each colorist views the design differently. This “cerebral bond” then translates itself into the viewer’s feelings, which can be one of like or dislike.

The White Sunflower1 @ valerie jagiello.

I can only think of one artist who worked totally in one color – Franz Kline. (Now don’t get excited – I know all about what black is and is not!) Kline was a powerful artist, part of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He evoked deep, almost primal feelings in everything he created. He did this by using only one color. Kline once wrote, “A final test of a painting, theirs, mine, any other, is: does the painter’s emotion come across”!

I think a better question would be: “Is your palette affected by outside forces, your emotions, etc., when you work.” My answer would be a resounding YES!!! BUT, you have to keep in mind it’s also subjective to the artist and/or colorist. What forces formed their emotional makeup? Why did they choose specific colors? My palette for a bright, sunny day might be totally different than yours. You, whoever YOU are – colorist or artist alike – must remember there is NEVER really a wrong palette or color choice.

Color On!: Tell us a little bit about your art. Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?

Valerie: I create in many genres, with religious art being one of these categories. I think being an invator at times is more important than the actual creation of the piece. I have several pivotal pieces of work, such as The White Sunflower (on page 6, pastels and wash,) and Le Miz from the Visions Series (on page 8, a collage with pen and ink.)

Color On!: Other than creating coloring book art, what interesting hobbies or activities do you enjoy?

Valerie: ART IS MY WHOLE LIFE!! If it’s not art related, I have very little interest in it! I’ve also learned – as we get older the time to create grows shorter. Right now I feel I’m in the renaissance of my life – and loving it. I create what I want, when I want, and just keep moving forward. I love to experiment with different processes and push the creative envelope to the max. I guess you could call me narrow-minded in that regard!

Color On!: Have you had any memorable responses to your art work from collectors?

The Golden Madonna1 @ Valerie Jagiello sml

Valerie: I have to make a distinction here. Valerie, Harry & the Fisch is a separate entity from Valerie Jagiello, the fine artist, graphic designer and photographer. That said, I find the feedback I get from collectors very satisfying. I sell a lot of religious art, such as The Golden Madonna (pen and ink, watercolor and pastel overlay on a digital base print from an original sketch.) Knowing my paintings/illustrations can bring great joy and peace to people is very humbling. If anyone is interested in a limited edition collection of one of a kind Madonna icons, message me on Facebook for further information. Only a few are left from this collection.

Color On!: If you had to choose one superpower, what would it be?

Valerie: I guess it would have to be X-ray vision. This would allow me to view the world along with its inhabitants – on the inside and the outside!

Color On!: Who is your favorite artist or artists?

Valerie: Off the top of my head, and in no particular order, Picasso, Modigliani, Klimt, Matisse, Norm Eastman, Salvatore Murdocca, and ME!!! The last three are contemporary.

Color On!: Is there some person, place or thing that inspires you when you are creating your art?

Valerie: NO, not one. EVERYTHING inspires me! EVERYONE inspires me! LIFE inspires me!

Color On!: Do you make/sell other kinds of art?

Valerie: I really haven’t mentioned my photography, as I’ve been so busy working on our coloring book with the lads. You can view my photography on Fine Art America.

Color On!: You always include two collaborators to your art – Harry and the Fisch. Tell us about them!

Valerie: Harry and the Fisch… what can I say. They are a dynamic duo in Puli form. If you don’t know about the Puli breed, they are the mop-top chorded dogs that almost never win at Westminster!

HARRY Gareth Edward Spaulding came into my life several years ago. He was born Birmingham, UK and spent two years with abusive owners in New Jersey. Then he boarded a jet and the magic began. He’s a wonderful model and loves to play dress-up with me. Harry is the softer of the two lads – more reflective. He’s my muse, a writer and artist – really he is! You’ve heard of elephants that draw. Well, Harry is an artistic Puli!!! He wrote a blog for several months – until his column got more attention than the blog!

When he arrived, his papers listed his name as Harry, but after several months he added the last three. We are fans of British comedies on PBS. There is a show called Posh Nosh whose director is named Gareth Edwards. One day while watching, Harry ran to the TV and barked when he saw the name. So his name became Harry Gareth Edward. Spaulding was added after a game of fetch. We always used a pink Spaulding ball and he got really excited when I called the ball by name. So – Harry Gareth Edward Spaulding!!! He is my heart!

The Brothers Happy Holidays 2The Fisch arrived two years later from Oklahoma, after a call from our friend Sandy, who’s a Puli breeder. She told us about this wee lad looking for a home, and we were looking to increase the size of our pack. Harry and I drove to pick him up. The Fisch was such a gawky kid – all legs. He’s our jester, and looks to older “brother” Harry for guidance when needed. At first he wasn’t into dress-up, but soon learned how much fun it was. Like Harry, the Fisch has become my muse in training. He’s into art and writing, and loves belly rubs.

Color On!: Tell us about your new book. It’s not just a coloring book, is it? What is it about?

Valerie: Ahhh, don’t get me started. Peppered through this interview I’ve touched briefly on points. “the write your own story coloring book” is a totally interactive coloring book. But wait….is it?? Is it a journal?? A coloring journal?? It’s all of those…and MORE, but with a twist. It’s a book, with over forty one-sided illustrations to color, that chronicles the life of a little boy for about a year. There are also over thirty borders and frames, what we call “writing pages,” for writing, stamping, placing family mementos, photos, sentiments – anything that is special and memorable to your family. In the back are two Family Record pages, to document important dates and pictures, as well as to list family members. When completed, each and every book will become a family heirloom filled with words written by each family member, thus making it a true first edition!

Harry and the Fisch worked really hard on it, and are excited with how the book has turned out. They hope you’ll check it out at a bookstore, or online at Amazon.com, after December 15th. We’re also putting the finishing touches on http://www.ColorYourStory.com. It’s our interactive website where you can color pages from the book, then download your finished print. We hope you will share them with us on our Facebook page. Lastly, we hope you’ll remember the name Valerie, Harry & the Fisch when you’re looking for the latest in creative conceptual coloring books! The lads and I wish you Happy Holidays, and don’t forget – Color On!!!

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