Algonquin artist talks about working with renowned children’s author Robert Munsch

Annette Francis
APTN National News
Algonquin artist Jay Odjick has partnered with one of Canada’s most famous children’s authors to illustrate a new book.

Odjick, whose work can be seen on the Kagagi series on APTN, was invited by Robert Munsch to illustrate the book called Blackflies.

“It’s a good, fun story,” said Odjick. “It’s Robert’s story. I was happy to draw it though because considering it’s set in a First Nations community, it’s got First Nations characters in it and I think that’s the way to go in 2017.”

Blackfies is about a girl named Helen who’s excited for Spring. She wants to go outside but there’s a swarm of blackflies and mosquitoes. She then talks her little sister into going outside and the bugs snatch her up.

He said he was asked to do up the drawings pretty close to the print date which sent him into a fury of creating between August and December last year.

“They sent me this manuscript and they gave me the freedom to take the manuscript and decide what should be drawn on every page, so that was kinda neat too. It’s very different from say, comics or tv where they are really tight. Basically, they just gave me the story and said, ‘we’re looking at about 15 illustrations, how do you wanna approach it?”

Odick hails from Kitigan Zibi First Nation and first began drawing at the young age of five.

He said as a First Nation’s artist there’s always been challenges in the mainstream.

“I hope it opens doors for First Nations artists and writers to work with these bigger companies and to show that there’s a market for First Nations material,” he said.

He said he is honoured to have taken part in the collaboration.

“I was really stoked about it, and for me, I think the biggest thing is I don’t know if it’s ever been done before in terms of a First Nations artist working with Robert. I’ve never heard of that and to do it on that scale-like I said it’s a huge global economy. They’re going to be putting it out worldwide.”

According to Odjick, Blackfies will soon be available through book clubs and school book fairs before it becomes available commercially.

In the meantime, he’s back to work on his superhero Kagagi and said he hopes to have his own book published sometime this year.

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