Henry Cole grew up on a dairy farm outside Purcellville, Virginia. Always interested in art and science, he studied forestry at Virginia Tech. He is a self-taught artist, although his mother was a professional illustrator and gave him many pointers along the way. His education required him to study nature closely, and his observation of such details helped him with his drawing. Henry worked in a number of jobs, including magazine illustration, and for sixteen years taught elementary grade science classes. He now lives in Washington D.C., and on the island of Aruba.
When did you know you wanted to illustrate children’s books?
I’ve always loved to draw pictures, and I’ve always loved picture books. As an elementary teacher, I saw many authors and illustrators come to our school and talk about their work. Each time they came I would say to myself, “Self, this is just the thing you’d like to do!” Eventually I got the opportunity to try my hand at being a book illustrator.
You have written as well as illustrated your own books. What is the difference between illustrating someone else’s story as opposed to your own?
Your own book is your own baby. I think it’s more fulfilling to both write and illustrate a book. However, it can be more fun and stimulating to collaborate with another person and create something jointly.
What is your favorite medium when illustrating? Why?
I like to use acrylic paints and colored pencils, mostly. They seem to go well together.
What advice would you give children who aspire to be future illustrators?
Ask questions, read lots, travel when you can, be outside as much as you can, practice all the time (even doodling is practicing), get interested in different hobbies, get a pet.