Williamsport native Jason Paulhamus started illustrating children's books in 2002. For the past 10 years, he has collaborated with authors from across the country and even overseas. Although Paulhamus has been drawing "since [he] could hold a pencil," it wasn't until he went to college that he became interested in children's books.
"One of my professors at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. was a children's book illustrator and I worked closely with him during my senior year," Paulhamus said. "That's when I really got into the field. I've always liked cartoon and children's book artwork, so I can see now why my career has gone in that direction."
Paulhamus has illustrated four children's books to date. His earlier books include "Miss Creant" by Jo Hoadley, "Behind the Walls of the Old Stone House" by Gwendolyn Cline, "Heroes: You and Me" by Steve O. Simms, and his latest book, "Everlasting: The Kingdom Key" by Kate Austin, which was published in December 2011.
"Everlasting: The Kingdom Key" is a Christian children's book that focuses on the Gospel stories. The book is written in rhyme.
" 'Everlasting' really deals with the Bible message, but it's for kids ages three and up," Paulhamus said. "I think it's a really interesting book because there aren't a whole lot of books out there like it for that age group."
It took Paulhamus eight months to complete the book's 35 color-illustrations and cover.
"It was a pretty big project," Paulhamus said. "It's an 80-page children's book. It requires a whole process. When I'm working on a children's book, the author will send me the manuscript and they might have a lot of input about what they want or they might not have a clue. But we work very closely in order to get it right and create a flow so that each illustration plays into the next one and moves the story along."
Paulhamus said Kate Austin, the book's author, contacted him using Guru, a freelance illustration website. "I have a portfolio on Guru and a lot of authors find me on there," Paulhamus said. "But a growing number have found me through my website, www.jasonpaulhamus.com. It's always neat when they do that because there are obviously millions of sites out there."
Paulhamus designed his own website in order to showcase the range of his artistic repertoire: from cartoons to children's books, fine art to fantasy work, landscape paintings to comic book illustrations.
"I put the site together a few years ago," Paulhamus said. "I wanted to use my illustrations as the background for the website. It took me a little while, but I think it's paid off because I've made a lot of professional contacts through the site. The author whose book I'm currently illustrating found me through my website - and she's from Australia!"
Paulhamus's current illustration project is a children's book titled "Go Ella, Go." "It's the story of a little girl who has a pair of twin older brothers," Paulhamus said. "It's about the challenge Ella faces in trying to keep up with her brothers and fitting in with them. Throughout the course of the story, she tries to learn how to ride her bike without training wheels. When she finally does, it's a small step toward growing up, so now she feels that she can play with her older brothers. It's a cute little book."
In terms of his illustrations, Paulhamus works mainly with acrylics and does all of his drawings by hand. "Digital artwork really isn't my thing," Paulhamus said. "Children's books are unique in that most of them still use traditional hand-drawn artwork. I like to do everything by hand, so children's books is a good field for me."
According to Paulhamus, children's books are largely immune to the digital revolution that has changed so many other entertainment formats (especially children's movies and television shows). "I don't really see that emphasis on hand-drawn artwork fading away anytime soon," Paulhamus said. "I think kids relate more to artwork that is done by hand because that's what they do. It's important for children's books to keep that by-hand look so kids can identify with the illustrations and so that it can spark their own creativity."
When he's not working in his home studio, Paulhamus teaches art classes at St. John's School of the Arts in Newberry and the CHEF co-op, an organization that provides weekly academic and enrichment classes to Lycoming County home-schoolers.
Paulhamus said his teaching informs his work as an illustrator and vice versa. "The two definitely play off one another," he said. "I enjoy seeing the kids' passion for art at a young age. They're so creative. Their passion for artwork feeds my passion for illustrating."
For more information about Paulhamus, or to buy any of his books, visit www.jasonpaulhamus.com.