Michael Martchenko

“I try to give the kids in my illustrations spunk and make them a bit defiant; they’re always sticking out their chests and standing up for themselves. Did you notice how in Thomas’ Snowsuit Thomas causes the school principal’s hair to turn whiter in frustration as the story progresses?” asks Michael Martchenko in a Quill & Quire interview.

Michael is recognized as one of the fastest illustrators in the country. According to an interviewer in Applied Arts Quarterly, “Such rapidity seems to suit the artist’s joyful sense of spontaneity.” Michael immediately breaks down a manuscript into a storyboard. He explains: “As I read, I get all these great pictures in my mind. I think about funny situations, and then start sketching.” After he has completed a rough, it takes approximately another four hours to create a finished drawing. For most of his books, Michael likes to use watercolor and pencil, as well as a generous dose of his own visual humor.

Before he became a children’s book illustrator, Michael had already launched a successful career in advertising. Fortunately for fans of children’s literature, the Annick Press publishers and Robert Munsch saw Michael’s work—a scene in a park featuring pigeons equipped with landing gear—at a graphic arts exhibition, and felt that anyone with such a playful imagination should illustrate children’s stories.

Since 1980, the year he worked with Robert on The Paper Bag Princess, Michael has illustrated over 30 books for children and has exhibited his work throughout North America. He won the Ruth Schwartz Award for Thomas’ Snowsuit in 1986, and has won additional awards for design and illustration.

Michael’s has also collaborated with Loris Lesynski on Shoe Shakes (2007), a zany blend of story-poem and toddler-friendly rhymes. They also worked together on “I Did It Because...”: How a Poem Happens (2006), a unique collection that blends “best of” with “how to.”

Growing up in a small town north of Paris, France, Michael loved comic books and learned a lot about visual humor from watching cartoons. He moved to Canada when he was seven. By high school Michael knew that he wanted to make art his career. Upon graduation from the Ontario College of Art in 1966, Michael began working in commercial art. He was the creative art director for TDF Artists in Toronto until 1993. Michael’s other love is aviation art. He spends most of his time illustrating in his home studio.

Michael lives in Toronto with his wife, Patricia.

School, Library and Conference Presentations
Where do those zany illustrations come from?
Presentation format: Slide presentation showcasing collaborations with Robert Munsch and Allen Morgan, followed by a Q&A period
Maximum: 80
Recommended age group: Grades 1+ 
Length: 45 minutes

Annick Press books
illustrated by Michael Martchenko