John Mantha - Illustrator

John Mantha is a Toronto-based artist and illustrator. He grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and graduated with honors from the Ontario College of Art and Design.

His major commissions include the design of 12 coins for the Royal Canadian Mint, one of which was chosen coin of the year. He has done commemorative pieces for the Ford Motor Company and the Toronto Transit Commission, as well as 34 paintings for the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Other clients have included Fox Television, Imperial Oil, Penguin Books, Annick Press, Kids Can Press and Cottage Life magazine. Working for book publishers, advertising agencies, magazines, corporations, television and movies, his work has been seen throughout North America. His paintings, done in oils, have been exhibited in galleries across Ontario and hang in corporate and private collections. He freelances for CTV and The Globe and Mail as a courtroom artist.

Thus far, John has illustrated 26 books, including The Kids Book of Canada's Railway, which won The Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada 2001 Information Book Award and was an official selection for the 2003 Red Cedar Book Awards. The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration was nominated for the 2006 Hackmatack Award for nonfiction. The Kids Book of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada was nominated for one of the BC Book Prizes, the Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize. The Kids Book of Canada at War was nominated for the 2009 Ontario Library Association Red Maple Award.

John works in oils and oil-wash, and uses Photoshop to enhance the finished piece. His style is realistic in nature, with an emphasis on texture. He uses Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for design work.

He lives in Toronto with his wife, Leanne; his daughter, Lauren; Bella the dog and Charlotte the cat. John is an avid golfer and has played since he was 16 years old.

: He has appeared in two movies --- Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story and Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story. He portrayed a courtroom artist in both movies, and the sketches that he made were used.

I was born in Sudbury, Ontario, in 1960. We lived there for only a year before moving to Sault Ste. Marie, where I grew up.

Where do you live now?
I now live in Toronto, Ontario, in a house in the Danforth village area.

When did you start drawing?
I started drawing when I was ten years old. I had to spend a month in the hospital, and reading and watching TV weren't as stimulating as drawing.

What's the thing you like most about creating kids' books?
I like the working arrangement involved in kids' books. I enjoy working on a project that I can sink my teeth into instead of a one shot illustration that is done quickly and soon forgotten.

What's your favorite character from your books?
The most interesting character I illustrated was actually Mackenzie King --- the ninth Prime Minister of Canada. He believed his dog was able to channel advice to him from his dead mother. Some say he was Canada's best Prime Minister.

Do you have any pets?
Samantha the dog and Otis the cat.

What are your hobbies?
I would have to say golf is my favorite hobby, but I've played hockey with the same group of guys every Saturday for the past eighteen years.

What's your favorite food?
My favorite food is Mexican food.

What was your training or schooling?
I attended the Ontario College of Art.

How did you get involved with children's books?
My first book was with Kids Can Press. I sent in some work samples and got a call several months later.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
Don't be afraid to show your work! I've discovered I'm not the best judge of my work.

What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is The Godfather.

What's your favorite animal?
I love dogs.

Where do you work?
I work out of my house. I take Sam, the dog, for her walk each morning and then get to work.

How do you research or create your illustrations?
I use the Internet and the public library for reference materials.

What mediums do use to create your illustrations?
I work in oils. I also use an oil wash. Oils dry slowly and allow you to blend colors on the actual painting. Acrylic paints dry quickly and all blending of colors must be done on the palette and then applied. I have tried computer illustration but it is too deliberate a process; by contrast, when you're painting in oils, sometimes your mistakes or accidental drips look really good even though they were not planned.

What's your greatest childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is learning to water ski. My brother and sister and I all learned at the same time during a gorgeous, hot summer.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little I wanted to be an artist or a vet.

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
My most interesting job was working in a movie as a courtroom illustrator. I actually work freelance as a court artist. I have also illustrated a board game: Monopoly Junior-Trek Alaska

Do you have any special secrets or insights about any of your books or characters?
I sometimes have to use myself as a model if I don't have any other references. Also, Samantha, my dog, has been in numerous illustrations where a dog is required.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Samuel de Champlain

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

The Kids Book of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

2006 - Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Book Prize, Short-listed

The Kids Book of Canada's Railway

2003 - Red Cedar Book Award, Short-listed
2001 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Winner
2001 - Silver Birch Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2001 - Book Design Award, Alcuin Society, Commended
2001 - Our Choice - Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration

2006 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Commended