In her signature shirt, jeans and toque, you could tell that Jo Anne or Johmes Aguinaldo works with children. She is a talented young artist and illustrator who has performed on stage with the cast of Right Here, Write Now! The Musical for six years, wrote, directed and played a part a musical in honor of the anniversary of Don Bosco for Our Lady of Good Counsel in Surrey a few years ago, and is an Educational Assistant at the elementary school she and her family have long attended. Now, Jones adds another feather to her cap – illustrator for Penny Tries to Boil the Ocean, a book written by RHWN co-alumna and creator Tricia Jose.
We had a chance to chat with Johmes about her first book with Tricia.
PNT: How did the idea of the illustration for Penny come to you?
JA: When Tricia shared her idea with me, I immediately pictured it coming to life and I couldn’t wait for this story to get out there. I just felt surprised that she asked me to illustrate it for her and I have to say, the message in it felt so timely. It’s for anyone who has been feeling overwhelmed and wanting to do more during this pandemic-life but is unsure how.
The story and the main characters were created by Trica Jose. I simply tried to help her vision come to life with illustrations, and I used her actual dog, Penny, as a reference. Her friends on the other hand, I did get to choose. I chose a seal and otter because I was thinking of some of my favourite animals from the Vancouver Aquarium. The toad made me think of the student with special needs I work with at the elementary school who loves frogs.
The main character, Penny, is a dog who loves her friends so much she wants to do everything she can to help them when a cold storm hits. I see myself in Penny because I, too, am the type who easily gets caught up and overwhelmed by all the things I want and expect myself to do.
PNT: Who inspires you in your art?
JA: Support from friends and family in my life who constantly push me to get my work out there because they believe it’s good! As a side note, I just felt like I needed to accomplish something big before the end of last year. 2020 was hard in a lot of ways, but it was a year of focusing more on taking care of myself, and one of those ways was to make more time to just sketch and paint. To be honest, I’ve always felt quite shy about sharing my art, but here it is anyway! Well, one form of it. Huge thanks to Tricia for trusting me to do this and to my fiancé being there to when I kept doubting myself
My friends and family continue to inspire me and who’ve finally decided to pursue something they’ve always loved, and were in the process of letting it grow into something more! Artsy, singing, baking, dancing, and exercising friends – they are the people who inspire me.
PNT: How old were you when you got into illustration?
JA: I got into art when I started sketching Disney and Pixar pictures growing up. I also enjoyed making handmade cards as a kid, and creating sets for big events in my youth group as I got older. Now friends and family have been asking me to draw or paint things for them! It’s really just their joy, their smiles when they receive their requests that make it for me. Because of art, creativity is one of my core values. It has helped me immensely in every aspect of my life. It’s how I tackle everyday obstacles, make my life feel more adventurous (physically and mentally), I even draw as a prayer sometimes, and it keeps me sane.
PNT: Who is Penny’s audience and why must they read this book?
JA: I hope that when children (and adults!) read this book, it’s a reminder that helping others doesn’t have to be a grand complicated gesture. Doing something small and simple still makes a big difference.
Apart from her love for Disney, Johmes loves family, sushi, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Pokemon. For her, despite what people might feel as dreadful times, the best part about right now, apart from being recently engaged to her childhood friend Matthew, is that she got to cross out something on her bucket list of things to do – which is to illustrate a children’s book. That, in anyone’s book, is truly cool.
(The book is available in both paperback and ebook format, on Amazon.ca, .com, .uk, .jp, etc
Ebook. You can also find it by searching “Penny Tries to Boil the Ocean” in your respective marketplace.)