Treasure Hunters and Other Cool Professions

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Juliana Neufeld is an illustrator for children's booksJuliana Neufeld may have only attended OMS Montessori until elementary school, but she remembers it vividly.

“I remember the visceral, hands on play and learning activities. The smell and feel of the beeswax we would play with during story time, learning to hammer nails into wooden stumps, and trading stickers with friends at lunch time,” said Juliana.

After graduating from Ryerson University with a Bachelor of Fine arts, Photographic studies in 2007, Juliana says she went from barely surviving financially as a freelance illustrator to landing an incredible gig as a fully time illustrator of children’s books.

“It’s been a long journey but it’s been an incredible learning experience and very rewarding, both personally and professionally,” she said.

Now, she is her own boss working on a couple series of children’s books.

Treasure Hunters by James PattersonHer first series Treasure Hunters by James Patterson (who is in the Guinness World Records as having the most New York Times bestsellers) is an ongoing series about siblings who are suddenly thrust into the biggest treasure hunt of their lives. Juliana will be illustrating the fourth book in the series this fall.

Her second series, My Brother the Robot by Bonny Becker, is about a family who buys a Robot advertised as “the perfect son.” Juliana is currently working on this series.

In addition to illustrating, Juliana hosts workshops for kids a few times a year. The workshops centre around cartooning and gaining confidence around drawing and being creative.

“So many kids have told themselves by an early age that they aren’t good at art and so they stop drawing,” said Juliana. “I like to show kids that art is often about making mistakes and playing… that real creativity isn’t necessarily connected to artistic skill.”

Juliana says she reflects on her own Montessori education when she is leading workshops for kids.

“I feel encouraged and positive about the teaching approach and the learning environment that Montessori fosters,” said Juliana. “There is a more respectful and genuine approach to adults interacting with children and I think it allows the children room to express and discover themselves in a way that I’m not sure most public school have made the space for.”

Juliana, who has lived in Toronto for the last decade, wants to build her own ceramics studio, and continue to work in watercolor, in addition to illustrating more children’s books.

She spends her free time collecting and listening to records, eating and biking around the city with her friends, and exploring the patches of nature that Toronto has to offer.