We had the good fortune of connecting with Claudie C.Bergeron and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Claudie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My work life balance has changed a lot over the years. When you’re just starting out you do everything you can to succeed, even if that means working 12 hours a day. I used to feel guilty when I wasn’t actively doing something, and I think with time I’ve achieved a more balanced life. I still work very hard but allowing myself to rest without feeling guilty has been a slow but rewarding process. I’m very fortunate to be able to make my own schedule as a freelancer and forcing myself to rest has made me more productive long-term while preventing myself from burning out. There is a limit to how many hours you can focus deeply. Even with jobs that aren’t physically draining, mentally demanding tasks are exhausting and learning to recognize when you reach that limit is extremely important. Ultimately, you have to listen to your body, you can’t pour from an empty jar.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I graduated university, I wasn’t quite sure which field I would target. I always thought I would work in the video game industry, but I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. At the beginning, I was a freelancer, but not by choice. I was trying to find a job in the industry, but my skills weren’t good enough to land me a job. The first year of being a freelancer is challenging to say the least, you take any job you can find even if it has nothing to do with your art. I did many business cards and logos even though I wanted to be an illustrator. Eventually, I got lucky and landed a picture book deal from an acquaintance. It was a whole series of books and secured me a job for the following 2 years with a great income at the time. I was really at the right place at the right time and even though I had never done a picture book in my life I jumped at the opportunity. And then I fell in love with children’s illustration. It connected with me in every way and my degree in 2d/3d animation helped me a lot in the process. Once that first gig was done, I managed to get a deal with a local publisher. They had seen my work from the first picture book series, and I got published. Since then, I’ve worked on over 40 children’s books, ranging from picture books to middle grade fantasy and I still have lots of upcoming projects that I’m really excited about. I have remained a freelancer ever since, this time by choice! I would say all my work is very whimsical and colorful. I’m greatly inspired by nature; I love painting animals and landscapes in magical settings. I’m still a kid at heart, I think that’s one of the things that drove me to children’s books in the first place.
The work of a children’s illustrator is extremely rewarding to me. I’m always deeply grateful to the authors I collaborate with. Writing a book is such a personal project, and to be trusted with such an important task is always very flattering.
I also think that being able to make an actual impact on children and seeing their reaction when reading the books I illustrate is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced. I still remember picture books from when I was a child, so to think that I may some day have that sort of impact in someone’s life, it’s extremely humbling.
The path to an artistic career is certainly challenging. It’s a lot of hard work and having a degree doesn’t mean you’ll have a job afterwards like it may in other fields, but it’s definitely doable! A lot of it is about who you know, and you have to be at the right place at the right time. I always say that it’s a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. You can’t control how lucky you are, but you can try and turn the odds in your favor. I worked extremely hard so that when I did end up at the right place at the right time, my work was good enough to get the job. If something isn’t working and you’re not seeing any result, take a step back and change your strategy. People connect to very specific things, if the market isn’t reacting to your work, you have to change your approach.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I was born and raised in Quebec, Canada, so I would definitely drag them there. I love nature so I would bring them to my favorite national park and then visit the old town of Quebec which is full of old architecture from the 1600’s !
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First, a shoutout to my former teacher Daniel. I was very far from being the best artist in university, and he has been extremely supportive and dedicated a lot of his spare time to help me. He pushed me and encouraged me when I felt like giving up and my career wouldn’t be where it is now without his help.
Finally, a shoutout to my wonderful partner Sean. Not only is he an amazing person, he’s also a great artist. He’s been my rock and supported me through everything for the past few years. The life of a freelancer can be stressful at times, but he’s been by my side through it all and pushed me when I needed it.