By Cal Braid
Sunny South News
Mindy Johnstone is an author and illustrator from Banff. Her new children’s book, A is for Alberta is laid out in an alphabetically with simple text and vibrant acrylic paintings that portray the diversity of Alberta’s seasons and landscapes. In Johnstone’s bio, she says that she “enjoys capturing moments in nature by painting bright and whimsical images. Spending time outdoors exploring the province with family and friends is my greatest source of inspiration.” She has a husband, a teenage daughter, and given the content of her book, it seems fitting that she also has a dog named Happy.
An example of the A-to-Z style layout is this: “C is for Coulee and cattle galore. D is for Drumheller — oh look, a dinosaur!” The coulee and the cattle are depicted on one page and a dinosaur and two young explorers roaming the hoodoos on the next. The paintings throughout the book are highly colourful, appealing, and realistic enough for kids to easily understand what they’re looking at.
“I’ve been illustrating since before I can remember,” Johnstone said. “I used to do a lot of pen and ink drawings. My dad is an artist as well. Back in the day when we used to go out for dinner, before iPhones, my parents would just pass me a pen and I would draw. For the last 15-plus years, I’ve been doing a lot of acrylic painting and those were inspired by a lot of lifescapes—the kind of images that you see in the book. Lots of colours, and I love Ravensburger puzzles.” Along with the pictures, the book is written simply enough for toddlers to follow along and learn from.
Johnstone moved to Banff from Winnipeg when she was 19 and has now lived in the mountains for longer than she lived on the prairies. She thrives on being creative and maintaining her love of painting. Asked if the environment she lives in fuels and inspires her creativity, she said “Oh, 100 per cent. The moment I walk out the door. You’ll see that a lot of the images are more about the outdoors and connecting to the landscape because that’s something that we do every single day. We do a lot of outdoor activities like paddling, rafting, and hiking.” She said it was fun to write a book that wasn’t just about the mountains and that focused on the overall diversity of Alberta.
She teaches a kid’s art program for the Town of Banff, and in the last couple of years, she’s done virtual online animation courses. “Creativity is so important to nurture at a young age. That’s how I’ve still connected to the younger audience because I love to teach them. For me, it’s natural.”
“At about 10 to 12, kids start to lean into more realism, so I teach them different perspectives and encourage them to continue creating without feeling like it has to look exactly like something. I teach adult acrylic classes as well too.”
Her book was published by Summerthought, a Banff publication company owned by Andrew Hempstead. “Their daughter is a year older than ours, and we’ve known them throughout her childhood. When they asked to collaborate, I was like ‘Yes please!’ It’s a great partnership.”
A is for Alberta is available directly from Summerthought online, at Chapters/Indigo, Analog Books, and at bookstores throughout the province.