Terrace Park Artists: Will Hillenbrand
By Sumitra Gopal
As our first featured artist, we are pleased to introduce renowned children's book author and illustrator, and long-time Terrace Park resident, Will Hillenbrand.
Will was born in May 1960 to Alice and Earl Hillenbrand and is the youngest of 4 siblings. His mother said he was born with a pencil in his hand! And once you read about him and see his artwork you will know why.
Will and Jane moved to their home on Lexington Avenue in 1990. They were drawn by the natural beauty of the place, especially the Little Miami River. The colors, light and shape of the river and the life around it have inspired Will over the years.
As a boy, Will was always interested in the arts. He was interested in sports but kept coming back to drawing. He realized his passion for art in high school and pursued it more seriously from there on. He received a BFA from The Art Academy of Cincinnati in 1982 and continued his education at The Ohio State Univesity.
He has a studio at home where he works to bring characters to life and create magical stories for his little friends. The walls of his studio are used as pasteboards where he can see his concepts, think about them, make adjustments. This is where all the magic happens, where riveting stories and artwork are born.
Will chose to write for children because he loves their ability to see things in a new light with unique, unbiased and unfiltered perspective. He says his writing for his young audience are “Love letters to the next generation” and when he listens to what they say it’s “an artist talking to artists”.
The characters in Will’s books are inspired by the people he knows or experiences he has had in Terrace Park. He loves to convert his characters into animals. He has an almost photographic memory to capture and recreate faces from memory. His skill lies in making these characters universal (while concealing their identity). That’s why his readers relate to his stories and characters when they read his books. So if you have known Will for some time, you might also have the good fortune of being the inspiration behind one of his characters!
When we asked for a message to his readers, Will said “Always keep a story in your heart”! He signed off with hope, aspiration and excitement for all that he has to tell and show his young friends!
Will has created a delightful video for the Terrace Park Historical Society where he talks about his work and inspirations. Video interview with Will Hillenbrand
Join Will as he celebrates the publication of his 70th children’s book, Snow Friends! You can enjoy a video about the creation of the story HERE
You can also learn more about Will and his work at his website: WillHillenbrand.com