On Your Father's Side  

Artists drawn together

Maybe it was some higher power that drew Cale Atkinson and Jessika von Innerebner together.

The Kelowna-based husband-and-wife artists are celebrating the release of two new children’s books this week.

Off & Away is Cale’s third picture book with Disney-Hyperion, and his sixth book since 2015 (he’s also illustrated four others in that time).
Jessika has also illustrated a book for the Disney empire, a Marvel superhero adventure called Grow Up, Ant-Man.

Both were released on Tuesday.

“I think it has to be pretty rare,” Atkinson said of the timing.

They’ll be together at Mosaic Books on Saturday, from 2-4 p.m., celebrating their “super double book launch.”

Their relationship was built on good timing.

They met at a Vancouver Island animation studio.

Jessika admits she was almost ready to quit when Cale was hired.

A week or two in one direction or another, and their lives could have been vastly different than they are today.

“She was my reason for the island,” Cale said.

From there they were recruited to work at Club Penguin in Kelowna.

Eventually, there was enough freelance work that allowed them to branch off on their own.

Jessika is the artist behind two juvenile fiction series, Ellie Ultra and the Escapades of Clint McCool. She has also illustrated a new adventure series called Miranda and Maude: The Princess and the Absolutely Not a Princess due later this year.

Not only has she worked for Disney, her artwork has appeared with DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Penguin Random House and many others.

As a writer -- and a parent whose children love their books -- I jumped at the chance to speak with Cale and Jessika about their latest projects.

I had to know what their secret to success is, given the rave reviews that follow Cale’s books and the long list of blue-chip clients on Jessika’s resume.

Funny, though, it’s not a secret. They key that opened the lock for them was hard work.

Cale said even while they worked for Club Penguin, they accepted almost all the freelance work that came their way.

They’ve illustrated for educational books, magazines and newspapers. They’ve helped develop characters for big studios and provided art for apps.

Even now, with the weight of Disney behind them, Cale said they can’t stop to rest on their laurels. Their pens and brushes never stop. 

Take Off & Away, for example. While searching for new book ideas, Cale just started drawing. He struck upon a girl and a sailboat. He tried introducing mermaids and other mythical creatures, but eventually settled upon a message in a bottle.

“It was just really fun to draw these adventures,” said Cale, a 34-year-old Vancouver native. “It was just a nice release for me, artistically.”

The pictures eventually formed the basis for Off & Away.

Those messages in bottles prove to be the test for a little girl named Jo as she faces her fears. As a husband who works at home, with a wife who also works at home, I was intrigued to know how they manage their relationship.

At least my wife and I have different floors to work on; she's in the basement office and I'm at the desk in the playroom (next to the stuffies and Play Doh).

Jessika and Cale work back-to-back in a bedroom converted into an office.

The secret there? Podcasts.

They listen to hear another voice and give them something to talk about, but they also maintain their own interests and hobbies.

“Even though we work together, we are still our own individuals,” said Jessika, 39 and born in Yellowknife.

Professionally, Jessika said their careers changed when they had enough of a portfolio to attract an agent.

Not that it’s so easy.

Cale admits 99 per cent of the agents he approached, if they said anything at all, said “no thank you.”

It was persistence that paid off for them both.

Jessika said she’s on her third agent, and suggests it’s vital to find someone you connect with.

“Having an agent,” she said, “it’s a game changer. … Finding an agent is like dating. You’ve got to get a lot of ‘no’s.’ You’ve got to do the work.”

It still amazes me they can be so creative, prolific and connected.

Cale said they hit it off from the beginning: “I think it’s been a perfect kind of fit that way.”

To learn more, see cale.ca and Jessvoni.com.


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About the Author

David Trifunov is a proud father, humble author and recovering journalist.

Trifunov and his wife, Erin, are raising three little girls in Kelowna and enjoying every second of the trials, triumphs and tribulations.

As a humble author, he has written three middle-grade books for publisher Formac-Lorimer.

To pay the bills so he can raise those kids and write those books, Trifunov is a journalist with 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor.

His parenting column will appear regularly. davidtrifunov.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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