Artist Creates Children's Book With Help From Digital Innovation Hub

December 18, 2014 | Ab. Velasco

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Artist Jay Wieler
Artist Jay Wieler working at the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library.

Since the library's Digital Innovation Hub first opened at Toronto Reference Library earlier this February, staff have seen many interesting projects come to life, including a 3D printed robotic arm by a group of University of Toronto engineering students and more recently, 3D printed Christmas ornaments.

Local author and artist Jay Wieler has also been a regular at the Hub. Chances are, you will spot him using iMac #1 - with headphones on. Over several months, Wieler has used the Hub's hardware and software, including Adobe Illustrator, as part of his journey to create his first children's storybook, Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.

In this Q+A, Jay shares details about his book, how he found out about the Digital Innovation Hub, and his artistic goals for 2015.


Cover for Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper
Cover for Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper

Please describe how you came up with the idea for Mally McKee.

Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper is a children's book about a famous detective, named Mally Mckee, who's trying to find a stolen pie.

In the summer of 2011, the story for Mally McKee struck me while riding the subway to an appointment. I was lucky I had my pocket sketchbook on me, because I was able to successfully record these ideas. When I finally arrived home, I decided to archive these ideas to Google Docs. This way I could access these notes later. However, I had no idea that "later" would mean the fall of 2013.

Skip ahead to the fall of 2013, and I rediscovered these notes while reorganizing my Google Docs. I instantly reconnected with the story, so I spent the next six to seven months researching and developing this story further. The accumulation of this work turned into Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.

Despite all the setbacks, starts and stops, the story is 90% finished. As it currently stands, the story will be released in early 2015 as an e-Book.


How did you find out about the Digital Innovation Hub at TRL?

I discovered the Digital Innovation Hub while I was researching ideas at the Reference Library. This fortuitous discovery was a pleasant surprise, because it allowed me access to better hardware and software.


Sketches and illustration from Molly McKee: The Missing Pie Caper
The above image shows Jay Wieler's process of taking a sketch, refining a sketch and then bringing it to life as a digital illustration using Adobe Illustrator.

Can you please describe how the Hub helped and supported your projects?

Without a doubt, access to better hardware and software at the Hub was very advantageous for me. These things helped me to expand my creative ideas significantly. For example, by utilizing their 27" iMac, I could focus on miniature details, within my illustrations, more effectively. Additionally, if I wanted to create custom typography, I could also utilize their Walcom tablet.

In addition to this, I found the staff to be helpful and supportive. As a result of all of these things, I enjoy using the hub for my creative projects.


Why is it important for libraries to provide spaces such as the Hubs to the community?

Based on my personal experience and observation, the Hub is a positive and progressive space. The Hub does a wonderful job at fusing people, ideas, and creativity. And these things matter, especially when it comes to enriching a community and the people's lives within it. Moreover, it helps stimulate a greater sense of a person's well-being. I'm happy that spaces like this exist in Toronto, and I hope more people realize how wonderful these spaces are for one's personal growth, especially when it comes to positive benefits of creativity. 

What are your future goals?

For 2015, I plan to release my children's book, Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper, and I also plan on going back to school in the fall of 2015 for film studies. In between these activities, I'll be teaching Adobe Illustrator workshops and doing freelance illustration. I look forward to an exciting 2015!

Illustration from Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.
Illustration from Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.