July Volunteer of the Month: Jamie Langhoff

Jamie Langhoff dedicated over 55 (!!!) hours to volunteering with 826DC this past school year. She is an expert illustrator who brings students’ stories to life during field trips and has even hosted her own workshop, Zine and be Zine, in which she helped students draw their own stories. We’re constantly amazed at her ability to create worlds from the words our students write. We asked Jamie to tell us a little more about her experience as an illustrator as well as her time working with young authors.


How/why did you get into illustration?

I have always LOVED cartoons and animation. Plus my Grammy taught illustration and old-fashioned cartooning in after school programs for over 30 years and only stopped when she got cancer at age 85. I love the way illustration breaks the normal boundaries and principles of reality and gravity and physical possibility. It’s a narrative device that opens up endless avenues of human expression. And it’s not just for kids!

Screenshot 2016-07-06 at 11.36.38 AM

Got any special techniques to share?

They don’t feel like special techniques to me! But I always start with warm up drawings or doodles. There aren’t any rules to what I start with. They don’t even have to be characters–they could just be scribbles or weird old flowers or cardboard boxes. My style is line drawing with no shading. I try to include as many details about the characters as the kids create. I like to make the backgrounds (setting) very detailed too.

How did you get involved with volunteering for 826DC?

A friend who used to volunteer there as a tutor told me about the field trips because she knew I liked drawing cartoons. I tried it once and immediately I was hooked! I love the creative space at 826 and the staff is really great too.

Did anything surprise you about the program?

I’m usually surprised at how smart and real the kids are! A lot from their lives come out through the stories they tell and the characters they create. So much of their truth and experience come through what they create–both collaboratively and individually.

What is the most memorable/ rewarding take-away from your time as a volunteer?

I love when the kids come back to the table where I’m drawing. They always get excited about what I’m making and say nice things. Sometimes kids ask how I got so good. And I always answer: “with lots of practice and patience–just keep drawing!”

With illustration the possibilities are endless! Click To Tweet

Do you have any advice for young illustrators or anyone who wants to get into illustration?

My advice is always: just keep drawing! And if you don’t know what to draw, just draw how you’re feeling at that moment. It doesn’t have to be a traditional self-portrait–it could be a line or a blob or a squiggle or a goofy robot. Over time you can hone your own style. And you can always keep evolving your style too, depending on what you want to do and create. With illustration the possibilities are endless!

Any other stories you’d like to share from your time as a volunteer?

Whenever the editor introduces me as the illustrator and the kids turn around eyes wide and jaws dropped like I’m famous, it feels amazing! My favorite moments are when the kids come behind the scenes to my table where I’m drawing and ask me questions and compliment my drawings. I love how excited they are–it fills me with such joy.