I started out in children’s book publishing as an illustrator. I hadn’t painted anything but a wall since walking out of art school in 1974 when I began creating art again in 1980. In the interim I had learned a lot about production art so I started self-publishing greeting cards and gift tags featuring my cartoon animal characters. A friend saw them and suggested I look into the children’s book field. Long story short, I subsequently published 16 picture books and early readers, all of them using ink outline and watercolor.
My “cartoony” style was well-received back then, but that changed as trends changed. I was advised that my style was more suited to concept books, so I learned computer illustration to create two pop-up books. I also learned to paint using Corel Paint and created the six books for my Furlock and Muttson Mysteries, but otherwise have been focusing on writing, mostly nonfiction. I rattle cages once in a while for illustration assignments, but haven’t had any in a while.
So, it wasn’t a happy day last spring when another illustrator was chosen to create the spot illustrations for Amazing Animal Skills, my series about cool things animals do to survive. I thought this time my style would work! That was a wake-up call: it was time to reinvent the wheel. I decided to learn about collage, being a huge fan of Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle.
I watched Eric’s tutorials about how he creates his art, studied Lois’s amazing books like Feathers for Lunch, and started painting and cutting. I hung a clothesline in my studio, set up a table, found some paints that hadn’t dried up, and got to work. At this point I’m just using drafting vellum that I smear with acrylic and gouache.
As I play with colors, textures and shapes, I recall how my mom was always trying new creative endeavors for as long as she lived. I think it’s what kept her young. And now I’m off to the dump to see what papers have been tossed into the recycling bin!