Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
Drawing something, even just straight lines was part of me as I grew up. Putting lines and squiggles on paper fascinated me. I made my own paper dolls, because I wanted to dress them in clothes I created. My younger brother and I created a painted rocket ship control panel in our Indiana basement. Our life included moving several times to different states and I was given the opportunity to see many live performaces, visit museums and various houses of worship. Observing all the many types of artwork was like a gift for me.
In any occupation I served I was always creating my own visuals. I wrote and illustrated stories for my children. My choice to illustrate professionally for a non profit was the door that opened this world for me. A small paperback designed to promote Peace in the year 2000 is now in print in many languages. Since then I have illustrated over 60 children's picture books.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
After my freshman year in college far from home, I transfered to Rutgers University for the remainder of my college years. The art program there was fascinating. Our teachers were at the beginning of a new era of modern art, happenings, and creative thinking.
My degree was in Art Education and a second major in Fine Art. The lessons I learned have stayed with me as I work on any project today. Those include, listening, looking, observing and translating what I see into meaningful illustrations. Being able to do that is like performing magic.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
The books that come alive with color and humor excite me. Graeme Base, Tomie dePaola, Tomi Ungerer, Maud and Miska Petersham, Jan Brett, Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak and the list goes on. All these styles are quite different, but all capture my interest. There is detail, color, humor, pathos, and design in the work of these artists. I want to create some of the same in my work.
Do you have a favourite picture book or recall one of the first picture books you saw?
My older sister often took me to the town library. It was a long walk to get there. I remember how much fun it was to pick out a book and hold it so carefully on the long walk home. One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey was the first of many books I loved.
Pictures always fascinated me. Those books that told a story in pictures were the first ones I could "read" as a toddler. When I learned to read, there were so many more.
Tell us about the creation of your favourite character from one of your books.
My favorite creation is Gunther, the Underwater Elephant. Elephants are so unique and interesting. They share their lives with each other as a family. I wrote and illustrated Gunther as a tribute to all elephants, and one of my co-workers who was diagnosed with an incurable illness. Gunther now has three books to his name and the message is one of family, commitment, and courage.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
Children should be able to read a story from the illustrations. My goal is to create stories that, although they contain text, can be enjoyed without words. That means a toddler can pick up a book and see the progress of a story by turning the pages and letting the characters "talk" to the child. My goal is to create colorful illustrations that appeal to children and grown up "children" alike.
My message is for all ages.
Which 4 words would you use to describe your illustration portfolio?
Meaningful, Colorful, Entertaining, Surprising.
Are you an author/illustrator?
One of the things that helped me decide to illustrate childrens books was the desire to create my own stories and bring them to life.
Of the 60 + books I have been privilegede to illustrate, eight of those I also wrote. Sometimes the illustrations decide the story line, and sometimes an idea just needs pictures that grow into a story. Honestly I am happiest when one of my stories grows into a picture book. I love the process and the opportunity to see my characters come to life.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?
Ah, this is such a great question. I would own a bookstore designed for children and adults. There would be comfy chairs, sofas, bean bags, cozy areas to sit and read. The bookstore would have a loft for exploring large cutouts, and curiosities to examine. Secret panels children could figure out how to open would lead to new rooms of surprises. Guest illustrators and authors would visit as often as they were able. A place for writing and drawing would be in a separate room with materials supplied. And ... if I were to create a book based on this bookstore, I would turn it into a magical place with surprises, mystery, and unusual characters.