Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day FOUR: 31 DAYS: The Crush that Changed My Career

(Alternate title:  How I Became a Children's Book Illustrator)



The year was 2007 and I was a young mother who had walked away from her career as an architectural designer to be a stay-at-home mom.  I kept my creativity alive as a part-time instructor at a design school and doing a few architectural illustrations here and there.  But, truthfully, my favorite creative moments were usually the ones I shared with my son.


One nondescript afternoon, with my sweet eighteen-month-old sitting on my lap in our favorite rocker, I grabbed a library book from our stack.

Pirates have green teeth -- when they have any teeth at all.  I know about pirates, 
because one day, when I was building a sand castle and minding my own business,
a pirate ship sailed into view.  I knew what it was, because its flag had a 
skull and crossbones on it and because I could hear the pirates singing, 
"Hey, ho, blow the man down."

They were a little off-key.

The writing was smart, funny and perfectly timed.  The illustrations were colorful, hilarious and wonderfully over-the-top.  For the first time, I saw children's book illustration as a brilliant work of art.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I want to do this, my heart cried.  This writing, this art.  I want to make children's books.


I developed two crushes in that one moment.  First I fell in love with the book itself:  How I Became a Pirate by Melissa Long and David Shannon.  Simultaneously I fell in love with an entire book industry and knew I wanted to be in that world.  Can there be a higher compliment for a book?

As a child I dreamed of being a novelist.  As a high school student I dreamed of being an artist.  Around graduation, architecture seemed like a good, practical fit.  As a new mom, thoroughly entranced by this new stage of life, I found my "it".  The way I could be a writer and an artist.  The way every creative fiber in my being could jump up and down for joy.

It's now 2012 and I just finished illustrating my twelfth children's book, with books thirteen and fourteen following close behind.  I still haven't had the pleasure of writing one yet, but I have five ideas cooking on the back burner of my brain.  I'm just beginning to hit my stride and figure out what direction my art will go, but what a joy ride it has been.


A big thank you to words of Melissa Long and the joyous art of David Shannon.  This week I'm setting up my studio in my new house; How I Became a Pirate will be smiling down on me from its special spot on my book rail.

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Thanks for stopping by!  Click {here} to see The Most Perfect Picture Book Ever Made.  Or click {here} to read the 31 Days series from the beginning.

  

4 comments:

  1. I discovered David Shannon when I bought "No, David" for my little nephew, David. He was an exact replica of the book character and he ADORED that book. We all did.

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    Replies
    1. How fun for your nephew! I love, love, love David Shannon's paintings.

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