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.

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.



  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.

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

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