How I became an illustrator

When people ask me when I first started to paint, I always say I don’t recall a time when I didn’t.  From as early as I can remember, I have always loved working with color and shape.  From faces in clouds to patterns in plants, the world of visual imagery has always fascinated me.

Well into my teens, some of my favorite pictures were the illustrations I saw in children’s books.  I loved the dreamy lushness of imaginary worlds.  Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are were among my many favorites.

At age seventeen I entered SUNY Purchase as a visual arts major, and was also introduced to the world of typography and design at my first job doing paste-up for a local telephone book publisher.  The next year, I began an independent study program that took me to museums all over the United States and Europe, where I was able to study the great post-Impressionist masters who have been my lifelong teachers:  Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, and Klée.  These artists, in turn, led me to study the indigenous cultures that had influenced them, especially those of Africa.

Studying African art – and later, music and dance – grounded my work in nature, and taught me that all artistic expression is an embodiment of physical energy.  I began to search for ways to integrate the powerful energies of rhythm into my visual creations.  After my first child was born, I began making decorative paintings for children’s rooms.  When this led to my first opportunity to write and illustrate a children’s book, the pictures I painted for What’s Maggie Up To? were as brightly colored and boldly patterned as a musical rhythm.  Over thirty books later, I am still inspired by cultures from all over the world.  I think of myself as a bridge builder who helps children discover the world around them through the use of living images.

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