Monday, July 4, 2011

Part 2: Finally Meeting Shelly Haas—The Artist Who Painted My Words So Beautifully

I recently met  Shelly O. Haas, the talented artist who illustrated our book The Schoolchildren's Blizzard.  (Part 1 of this blog
Here's a great post from Shelly, talking about her process and inspiration:

Illustrating a book is like taking a journey to another place or time.  Each journey is different.  I love that in illustration.  When I received the manuscript for The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard I lived in a rural part of Eastern Washington and was finishing illustrations for a separate manuscript. 

 It was a thrill that Marty’s book took place in Nebraska because I was already familiar with the dry climate and open sky with vistas in each direction.

The I Love You Barn was a local place to observe and learn about horse, donkey, goat, chicken, llamas, New Guinea hen, and even prairie dogs at one point.  I like to draw and paint animals from life whenever possible.  During this project I drew goats and Turk-en (cross between Turkey and Chicken).  Chickens in the 19th century had a different shape than those we see today.  In my research I discovered that Turk-ens are a closer match to what a chicken was in 1888.

My sketch had no chickens in the opener and on page 10.  I added them, working from one Turk-en in a closed shed on the final illustrations.  She had the responsibility of a nest at the time.  I bought my pencils and watercolor into the shed and she became several models on the final painting.  She actually landed on my painting once, but left no mark on my wet painting

The local school was quite helpful to me as well.  The then 4th and 5th grade class (Class of 2011) studied prairie life as part of their curriculum—usually later in the school year.  With the school’s permission, I did a presentation for them on prairie life and asked for volunteers to model for me so I could be efficient in my sketches.  Everyone who was present for the presentation returned the next day with permission slips (from their parents) to model.  I directed them through some parts of the story.  I had some elements of costume to help them get into the spirit.  The process was very celebratory.

Each project takes me somewhere new and provides me with the opportunity to work with a variety of characters, subject matter, and place.  By the time the project is done, I feel well traveled and content.

I still illustrate stories at times for books, and other times for wall, or furniture.  

Table top of one of Shelly's illustrated furniture masterpieces
 I live in Connecticut now and  recently traveled to Virginia to take a workshop in neuro-developmental learning.  As an artist and teacher, it is important to find art mediums and practice that best support each student’s learning style and natural ability.

 I know most authors by letter or email, and before last weekend Marty and I had met only on paper.  I knew she lived in Virginia, and contacted her to let her know I had business nearby.  She very graciously invited me to visit and it was lovely to share our processes with each other.

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