I came to be in the fall of 1953 in Crawford Long Hospital in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.
I got my artistic talent from my mom. She never had any formal training . . . too busy with my dad and raising my brother, my sister and myself. But I wanted to learn how to draw. I spent my childhood drawing horses. Always trying to get the front legs right and never quite succeeding.
My earliest memory of drawing was in the Sears & Roebuck store in westend Atlanta. I have no clue how old I was, probably 10 or younger. A chalkboard with chalk – who could resist that! So I proceeded to draw one of my beloved horses, as big as I could reach. Gonna’ get those front legs right this time! I stepped back to survey my work . . . something behind me . . . people! I had an audience! I was mortified!! And promptly dropped the chalk and made my exit! Truth be told, it was probably only 3-4 people, but that was the same as 3-4,000 in my mind! No more drawing in public for me!
At some point soon after that, probably for a birthday or Christmas, I got my first art set. Wow! Watercolors, pastels, oils, charcoal and colored pencils. And drawing books: how to draw people and HORSES! I was in heaven!
All through my teen years I dabbled in all these different medium. I didn’t care for the pastels and charcoal, too messy. The colored pencil lead was hard and didn’t produce much color. I liked the oils. I liked the scent of the linseed oil. But it was messy to clean up and it took so long to dry and I never seemed to finish, because I could just keep working and working and working . . . But watercolor was perfect! Easy to clean up, dried fast, and lots of vibrant color!
High school art class was so anticipated, but so disappointing. I wanted to learn, but the class was full of seniors trying to get easy credits and the teacher was so sweet and they just kind of ran all over her. Such a let down for me overall, but I was exposed to pen and ink there, and for the next three decades it was pen and ink and watercolors for me. I’d rather draw than paint, so the pen and ink was my favorite. But it is, afterall, just black and white, and sometimes you want some color, too.
After high school, what to do? How could I earn a living with my art? The colleges at that time were mostly for fine artists, teaching color theory and such. How was that going to support me? At a job fair in high school I found out about Atlanta Area Technical School which had a Commercial Art course. It was only a year long and was insanely inexpensive. I figured it could get me a job, earn money, and then later I could go study fine art at some fancy school.
I didn’t even know what a Commercial Artist was. Today the term is “graphic artist”. This was the early 70’s and long before computers. A typesetter would print out long galleys of type, which the “paste-up” artist (me!) would run through a hot wax machine (or else use rubber cement), cut up with xacto knives, and arrange on boards with blue guidelines. Everything was aligned using t-squares and triangles. Then the whole thing was taken back to the camera room, where you would snap a picture of it with a room sized camera and develop a negative. The negatives were then “stripped” – laid out on sheets in the correct position – so that the plates for the offset presses could be “burned”. It was all very hands on. I was good at it and I loved it.
I never made it to college, but continued to draw and paint on the side, mostly wildlife themes. I had a friend from high school who opened up a t-shirt shop. I learned to set up the art for silk screening and helped him on the side. For a few years, I even went to fairs and shows with him and airbrushed t-shirts. Guess I got over my fear of drawing in public!
Not sure how or when it came about, but I was always interested in writing and drawing children’s books. Occasionally, I’d send off stories to publishers, get the standard form rejection letters, and then go do other things. Still, I loved to go to the library or bookstores a look at the children’s books. I don’t know why – Bill and I never even had children – I just loved the art in these books. One day in the public library I discovered Stephen Gammell. “Old Henry”, “Song and Dance Man”, “Will’s Mammoth” . . . wow! And he was using colored pencil? Really!?
That’s when I discovered Prismacolors. Not like those nasty hard things in my old art set. These were creamy soft and buttery and, oh! The COLOR!! Fabulous color! And they worked on colored paper, even dark colored paper! I could draw, not paint, and have all the color I wanted! This all came about in the early 2000’s, and except for a few needed pen and ink drawings, I haven’t touched brushes or pens since.
Still working on the side of my full time job, I began doing portraits. I’ve probably done about 20 or 30 of these. In 2009 a relative of a relative approached me about illustrating a book she had written with her sisters. “The Chipmunk Family Odyssey” came to be. A year or so later, one of the sisters, Sandy, asked me to help her with another book, “Things I Ponder”. She published this book through Xulon Press, and they graciously offered to add me to their list of children’s book illustrators. Thanks to that list I kept doing more books until I had to change my day job to a part time position, and then eventually came home to draw books full time. It’s the hardest, fun-est job I ever had . . . I hope to continue drawing till forever!
One final note, and most important of all, I must mention my Business Partner. If you hire me, and I tell you something like: “We’ll do the cover last. I haven’t been given the cover yet”, just know that when the cover comes it will be good!
I’m a mess. The world is a mess. It’s a sin problem. Jesus Christ is the solution.
I’m amazed that with all this world’s problems, a nobody like me can get up in the morning and say, “Lord, I’ve got to draw a creek today. I don’t know how to draw a creek. Please help.” And He always does. Amazing.
Make Him your partner, too, in life and in business.
You will not be sorry!