One of my pals is a children’s librarian. At times she shows me the Caldecott Medal finalists and talks about what makes them great kids’ books. They don’t always get it right—they missed Barbara Cooney’s delightful Miss Rumphius, for example. But they did honor Robert McCloskey and Virginia Lee Burton, and their 2011 pick, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, is gorgeous.
Great children’s books blur the line between fantasy and reality with a healthy dose of whimsy. They leave an indelible imprint on our childish minds. After I’d been married for years, I realized my husband was actually the hero of my favorite childhood book, Homer Price.
The last student I had who was interested in illustration was Sheila Jarkins, who created a character named Marco Flamingo. Sheila has now written and illustrated five books about Marco.
I learned a lot from Sheila. So when I got a call last week from a potential student wondering if I could help her with illustration, I felt confident in saying yes. She has created a sprite that she sews as dolls. He is a fully-realized character. She couldn’t stop telling me stories about his antics.
I can’t say more until she does her big reveal. But the mood, the character, the whimsy and the stories are all there—my job is just to help her transmit those ideas to paint and paper.
She sent me some drawings, and I was greatly relieved to see that she draws with as much verve as she sews. The next question—the biggest one, in fact, is what medium will work best.
Gouache is a traditional medium for illustration, and we may go that route, but I have a hunch that another medium will give her the luminosity her character demands. I’ve used Golden’s fluid acrylics for years, but primarily for abstract underpainting. And I’ve never tried their high-flow acrylics, which can be used in inks and air-brush paints.
I ordered some of each, along with the necessary accessories. No, I would never have done that if I weren’t interested in using them myself, but I do think they might be perfect for her project.
She’s starting in my class next week. Want to join us? If you’re interested in painting lessons and you live in driving distance of Rockport, contact me and we can talk about whether this class is the right one for you.