Gos’s Big Dreams and Gaby’s Big Dreams will soon be in print, Yah willing! This blog shares “the story behind the story” – as every painting has it’s own tale, so do my new little children’s books!
Main Themes of the Gos and Gaby Books:
Using your Talents; Finding Purpose in Life; Striving for Excellence in all you do; Self-Acceptance; being Creative and Diligent on a wide variety of projects; Good Communication with your Parent/s as well as being a supportive Parent; having an appreciation for God’s Creation, Bugs/Entomology
These illustrated books were designed for children ages two through eight. Each book is 44 pages long.
Many years ago I joined a great group of artists in Central Vermont called the Barre Paletteers. These artist friends provided really helpful accountability as I went on from my early years of learning under the instruction of several excellent mentors, to disciplining myself to make color studies and painting a weekly priority on my own.
I loved meeting Leslie Bell, Louise Morris, Gene Parent, among many others. They were good artists and generous people.
The Paletteers then met one afternoon each week just to paint together, gathering on the second floor of the old brick Town Hall that used to be next to the BOR. Strangely, I remember hearing the loud thud of heavy dummies being knocked to the floor on a lower level of the building, while we painted beauty above them. Some sort of very physical police trainings sometimes went on during our painting sessions.
Most of this particular painting group consisted of men who had begun painting after retiring from careers. I was around twenty-three at the time. Their names and personalities still come to mind. Frank Sheard used pastels and often told us, “I like it loose.” Bob Whitcomb was usually there, and he was quite a good representational oil painter.
Foster Sperry painted with us, too, an artist who was to became a special friend of mine, before passing on in his late eighties. Foster and I were usually the only watercolorists in the room. Foster had been married over sixty years at that time, and was still in love with his wife. This was a great accomplishment, in my mind. He was full of good stories and we had a lot of similar interests and beliefs.
The only problem with making friends of elderly artists was that, by my late twenties, I could literally say, “all my friends have died”…=(
But on those days of painting together, we would each take occasional breaks, to go around the room, admiring and observing each others’ work. Learning from one another.
Once, while I was working on a little cottage with a red door and some green ivy over the roof, I remember how these kind men crowded around behind me, watching me paint. They said, “She’s going to be good” and, “It looks a lot like Beatrix Potter’s work”…
The Old Chelsea Tea House III – 10×14 watercolor – the first version was completed in 1993
This was a nice complement. My siblings and I grew up with Beatrix’s little hardcover children’s books about clothed and talking Rabbits, Mice, Cats and other animals. Peter Rabbit, and Benjamin Bunny were Beatrix’s creations.
Many years later, I’d seen the film about Beatrix Potter, Miss Potter (starring Renée Zellweger, 2006) while staying with a family in New Zealand. Remarkably, Beatrix’s life had some definite similarities to my own. “That’s nice,” I thought, “I can relate to much of her life.” And didn’t put much more thought into it.
Writing or even illustrating children’s books was never high on my priority list. Many children’s books were often deemed fluffy and fantastical. I wanted to paint Fine Art, not some colorful or comical stuff for young people.
My opinion of children’s illustration in general was it was often too cartoonish. How could a child learn some turtles have beautiful slender claws with nails on their feet if an illustrator made a turtle have thick stumps like an elephant’s legs and wrongly colored him?
While I somewhat appreciate Clifford, the Big Red Dog stories, when I read with my little niece, I preferred to read Jim Kjelgaard’s fabulous dog books when I was young. Of course, I was older than six when I was able to read those stories…
One of my favorite children’s books is Ferdinand, illustrated by Robert Lawson – the sensitive Spanish bull who loved being under his pasture tree, and didn’t want to fight a matador. I also loved Marguerite Henry’s horse books – all of them. Wesley Dennis, her illustrator, made those books come alive!
But I’m not someone who ever enjoyed making up creative stories as a child! I loved to read but hated writing book reports for many, many years. I grew up wanting to be an adult and due to life circumstances and partially my own decisions, became responsible for many things way before most children do.
Perhaps becoming “old” too soon is why I’ve recently so enjoyed creating children’s stories for my clever and beautiful niece? At any rate, my niece coming into my life changed me! What an inspiration she is!
I began by wanting to keep in touch with her, taking a page of plain white paper, separating it by lines into four sections, and writing her little stories, illustrated with black and white drawings. I sent them to her, just as Beatrix Potter used to do for her own nieces and nephews in England, many years ago…My niece likes to make suggestions. She’ll say, “write me a story about different kinds of friends”…and so another story will appear…
Gos and Gaby
Gos’s Big Dreams – the beginning
In January of 2013, it was snowy and cold here on the Maine coast. I had only moved to Maine six months earlier, after care-giving for my older sister, before and after her tumor surgery, and was not feeling too enthused with my life in general.
I was teaching a watercolor class one day a week and struggling to find more work. I felt lonely and lacked direction. As someone who had always had tons of items on my nightly “to-do around our farm tomorrow” lists, this feeling of blankness was somewhat of an unwanted feeling. Recovering from adrenal fatigue isn’t fun. I was told good food and rest was what I needed.
Then an email arrived from Tim, organizer at Storyline conferences, encouraging me to, “keep following those ambitions!” “What ambitions?” I mumbled to myself, as I went inside a small local shop to speak with the shopkeeper, before heading toward home. Browsing around, I saw a small children’s book. “Did your sister publish this through Create Space?” I asked the shop owner. “Yes, she did,” was her reply.
Inside, I felt my heart speak with confidence, “I can do this, too.” I had illustrated animals for other people’s writings for years. Now, I determined to take the free time that swirled all around and focus it toward my own book creation.
It took me one hour to write Gos’s Big Dreams. It’s not the greatest story, but it came from my own experiences as a child and those of my niece. It is a very short story.
I went back to Vermont later that winter, getting back to Maine in late March.
Illustrating this book took a lot longer and required much more effort than writing it did! I worked steadily for six weeks, throughout April and May, doing three illustrations each week, with a deadline of my niece’s fifth birthday. My mom and I cut and pasted the words into a large color-copy version of the book the night before her big day!
There are twenty color illustrations in each book.
Mom and Bumblebee
Then came learning basic graphic design, to set up the book pages. In the process, the book size changed from 8-1/2×11 to 6-3/8×8 and then at last to 8×8. I’ve set up the book pages many times – for double pages and now single pages. I’ve worked to make the layout as large and as easy to see as possible, improving some illustrations using Paint. It’s been quite a journey.
I also read up on how other people printed their books. Charlie Hoehn’s blogpost on this subject helped me a lot! He did his own research on the best way to self-publish and market his book.
Vanity presses were explored, and I also requested five different estimates from printers. One kind printer gave me an hour of his valuable time, sharing his expertise with me. Thank you, Larry!
I learned you can have a New York Times best-seller, and still not make any increase. I heard about people being paid $6 for a book by bookstores, yet it cost them $6.53 to print each copy. I prayed and looked for creative options.
This past February, I entered my book in a children’s book contest. It didn’t win the contest, but my recently completed Big Tom wild turkey painting is helping me to finally have the book printed!
Gos and Gaby working to be a dancer