I have always been fascinated by the patterns and colors found in nature. Before becoming a children’s book author/illustrator, I worked as a textile designer for the apparel industry. Today, I am always looking for book themes that will allow me to express my passion for pattern and color in my artwork.
The idea for Stripes of All Types came to me as I gazed at a fiesta-colored poisonous frog in the “Frogs: A Chorus of Colors” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. The frog’s colorful stripes alert potential predators that it is toxic and to stay away. Interesting! I decided then to create a picture book about striped animals around the world and how they benefit from their stripes.
With my book concept established, I followed my usual approach to writing and illustrating any book:
• Selecting and researching the animals to include in it;
• Writing the text in rhythmic, alliterative rhyme (my favorite);
• Writing an addendum with more information about the animals:
• Creating drawings of all the images;
• Vetting my text and images with scientists to ensure factual accuracy; and
• Painting the images in acrylic paint on paper, a 9-month to 1-year process.
For this book, I added something new: a guessing game for children to match the 19 different stripe patterns to their respective animals from the text (answers are provided.)
It was fun deciding which animals to include in Stripes of All Types. For each line of text, such as animals “on the ground,” I had many candidates to choose from, ranging from the zebra-striped mouse to the eastern garter snake. I selected the animals that I thought would be most intriguing to children, add to the wholeness of the book, and be fun for me to paint. After all, it takes me more than a week to paint each image, and I want to enjoy the process.
I created as many as 20 sketches before arriving at a final image for each animal. Here is the progressive development of my okapi illustration:
I’m currently working on a book about spotted animals. Peachtree will publish it in 2015. Stay tuned!