On Saturday I was a presenter at the NSTAs Boston Conference. The Workshop, "A Real-Life Page Turner: Award-winning Trade Book Authors Share Their Research Strategies" was held at the Westin Boston Waterfront, Harbor Ballroom I. Since I travel around the country doing first-hand research for my illustrations, I was asked to speak from the illustrator's perspective of research. Doing my own first-hand research allows me to be accurate with my depictions, and of course gives me lots of knowledge to share with school children in their classrooms. There is a common misconception that the illustrator doesn't do research, or that I collaborate directly with the author and he/she tells me what to illustrate. So not true! It is in the author's contract that they can't contact me until the book is sent to the printer. My editor is the go between. Authors can be thinking of grammar and word flow when they write manuscripts, sometimes they miss accurate science information. There have been times my illustration research has uncovered inaccuracies in their text. Here's an example of a research trip and why I felt it was important. I've lived on the ocean in Massachusetts. When I was assigned Astro: The Stellar Sea Lion (written wonderfully accurate by Jeanne Walker Harvey) I didn't know what the Pacific coastline looked like. Astro is the true story of a sea lion pup stranded and rehabilitated off the coast of California. So I flew out to San Francisco to see for myself (the two coastlines are drastically different). I visited the Marine Mammal Center and toured the facility, I spent time with the handlers and veterinarians. I then drove to the school Astro visited - I stood on the soccer field and saw what Astro saw - from his perspective. Then I went down to Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruiz and met with the actual trainers who prepared Astro to live in captivity. Finally I visited Astro in his forever home in Mystic, Connecticut. I wanted children to pick up a copy of Astro: The Stellar Sea Lion and actually feel like they are on his travels, experiencing his adventures along side of him. And I succeeded. I get tremendous feedback on the accuracy of the locations. The book has been a great success. It would have been pale had I never left my studio.
Other locations I've traveled to for children's book illustration research include: Los Angeles, Atlanta Georgia, Southern Connecticut, Woods Hole Massachusetts, Monteray Bay Aquarium (twice), California Academy of Science, Aquarium of the Bay San Francisco, Crystal River Florida - swimming with manatees, Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico, various caves and caverns in Pennsylvania, Kunz Bat Lab Boston University, New England Aquarium Whale Watch Boat, The Museum of Comparative Zoology Harvard University, every private butterfly garden - large or small in New England, The Franklin Park Zoo, The New England Aquarium, The Museum of Science Boston, The Mystic Aquarium, and most recently a vernal pool in Bolton, Massachusetts in the pouring rain in the middle of the night with a flashlight. I sure get out of the studio!
It was a pleasure to speak at the NSTA Conference along with my editor. I met many science teachers and curriculum development educators who were among the many thousand who attended. After presenting, I signed my Arbordale Publishing books at their booth. The list of books included:
Astro: The Stellar Sea Lion written by Jeanne Walker Harvey
The Glaciers are Melting! written by Donna Love
Home in the Cave written by Janet Halfmann
Shark Baby written by Ann Downer
Sea Slime: It's Eeuwy, Goowy, and Under the Sea written by Dr. Ellen Prager
The Shape Family Babies written by Kristin Haas
The signing was a great success! ALL of my books sold out!
I was joined by Shark Baby's author, Ann Downer.
Here's a sneak peek as to what I have being released this fall!
Animal Partners written by Scotti Cohn.
I am currently illustrating the book I authored. More on that to follow.... and I hear rumors of a safari on the horizon! :-)