My greater-than-average fascination with children’s books developed when I was quite young. The major cause of this fascination was my great aunt Opal Wheeler, a prolific writer of mid-century children’s books. Every year, Aunt Opal would gift the Wheeler kids with stacks of children’s books from her publisher, Dutton Books.
That was it… I was hooked. I must have inherited some of Opal’s creativity because no matter what I studied in school, I simply couldn’t help, but gravitate to art. After graduating from Elmira College with my B.A. in Studio Art and Art Education, I did the starry-eyed thing that all artists imagine doing and moved to New York. For a couple of years, I worked and learned the ropes in the juvenile books division of The Dial Press. Then it was time to establish my own freelance illustration business.
That was a while (and more than 75 illustrated books) ago. Along the way, I took advantage of some great opportunities to work on a variety of projects for many clients in many, diverse markets.
Loving New York but still longing for a touch of home now and again, I am currently dividing my time between Manhattan and my hometown of Ballston Spa, New York State’s first Free Trade town.
Since then she has enjoyed working on a variety of projects ranging from picture books to educational texts, magazines, greeting cards and licensed characters. She has illustrated over 60 books, and her client list includes Penguin USA, Random House, UNICEF, Kimberly Clark, Scholastic, and Universal Studios. Today, Ms. Wheeler divides her time between Manhattan and Ballston Spa, NY working in the very portable medium of watercolor.
I think there still is a magic to reading a book as a grade-schooler, or having a special person read a child a picture book...the slowly turning pages that both hear and see and feel. That connection never gets old.
My Great-Aunt Opal Wheeler, a prolific writer of children's books in the 1950's and 1960's, would send us a big box of books every Christmas from her publisher Dutton Books. I remember how excited we were to explore these treasures . They remain in my bookcase today and were my inspiration to one day try to create a picture book of my own!
In my childhood a favorite book was Pinnochio by C. Colladi, illustrated by Tony Sarg. I loved the Blue Fairy! Also the Miracle Dish by Opal Wheeler, illustrated by Floyd Webb.
Once I get up I try to get out and about to exercise and run errands. Coming back home to my office/studio I do some publicity and promotion work. Then as the light fades and the phones go quiet I concentrate on the project I am working on with no interruptions. I tell students at my school talks that I could go to work at home in my pajamas, no one would know... but I don't. ;)
It all starts when I get the manuscript and art suggestions from the publisher. I then do a rough, scribbly stage of sketches for myself and lay them out on the floor to see the flow and pace of the whole book. I do a bit more refined set of sketches to send to the art director. They then come back to me with revisions they feel would be better. I submit revised sketches and when we are all happy I proceed to do finished artwork. I lay all the artwork again on the floor to check every detail. Once the artwork is approved by the publisher and the author sometimes, the art goes to the printer and my part is done!
I'm so privileged to work on books about licensed characters to keep them alive and having new adventures. There will be more to come. I also have ideas for new books of my own, as well as other projects!