From a tiny studio nestled in Edmonds, Washington, comes artwork that carries you to a softer, warmer, possibly familiar, very welcoming place. My work has the gentle feeling of a half-remembered favorite children’s book. It carries the fascination and fun of a snapshot taken in an imaginary world awaiting your visit. From my beginnings of imitating favorites like Murph the Surf or characters from MAD magazine, to working with one of my best friends the accomplished children’s book author Stephen Cosgrove, my career has been a fantastic ride. It has been a long constant transformation from art school student at UCLA and commercial art in Los Angeles, through a career with my true love of illustrating children’s books, to finding a new way to share that special feeling of re-engaging your imagination and remembering how to play.
I grew up on the beaches of Southern California with sun, sand, surf, and school eventually graduating from UCLA School of the Arts in 1975. Commercial art and design paid the bills and helped hone my skills. It was a constantly changing business always demanding new mediums, new tools, new thoughts. One day I was coming up with creative ways to help market motion picture people and the next I was designing invoices and business cards for Pediatricians. Each project got me closer to my goal.
You know those sharp left turns life occasionally tosses at you? My Cosmic turn blinker went off when an author I met said the magic words “I have a new book I’m working on, but I need an illustrator…” The book was Cubby’s Delimma and illustrating it took me back to a childhood where animals talked and bugs smiled at you from down amongst the stems and roots. It wasn’t long before I was getting work from small publishers. Then the left turn blinker went berserk when I had the opportunity to move my family up to Edmonds, Washington. Without hesitation I jumped at the chance and still cannot imagine living anywhere else. Enter the soon to be best friend and noted children’s book author Stephen Cosgrove. Soon we were busily creating and recreating Snuffins, Battle Pogs, Webster and a blur of other fantastic projects. One tangent was working on an educational project with the web arm of Scholastic Books called Reading A – Z. My favorite Speedier Than A Meteor is still on the site helping teachers. One of the brightest highlights of that time was iluustrating the series Earth Angels.
I love thinking of times spent listening to very little children, some who can’t even talk and have no clue about reading yet, as they ramble on about the story in front of them. They simply used the pictures and made up a new story every time they picked up the book. Don’t get me wrong. I love how words can move you to love or anger, or tears. Words are important. But there has to be a place where they take an occasional back seat to the more visual, pictorial world supplied in illustration prompted imagination. That’s the place where the child ( no matter how old you are ) takes the story over and makes it their own.
My current work supplies the visuals by creating worlds of sunflowers and grassy hills covered in sunshine where bugs await their stories. There are worlds where little bears sail through the clouds in their dreams, fly on Mom’s kite string at the beach, and paddle a Salish canoe past otters, all filled with unlimited stories to be told. Each could be a piece that speaks directly to a child by itself and together as a set they start the story process just like a book. But more important to me is that when an adult lovingly presents one of my pieces to a child it not only makes the adult part of the stories but passes on and strengthens the knowledge that imagination is a gift to treasure.