How did you decide to become an artist?

I loved to draw as a child. One day, in kindergarten I caught a glimpse of a rooster picture, and I was inspired to draw one. My mother framed my drawing and hung it in the kitchen. That was when I decided that I wanted to be an artist.


How did you start working in clay?

I loved to play with modeling clay in kindergarten, I loved the smell, and the bright colors. I had an uncle who was an artist and he made lots of figures and animals out of kiln-fired clay. I couldn’t believe that an adult was lucky enough to make a living at playing in the mud! He made me a dragon when I was 9 years old that I still have in my studio today.


Where do you get your inspiration?

I am inspired by a variety of things. My husband’s work takes him to Italy for several weeks in the summers, where I am fortunate enough to join him. The early Byzantine and Romanesque reliefs are endlessly fascinating to me, with their naïve characters and compositions. In addition to the wonders of travel, I am inspired by my love of animals and children.


Why do you work in clay?

One of the reasons I enjoy clay so much, is that I don’t really know how to do it! I am forever trying to figure out how to construct my reliefs and incorporate some new texture or technique that I’ve run across. Each illustration is a discovery process. This keeps it fresh for me, and I hope that makes it a fresh experience for my viewers too.


How long does it take to do an illustration?

Well, it is a 3-part process. The first part is research. I want to make sure that my animals and/or characters and settings are accurate. I go to the library, and search the internet and gather materials to educate myself about whatever I am illustrating. For Papa Fish’s Lullaby it took me 6 weeks of solid research before I even put pencil to paper.

Next I do rough sketches and then tight drawings of the pages. It usually takes anywhere from 1 to 3 days to get the drawing and composition to my satisfaction. I show the tight sketches to my client and we make any changes needed in the sketch stages. Then it takes me another day or so to work out the color scheme.

By the time I start the clay, most of the hardest work is over! The actual clay work takes as little as 3 days for some spreads and as much as 6 days for others. As for the size of the clay piece, I try to work at actual size of the final printed piece.

Is the sea life in Papa Fish’s Lullaby based on real animals?

Yes, it is. NorthWord Children’s Books is a nature publisher so I knew that I should be as accurate as possible in creating the characters for Papa Fish. Our main character, the Little Fish, is a young Garibaldi Damselfish. Garibaldi dads work tirelessly to create an attractive nest, meticulously picking out all of the brown and green algae and leaving only the maroon algae which they keep trimmed to about one inch in length. Garibaldi fathers are very protective and they closely guard their nest against predators.

The other characters in the spreads are humpback whales, green sea turtles, california sea lions (an eared seal), pacific sea horses, southern sea otters, western gulls, common dolphins, red octopus, and canada geese. Then there are various bit players, such as california sheephead, blue rockfish, senorita fish, giant kelpfish, strawberry anemone, giant green anemone, purple green and red sea urchins, bat stars, ochre sea stars, leather stars, giant sea stars, sunflower stars, jeweled top snail, giant kelp, eel grass, red corraline algae, orange cup coral, and a few, just a few, made up fish. Can you guess which ones they are?


How does the clay artwork become a printed piece?

After I finish my final clay artwork, I photograph it with a professional digital camera. I put the digital file into my Photoshop program, and finalize the file for print. Then I deliver hi-resolution files to the publisher or client, and they use those files to create the printed piece.


How can I become an illustrator?

The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn to draw. When I was a kid, I drew things that interested me, like horses, or cats or comic book characters. I made up stories and drew pictures for them, or illustrated favorite poems. I made cards and drawings and soap sculptures for my family. Almost all of my presents for people were things that I had made. I took all of the art classes I could in grade school and college. The more you draw the better you get even if you eventually become a computer artist or a designer, learning the basics of drawing gives you skills that you will use in every aspect of art. And if you want to be a children’s illustrator, join the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)! Check out their website, it is chock fill of information and is a great community of people who share the same passion.


I like to write for children. Do I need to find an illustrator for my manuscript?

No! You definitely do not need to hire an illustrator if you plan to submit to traditional publishers. If children’s writing and or illustration is your passion, the best thing you can do for yourself, is joining the SCBWI. Check out their website!