Editor’s note: We are happy to feature Cathy—illustrator of The Prairie That Nature Built—in her own words.
My Grandmother Maud understood me. She knew I loved to draw. In fact I can’t remember a time when I was not drawing. Grandma never batted an eye when I said that I wanted to be an artist. When I was about six years old I was sitting in her office at the family insurance agency, drawing, when she showed me how to draw shoes. Up until then I drew boots on everybody. It was sort of a light bulb moment for me. I knew I was going to be an artist!
Though I have had a successful career in graphic design, it was only while raising my two children that I discovered my love for children’s book illustrations. My kids are now grown and I have one grandson, but I still love telling stories visually. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting a new manuscript; that’s when I start thinking about how to bring the story to life. I love to create a new world that’s never been seen before!
Sometimes I get images right away and feel like I know exactly how the book will look and sometimes it takes a while for the images to gel. When that’s the case, I’ll read the story, maybe rough out some thumbnail sketches, but I put it aside for a while. Usually I’ll be outside walking, gardening or doing something else that’s totally unrelated when images will start coming to me.
I like to keep a sketchbook nearby just in case. So I’ll start doing rough sketches until the look comes together. Every book is a little different; at some point the drawings just start taking on a life of their own. And it’s always fun to include personal touches here and there in my picture books. For instance you’ll see illustrations with my dog, Crowley, who posed for a couple of spreads in Prairie.
When I switched from editorial and advertising art to children’s illustrations I definitely had to focus on developing a child-friendly look. Currently I’m working with publishers whose books involve kids with nature and the stories are science based. I do a lot of research while working on them and enjoy that process, I like learning and discovering new ideas.