Jennifer DiRubbio is a wildlife activist and conservationist whose passion for conservation began with art. Jennifer specializes in realistic watercolor paintings of wildlife, and to be realistic—to be accurate— requires lots of research. And she discovered that “you can’t draw animals without caring about them.”
Art is in her bones. As a first grader she already knew that she wanted to be an artist. In the fourth grade she got in a bit of trouble for sketching in her notebooks. As a college student, though, she graduated with honors from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn with a BFA in illustration—and a minor in education, “just as a safety net.”
Jennifer has now illustrated seven books for Dawn, including all six of the series written by Dr. Anthony Fredericks beginning with Under One Rock: Bugs, Slugs, and Other Ughs. She also illustrated Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration by Marianne Berkes.
“The best move I ever made was accepting that three-month deadline for Under One Rock,” she says. A project had fallen through and Dawn needed something in a much shorter time than the usual six or more months it takes to illustrate a 32-page picture book. “Zachary [her first child] was only seven months old and he was happy being near me in his playpen while I worked day and night in the studio.” That first book, about the little critters a child is likely to find underneath a rock, is still a favorite among readers now, ten years later.
“When I first read a manuscript I usually get an image of what I want in my mind’s eye, and then I try to get my sketch to mimic that. But because I want my art to reflect how these animals really are, I need to find images to support it. Gradually I’ve learned not to send sketches to Muffy [Dawn’s art director] until I can find the right references. Sometimes I can find them myself, like the old log I used in Around One Log which was in a lot only a couple of blocks from my house. All the other images I found were of trees that had been cut down, rather than fallen down from a lightning strike.”
“There is beauty in everything, you just have to find it,” Jennifer says. “I like to show that beauty, and hope that it sparks a desire to protect our natural world and all its creatures.”