Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Continuing "Two-Question Tuesday", in which I post and answer two questions each week, one pulled from some of the actual questions I've received over the years, the other a silly question I ask myself. I hope they provide a bit of insight into who I am and how (and why) I do what I do!
If you have a question you'd like to ask me, post it as a comment below and I will answer it in a future post.

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Q1: Did you take art classes when you were young? 

NOTE: I like to think that I am still young, but I get what you're asking...for the sake of argument I will address my relationship to art prior to age 21.

As a child, I had regular public school art class like everyone else around me. But at home, my sister ---she's 3 years older---liked to draw and paint and it wasn't long before I decided I wanted to, too. Maybe part of me wanted to show her up a little? (I am the middle child, after all...) By middle school I was drawing a TON. It was my favorite thing to do, and all that outside practice helped me improve pretty quickly. Granted, the kind of art I was doing at the time involved realistic teeny bopper drawings of my celebrity crushes [see above, age 11: Devon Sawa], but I guess they served a grander purpose eventually. When I was younger, I spent most of my personal time drawing from photographs as opposed to from my imagination. It taught me certain basics of light/shadow/value, but now I wonder where I'd be as an artist if I had relied more on my imagination as a child...it's a part of myself I'm still trying to develop even at age 30.

Anyway, I digress.
In high school I continued taking art classes as electives (i.e. advanced drawing and painting, portfolio, and AP studio art) but I was equally if not more concerned with my academic classes. I didn't want to be just a good artist, but a good student all around. My favorite teacher was my English teacher, Mrs. Sullivan (I had her sophomore year and senior year) who encouraged her students to approach their final projects creatively rather than just written essays. For The Lord of the Flies I drew before and after portraits of Ralph (see above, age 15), and for Macbeth I drew a poster montage of key scenes from the play (see above, age 17). I loved having the opportunity to fuse my art with my academics and will always be grateful for having had a teacher like Mrs. Sullivan.

All throughout high school my number one pastime was drawing in my bedroom for hours on end. Most often by myself, but occasionally with the company of one or both my sisters. I was a pretty independent art maker motivated by a simple desire: make realistic portraits of my favorite movie stars to hang on my bedroom wall. It might not have been the most sociable use of my free time, but it kept me entertained through the stress factory that is high school, so I regret nothing!

After I graduated, I went to RISD---but that's a story for another question. :)

Q2:  What is your favorite book?

Oof! How do you pick just one when there are so many books that make your life a little more complete just by existing?

UGH. Ok--- I know! I'll answer this in list form.

Picturebook: The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzelli, illus. by Mary GrandPre
Graphic Novel: The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Middle Grade Novel: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Juvenile Sci-Fi Series: The Giver series by Lois Lowry
Juvenile Fantasy Series: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
YA Series: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Adult Fantasy Series: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
Non-Fiction: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

These are the books I'd rescue from a fire.
These are the books whose images have implanted in my mind, whose inky words have stained my fingers and become part of my being. (Can you tell I do not read ebooks?)

But if I had to pick JUST ONE book to attribute my entire being to, I'd pick Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone

Reading this book at the age of 16 forever broke me of my adolescence-induced, too-cool-for-anything cynicism and showed me that it's ok to be a nerd/dork/geek/whatever and it's ok to openly admit loving that which you love. No more teenage apathy and negativity. No more putting people down for what they like, however different it may be from my own interests. Like what you like. Life's too short not to embrace the things that make you happy.

I will never forget reading the first few chapters of Sorcerer's Stone in bed at my gramma's house. She'd bought books 1-4 for us grandchildren to share, despite none of us really being interested at the time. Begrudgingly, I decided to see what all the fuss was about (Goblet of Fire had just come out--midnight book release parties for a kids book? Whaaat?). But there I was, finding myself absolutely hooked by the first few words:

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
I sat in bed with the dawning realization that this book, this writing and the world within those pages---Roald Dahl meets The Worst Witch but with a voice entirely its own--was the book I had always wanted to read. It felt as if JK Rowling was speaking directly to me. I was at once both 16 and 6, teenager and child, completely transported, my imagination unlocked. There is no spell strong enough to undo the magic this book cast on my life.

Harry Potter singlehandedly changed everything I thought I was by connecting me to my true, unapologetic, wide-eyed inner child. Without this book (and subsequent HP books), I would not have made the friends I did, or met the love of my life in my husband (also a huge HP fan), or done just about anything else that makes me who I am today. This book made me love books, reinforced my lifelong love of reading, and kindled a passion for children's literature in particular which gives shape and meaning to my life and career on a daily basis.

So yeah. I guess I DO have a favorite book after all!

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