A few weeks ago I reviewed a board book called Planting Seeds by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. The pictures in the book were created using cut paper and other materials, and I thought they were charming. Being a curious sort of person (always!) I decided to write to Nancy to ask her about how she got interested in creating children's books, how she creates her art, and what inspires her. This is what she wrote.
Dear Friends, I’ve never met,
Hello! So, how did I become children’s book author and illustrator? I gave up my day job and found out, too late, the CW about writing children’s books is – Don’t give up your day job! My day job had been working, for many years, with hospitalized children.
So, I signed up for 2 adult education courses that fall. One was a 3 session traditional scherrenschnitte (you have to say that carefully) and the other was a 10 week children’s book writing and illustration course, that turned out to be 3 writing sessions and 7 illustrating. Everyone in the class had art backgrounds, except me! The artist teaching the scherrenschnitte class brought in origami paper and said, “have fun!” I did. And then I thought, OK! I’ll cut paper illustrations for the other class. The instructor said, “You’ve found your medium!”
I use origami paper for my collage illustrations. The colors are so beautiful and vibrant. I use art papers and recycled paper - envelopes, bits of wrapping paper and doll house wall paper, brown paper bags and cardboard coffee cup holders, onion bags and even … dryer lint! I use a glue stick, tiny scherrenschnitte scissors and very pointy tweezers to pick up the tiny pieces, rub them on a glue stick and place them. The hardest things to cut are eyeglasses and snowflakes! I also use photography in some of my books - real shells and seeds and real works of art in the LOOK books, NASA photographs in the STAR book and real objects for the sets in Ready! SET! 100th Day.
Where do I get my ideas? I’m inspired by SNOW, walking on the beach and finding SHELLS, taking LEAF WALKS in all seasons, going APPLES APPLES APPLES picking, gazing up at the night time sky at the STARS STARS STARS. Out in nature, looking …listening… touching… I am filled with WONDER and questions. I love doing research and learning and having those WOW! I didn’t know that, moments!
The idea for POND WALK came not from a pond WALK but from a pond KAYAK… One summer day, my husband Peter and I carried our kayaks to the beach at Grout Pond. There were two boys scooping up salamanders, so we did too. We looked and touched and took photographs of them, then let them go. I tracked down a croaking frog sitting in a forest of cattails along the shore and he posed for his photo. Floating on the pond were ducks and geese, quacking and honking. There were dragonflies and damselflies flitting in the air. The damselflies, with their bright turquoise bodies, landed on our arms and hats. During our circumnavigation, we paddled by water lily pads with lovely white blossoms. Four turtles sunned themselves on a partially submerged log. As we approached they plopped into the pond and I knew this would make a great Buddy book!
My Mom’s life-long role modeling of caring for others and our environment inspired me to write The Kindness Quilt, The Valentine Express, Recycle Every Day! and Count Down to Clean Up! I guess I have BIG hopes for my books - that children will make mindful choices to be kind to others and the environment; and that they will spend time outdoors in Nature and be filled with WONDER!
Sending my warmest and best,
Nancy Elizabeth Wallace