Anansi is finally done! This little spider and I emerged into the sun yesterday after a grueling revision process that left us slimmer, trimmer and more “commercially” accessible. But wait, before I pull out the potato chips and celebrate this mini personal victory, let me tell you the whole story….
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Georgia Regents University was awarded the ‘Improving Georgia Teacher Quality’ grant for their efforts to provide educational material to children between the ages of 2-5. Later, they delegated the work out and chose me to illustrate a few stories for them.
Grant you, these weren’t big projects (again, we’re talking 2-5 year olds), but this was my first official children’s book assignment and I was thrilled! They gave me “Anansi.”
This presented not one, but TWO major challenges. One, this story is about spiders, a naturally scary topic for some children (and adults). And two, it required imagining a fanciful, new creature that looked spider-like while not being spider-like (And not scary for children. Don’t forget NOT scary for children.).
Determined to not let a few challenges ruin my illustration aspirations, I accepted the “spider” challenge. Out came the drawing board, sharpened pencils, new paper and it was time to put ‘ol noggin’ to work.
Cue a long, looooong pause while the pencils sat there and my brain froze in “illustrators” block.
Coming up with “new” creatures is HARD. I took a stab at it and the descriptions that came floating back were woefully off target..
“It looks like a scary peanut.”
“It’s too spidery.”
“You’re going to frighten the kids.”
On and on it went. Kamila Wodecka, the art director on this project, was fabulous. She stepped in and saved the situation. She gave several intuitive suggestions that helped this creature take shape and turn into something that was deemed appropriate for children and accepted by the university.
So, without further ado, here is ‘Anansi.’ The story of a lazy and hungry creature who wanders around mooching food from his neighbors without doing any of the work to help prepare it. Eventually, he turns into a spider and learns a very valuable lesson.
Below are the illustrations:
Here he is getting excited over the nut salad Mr. Squirrel is preparing for dinner.
And here he is in his new spider form (below).
There is one other project I worked on with GRU which I’ll show you next time.
As for FUTURE news, I am excited to say I was accepted into the Hermitage Fall Fest in October!!!!! Yay! It’s a regional arts and music festival held annually here in Tennessee, at the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. It’ll be my first craft fair and I’m super excited!
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