Long Live Longfellow!

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Children's Book Illustration, Here Come the Humpbacks, school visits | 0 comments

What a blast to visit Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, Maine last week.


It’s a great haven for young artists and visionaries. A bust of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow looks over the library where I installed my presentation during three days.


Many thanks to librarian Christine Fricke who helped untangle my humpback banner, as only a master knitter could.


Kudos to library ed tech Catherine Ferguson for crafting this awesome poster, it made me feel so welcomed.


I quickly talked about being an illustrator, sharing the early story board sketches done for Here Come the Humpbacks! by April Pulley Sayre, in which I roughly laid out the rhythm of the images, varying points of view to work around April’s text. I showed my tracing paper sketches for the cover, ten in all, evidence that it doesn’t happen in an instant. I talked about materials, showing a pastel original drawing next to the reproduction in the book.


I introduced my plush humpback, Salt, a gift from the WDC for “adopting” the real Salt, identified by marine scientists as the grand dame of humpbacks, with many children and grandchildren swimming over all the oceans. My Salt got plenty of hugs.

Many people think artists are “gifted” or “special” and are quick to claim they themselves aren’t artists and can’t draw. My message is: everyone can draw. We all did way before we learned the alphabet, telling elaborate stories with stick figures and big scribbles. I just didn’t stop drawing! I keep drawing and getting better even after decades of daily practice.

We handed out books to use as drawing desks, paper, and colored pencils. I showed how I draw a humpback, with it’s super long bumpy fins, and pounds of barnacles. Then everyone drew! It’s a beautiful thing.


The girls above wanted to look at the humpback toy I used for reference. Every artist did something different. How about these blues?


Avast, matey! I spy yonder a pirate whale!


Wait, there’s a stripey rocket-powered humpback!


I did 8 presentations, 45 minutes each, to 17 classes from K to fifth grade. It was fast and furious fun! One teacher surprised himself by making a super drawing. Bravo, Mr. Connolly!


Some gave me their drawings to keep. Better than treasures they are! Here’s a sampling of the variety of detail and color.


Folks from Letterpress Books  were in the halls for the annual Book Fair celebration in the evening. Nice to see readers inside and outside.


At the Book Fair later, several kids drew with me again. I love partners in pastel.


Thank you, Longfellow Elementary, for the chance to know your school, so full of energy, curious learners, amazing staff, and colorful artists!


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