Curious City recently invited me to be part of a panel discussion about children’s books with the venerable Baxter Society, a fine flock of bibliophiles who meet monthly in Portland, Maine.

© Scott Vile

© Scott Vile

I was honored to join Daniel Minter and Stephen Costanza to chat about how we do what we do. I always learn something new about my colleagues.

In a nod to esteemed illustrator/bookseller/author/Vice President of the Baxter Society, Michelle Souliere, I shared this gem from my 2013 Sketchbook Project.


Michelle is the owner of The Green Hand Bookstore, where a booklover can swoon all day with the unearthly delights you can find there. Sketching from life and the imagination is a handy tool for my work, one that even drew me into illustrating a book about another sketcher, John Muir. This is from one of the many sketchbooks he kept, now archived at the University of the Pacific.


I happily fell headlong into research for John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall by Julie Danneberg to be published by Charlesbridge in 2015. To parallel the work of Muir, I drew with pencils rather than my usual pastel, beginning with a rough storyboard.


I provided one preliminary in color.


All my sketches were sent to a John Muir expert, since the non-fiction story relies heavily on his journals.

Problem #1: the sawmill at the base of Yosemite Falls, where the story takes place, was facing the wrong direction.My handy husband made a little cardboard model so I could picture this more clearly.


I did this revision.


And went ahead to final art.


Meanwhile, this affected the composition of another scene, inside Muir’s cabin. My neighbor, Peter Moxhay, posed as Muir in our backyard clubhouse.


Here was the original sketch.


But Muir wrote about the view of the falls from his skylight window. Back to rethinking the composition, this time with Marty as my model.


Revising the scene here.

I-revise6-7-SMA few more adjustments to make room for the text, and voila…final illustration.

J-final-6-8-SMWhile completing all the illustrations for this book, I played on the side with another Sketchbook Project, drawing as many bearded fellows as I could. See the whole thing here.


All the illustrations are now DONE, and delivered to art director Whitney Leader-Picone, who met me in Portland.

whitney_blogHooray! Stay tuned for updates on the publication date.

One Comment

  1. Thank you, again, Jamie, for taking us into your studio to see so many parts of the puzzle. The models, both figurative and human, the attention to detail and perspective. Drawing as with writing is not waiting for the ripe fruit to fall in your lap. Sometimes it does but more often you need to prepare the soil and tend to the vine. I can’t wait to taste the new wine.

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