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When Lyn Smith, author of A Porcupine’s Promenade, promised to introduce me to Henry, I could barely wait. Why didn’t I meet this friendly fellow last July when I was working on my illustrations? Henry is a male North American porcupine who has lived at the Center for Wildlife since November 2014. He was mistakenly taken home by some well-meaning folks who thought he was abandoned at the base of a tree. Did you know porcupine mothers climb and forage in trees before their young can climb along? I learned a lot illustrating Lyn’s story; it was a surprise to me that they climb, and I had fun working on this illustration for the book.

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Once Henry was habituated to human contact, his survival in the wild is at risk. He is one of 23 ambassadors who visit schools and engage the public in wildlife education. I fed Henry a carrot before he toddled off after some smell, only to be blocked by Katie Brodeur, Education Fellow with the Education and Outreach Program, who cheerfully scooped him up before he disappeared under a building.

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She graciously gave us a tour of all the other animals, including a pair of barred owls named Bianca and Byron (I think this is Byron) who arrived in 1995 after being hit by cars.

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For owls and other predators, roadsides lure them with discarded human food scraps and can be deadly. In their cases, they both sustained permanent injury to their wings. Bianca has fostered over 40 barred owlets who have then been released back to the wild!

Lyn gave me a tour of Wells before hosting me at her home filled with collections of shells, gemstones, duck decoys, and more. Her husband, Brian, is a science teacher and avid outdoorsman, as well as the source of her porcupine story. They are thrilled with Lyn’s new sign!

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I sketched one of the two deer mounted in their cozy den.

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We were up before the moon set to visit Kennebunk Elementary School, where Lyn works as a reading specialist. What a beautiful school, filled with art and amazing learners!

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I set up in the Learning Lab. After the morning assembly, we would meet there with 5 classes of first graders, thanks to a grant from the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks & Arundel. Thank you for the opportunity to engage students with visual literacy!

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I brought my sketchbooks, my dummy for the book, a box of nature objects, pastels and pencils, some scraps of sandpaper, and each student was given a nature journal. They could also hug a fuzzy porcupine puppet.

Lyn introduced me to staff before the assembly. Excellent displays everywhere!

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Principal Ryan Quinn made opening remarks at the assembly with the help of some students. The chorus sang, birthdays were announced, and then Lyn read her book while the audience watched the illustrations on big monitors.

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I shared a slide show of my process for creating the illustrations and then we met the team of Teen Trendsetters, a group of Kennebunk High School students who created a fantastic book trailer on our behalf. They mentor 20 first graders every week as part of a program coordinated by Joy Russo and funded by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. How cool is that?

When the first graders arrived, I let them feel the edges of this opening piece. I draw on sanded paper, so the pastel pigment will stick to the rough surface.

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They began their observational studies with keen detail.

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Guess who joined the mix? Principal Ryan Quinn, who engaged a table of eager artists.

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Pine cones are not easy to draw, but this drawing is off to a great capturing of complexity. It’s all about point of view.

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This artist has drawn a colorful scene, making use of the blue page to suggest the cold day.

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A good part of nature studies is the handling of an object. How does the surface feel? What are the patterns?

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There’s a lot of serious focus going on! The choice of color, the placement of marks, the image taking shape…

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This artist was clearly excited about the pastel and the sandpaper. He made several small studies to arrange in a group.

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This artist made intuitive blends of warm and cool contrasts and taped her sandpaper into the sketchbook.

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This artist was drawing from an unidentified bone I found on the beach. He was repeating the bone shape into a dinosaur skeleton, an imaginative leap just like a paleontologist!

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And then he drew around the shapes with gusto.

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All day, I was delighted by the associations made, the curious wonder of making marks, and their enthusiasm. How about this prickly porcupine with bold quills?

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As each class lined up to leave, Lyn gave them a copy of her book, which we had both signed.

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This is Abby, who told me she had written and illustrated her own book about a lion. Keep those eyes and pencils sharp!

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Many thanks to the first grade teachers for sharing their incredible students. And for the use of magnifying glasses to scrutinize the details!

Lyn and I left with these fun souvenirs.

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Lyn will be reading and signing her book this Saturday at Mt. Agamenticus, where a Story Walk of A Porcupine’s Promenade is featured on the trails. Get outside and enjoy the wild wonders of Maine!

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Absolutely wonderful, dear friend! 🙂

  2. Kudos to both you & Lyn! Engaging those kids by taking them on your journey of making a story worth telling and illustrating it. This ‘hands on’ opportunity will follow them throughout their schooling regardless of how far they go. Y’all are the gift that keeps on giving!

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