I started an idea for a children’s book about 20 years ago. How do I remember that? I got out the sketchbooks I’d begun it in all those years ago and checked out the handy dates I’d written on the front! Poor Melvin Moody had sat inside those sketchbooks for all those years! Truth is, I wasn’t sure how to approach the story I had inside my head nor how to put it together in a logical and entertaining manner. Then…there’s the art and the pacing of that. Oy!! Well….
Last year the wonderful Highlights Foundation announced its upcoming schedule of workshops and I saw one titled “Crafting a Dummy with Heart and Soul”. Yes!! I applied for a scholarship right away. THIS is another reason the Foundation is so great: They offer scholarships to their workshops for folks who are serious about their craft but can’t swing the fee. Having to put work aside for a few days in addition to the fee and travel expenses would have really been a big hit to my wallet. When I received news that I’d receive partial payment, I signed up right away.
The class would be taught by Floyd Cooper and Melanie Hall, two folks with a ton of experience and honors under their belts. I’ve admired Floyd’s work for many years but it was the first time I’d met Melanie. They turned out to be a perfect match. Melanie is more of a “free spirit” in her approach to the art of children’s books and Floyd is an old-school illustration guy. I loved them both, two fantastic artists available for my every question for 3 whole days! We also had a couple of guest artists come to visit and share their work.
All of this took place at the Foundation campus outside of Honesdale, PA in Boyds Mills. The Campus is located on the farm of Highlights Founders Gary and Caroline Myers. Not only is it a beautiful place to stay but the food is fantastic as well! The workshop was attended by only ten of us and we all got along famously. Fun and hard work coupled with a cocktail hour and good food makes for fast friends.
The workshop began with a tough exercise: Illustrate one of two poems however you’d like. I found it really difficult, mostly because they were fairly abstract poems and nothing straightforward jumped out as a subject. The one I finally settled on was this poem by William Blake
The Marmalade Man Makes a Dance to Mend Us
Tigers, sunflowers, king of cats,
Cow and Rabbit, mend your ways.
I the needle, you the thread-
follow me through mist and maze.
Fox and hound, go paw in paw.
Cat and rat be best of friends.
Lamb and Tiger, walk together.
Dancing starts were fighting ends.