There’s No Place Like Home
Dorothy said it, and I agree. Kansas is home. However… I love the mountains. There are no mountains in Kansas. I dig the beach. The oceans are far, far away. So why Kansas? To be honest, I’ve asked myself that very question. Put simply, Kansas is where family is, and family is where home is. Growing up, home was a big white house in the country with a red shingle roof and a porch swing. There were trees to climb, horses to ride, a pasture to explore. On hot windy days I swam in the pond. During winter my sister and I laced up the skates, scooped snow from the dark ice and played hockey with brooms and a rubber ball. Falling was no problem as we each wore at least three pair of pants–plenty of padding! My home in the country was a wonderful place to grow and exercise my imagination.
Boots, Bridle, and Spurs
My grandpa gave me a horse when I was three. She was a chestnut Appaloosa with a sugar-white blanket sprinkled over her hips. We called her Misty. I enjoyed riding in the local horse shows and the county fair but the horseback experiences I treasure are the weeks I spent with my dad in Colorado’s back-country. We rode for miles through dense forest and traversed shale slides on narrow trails so high the trees don’t grow and snow remains throughout the summer. At night we camped at the edge of alpine meadows where the hobbled horses could graze. One morning we woke to find the horses missing. We finally caught up to them a mile down the trail. They were headed home without us!
Lay-ups, Line Drives, and Touchdowns
When I was a toddler, my favorite toy was a ball, so it’s no surprise that I spent a good deal of my youth on the basketball court, baseball diamond, and football field. Growing up in the country meant many of my friends didn’t live nearby, so there weren’t many pick-up games in the driveway. Sometimes I recruited my little sister for a game of one-on-one tackle football. Invariably the fun ended with sis in tears and me promising to play “school” with her if only she wouldn’t tell on me for playing too rough! Organized softball started in Kindergarten (baseball came later), basketball in fourth grade, and my favorite, tackle football, in sixth grade. I played all three sports through high school.
Paper, Pencil, and Imagination
If I wasn’t outside, I could usually be found stretched out on my bedroom floor, drawing. I’ve always liked to draw and exhibited a knack for capturing a likeness on paper at an early age. I was lucky to have parents that encouraged me to pursue my talent, supplying me with “how-to-draw” books and plenty of art supplies. I entered art contests and the county fair, winning a few awards and ribbons. In high school I even sold some of my paintings -my first clue that this could be my job! In 1985 I went to Kansas University to study illustration. At the end of my senior year I visited New York to show my work to picture book editors and art directors. I was very fortunate to meet an editor who was looking for someone to illustrate a story about an exuberant grandpa with a booming voice. That story was Grandpa’s Song, by Tony Johnston, and it proved to be my first opportunity to illustrate a picture book! Since then I’ve illustrated more than twenty books. I live near Kansas City with my wife and daughter. When I’m not drawing and painting, I enjoy remodeling projects around the house and figuring out what trees, shrubs and flowers will look nice in our yard. I also enjoy visiting schools to talk with students about illustrating picture books.