I’ve been an artist as far back as I can remember. It has always been natural for me to create. My girlhood was filled with making dolls, paper dolls and drawing and painting the human form. Whether I had a brush, needle and thread, or blob of clay in hand, I wasn’t happy unless I was bringing someone to life.
In my early 20’s, I embarked on my career as a professional illustrator. It wasn’t long before I realized I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I found out my innate love of drawing real children was taboo. Art director after art director informed me that although I was talented, my art was “too real.” They told me to stylize my children to look like the “Gerber baby." That way it would be universally relatable. Initially infuriated, I was left totally discouraged by their advice. I realized I was not capable of drawing images that were not in my heart. I decided to continue to draw from my internal impulses rather than create work to fill a market. That decision allowed me to only work sporadically with giftware companies. I put my energies into being a mom and continued to paint portrait commissions when they arose.
As time went on, the culture evolved, and we became a society that honors diversity. I welcomed the change. No longer was it acceptable to include only idealized images of children in illustrations. The world was finally was catching up to what I had known all along - to treasure our uniqueness. Art directors began calling on me because I could draw real children of different ethnicities. What was once a handicap was now an asset.
I began receiving commissions to illustrate children’s books, greeting cards, limited edition prints, and paper dolls. My work even found its way into the White House where my portrait of Chelsea Clinton hung in the former First Lady's private study. I am especially proud that Oprah Winfrey purchased a portrait I drew of her as a little girl. When she featured the portrait on her 2000 Favorite Things Show, it was the icing on the cake for me.
On this planet, we are graced with a broad spectrum of beauty. I think that what is unique about us is what makes us beautiful. No stylized kids have ever found their way into my art for a reason. Illustrating children of all shapes, sizes and colors, affirms the truth that we are perfect just the way we are.
"The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." ― C.G. Jung
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"All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all."
-- Attributed to Cecil F. Alexander
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