| A youngster is enjoying a summer evening with Grandma and Grandpa at the family lakeshore cabin. From gathering kindling, to building the fire in the old sauna stove to taking a traditional Finnish sauna, this book includes all the memory-making parts of a typical summer night on a north woods lake. A book to be enjoyed by all generations.
Sheryl, Johnnie (The editor) and I met often about this book. It was very much a group project and wonderful to do a book based on a place we all call home, the Northwoods of Minnesota. I would bring the drawings I was working on and we would look at them together and change them as we came up with new/better ideas for each page. I looked at a lot of pictures of saunas but it is mostly based on the one that Sheryl has herself at her cabin and the one that she had in mind when she wrote the story. It's a personal story for all of us since we all love the woods and lakes. Sheryl lives in International Falls, Johnnie in Ely and I lived in Grand Marais for 25 years and now I live in Duluth.
Johnnie asked for a few things like she really wanted a house with a big front porch. She also wanted the "kid" in the story to be a person who could be either a girl or a boy, so both genders would be able to relate to him or her. I'm not sure I succeeded in that, as I think of the kid being more of a boy than a girl. To help with this though, I came up with the idea of having the kid have a backpack full of different hats. As the story progresses, the kid puts on different hats depending on what is going on. A Sherlock Holmes type hat while searching in the woods for kindling, and where he/she discovers a frog, a boat captain hat while rowing, ect.... I also added the black bird that comes along with the story and shows up on most pages. Crows and Ravens are a favorite bird of mine and I have actually had this happen when in the woods myself. A Crow or a Raven will spot me and kind of follow along either for a simple hike in the woods or while out doing some kind of chore like putting up wood or washing the windows.
Once the drawing is complete the next step is to carve and print the lino blocks. Carving the blocks took a long time because there is a lot of detail in most of the pages. We decided we wanted the trees to have the correct leaves for the species for example. We wanted this book to be more realistic in many ways than what I usually do. I used acrylic guache paint to add the color once I got all of the block prints done. It is my new favorite paint and I really like how the colors are so vivid in this book. I struggled a lot with the sunsets though. I didn't realize until I was in the middle of it how difficult it is to get those colors right. I spent many an evening watching the sunset and took a lot of pictures as well as looked at lots of pictures of sunsets. Of course I can't complain about that, it was fun but I was surprised at how hard a sunset is to paint!
I have to confess this book was a difficult one for me. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would to complete. I was going through a lot of personal change and struggle at the time, which is why I dedicated this book to all of my wonderful friends. I couldn't have gotten though such a hard time without them. I was also amazed at how healing and healthy it is to do art, so I am glad I had a book to work on. I am thankful for this project and grateful that Sheryl and Johnnie both gave me the opportunity to illustrate it.