My childhood – I grew up in Saudi Arabia and Panama, and traveled extensively in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and the Far East – gave me direct access to the world and immersed me in the many, diverse ways people use color and design to express their perceptions of the world and themselves.
What I find really fascinating is the way so many traditional art styles and design motifs have traveled around the world, carried by cross-cultural migrants to new locales, only to influence and be influenced by the traditions and styles in those new places. Art, I have come to see, is a universal conversation – a visual conversation.
I call this sharing of design styles, motifs and elements World Art. World art is like World Music, but for your eyes. I am a part of that ongoing visual melody; I believe I am contributing to the artistic narrative of cross-cultural sharing that takes place at the level of people interacting with people, sharing with and learning from one another.
That is one of the lessons I try to impart to children when I present from my first book, Paisley Pig & Friends: A Multicultural ABC. Paisley Pig combines various folk color palettes, familiar and strange insects, birds and animals, and lessons in geography, culture and art in a beautiful book that children love to explore and adults love to read. When I present from the book, I use props for each letter’s art style and share some of the history of the people who developed it, as a way to take students on a journey around the world in an interactive, lively and fun presentation.
I am also an entrepreneur. Like the artists and illustrators of the many traditional cultures I’ve sampled, I believe art is for decoration, and I want to produce art that gets into people’s hands; into as many hands as possible. So I look for ways to reproduce my illustrations inexpensively.
Over the last few years, I have produced my images as t-shirts, cards, prints, bookmarks, and stickers. Early in 2011, I was accepted into the stable of licensed illustrators represented by McGaw Graphics. I like the affiliation because their goal is to find manufacturers to mass-produce art, which is exactly what I want.
But more than anything, I enjoy interacting with children and the young at heart. I appreciate the artless observations of the young, and the compliments of adults who understand traditional folk art styles. My favorite accolade of all time was from a little girl who said, simply, “your art makes me smile!”
That is the relationship that makes me a happy children’s illustrator. It gets me up in the morning, eager to get back to my pen, paper and computer.
So, please: look around. I hope you enjoy the images you see here. And I hope you will want to decorate a little bit of your world with some of my smiling World Art.
Art is everywhere!i