bash as child
bash as adult

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My first connection to art and creativity was through the alphabet. I loved to draw the twenty-six letters. All through elementary school I experimented with the forms of the alphabet , often in the margins of my math notebooks. In high school, I always volunteered for the job of making posters - getting the chance to write really BIG was thrilling! In art classes I liked to include the name of the object as part of the drawing - for me, word and image needed to go together. After intensively studying dance and ceramics in college, I took this understanding of movement and form and began to apply it to the study of calligraphy - the art of beautiful writing.

At this time I was living in Berkeley, California, where a renaissance of book arts was taking place. I set myself up in a little storefront and hung out my shingle as a calligrapher and graphic designer. My "palette of colors "was the alphabets of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance - the period of history when calligraphy was the sole form of written communication. I loved studying the old manuscripts in the Rare Book Room of the university library. The color of the ink, the texture of the vellum skins, the little mistakes of the scribes - it was all so alive and human. The alphabets were like windows into their times (just as one's handwriting is a window into one's own personality.) They expressed the openness, the tensions, and the lively energy of humanity striving to become "civilized". Looking back now, I realize that my interest in illustration followed the same path as the medieval scribes. At first I loved the simple beauty of the letterforms , then I began to ornament and illuminate - my letters sprouted flowers and vines! I found myself genuinely curious about the natural world and wanting to know more.

Around this time I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and began living at the edge of the Rocky Mountains with the natural world at my doorstep. I met a wonderful naturalist named Audrey Benedict who took me up into the mountains and out to the grasslands. She showed me the interconnectedness within each ecosystem.. I looked and listened and sketched and wrote. I began to see the world with a naturalist's eye.

The inspiration to create childrens' books grew out of my fascination with the stories out there in the natural world. I write and illustrate for children because I trust the process of gathering these stories, in all their complexity, and then distilling them down to what is essential. That's what children see.

To do my research, I use books, magazine articles, photographs and films to become familiar with a topic. Then I go and see it for myself. I take along my camera , but even more important is my sketchbook. I traveled to Arizona to see the saguaro cactus, to East Africa to sketch the baobab tree, and to the Pacific Northwest to sit in the cathedral of an old growth forest. For Urban Roosts, I walked all over New York City, finding birds' nests on skyscraper ledges and deep in the train tunnels below Grand Central Station. For Shadows of Night, I witnessed a twilight emergence of 100,000 bats coming out of an abandoned mineshaft in southern Colorado. I traveled to India and Bali for In the Heart of the Village, watching all the activity under the enormous banyan trees. Phantom of the Prairie took me out into the vast grasslands of Wyoming. It is fascinating to travel and explore in this way. It is also essential that I capture the freshness of the place by sitting still and observing and drawing it . Then something true and alive and personal can come through in my books.

Now I live with my husband and son in upstate New York. My studio windows look down on softly rolling meadows and a swimming pond, filled in the spring with chorusing frogs.

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