Friday, April 3, 2009

Special Guest - Rachel Dillon, Author/Illustrator of Through Endangered Eyes

Even though Rachel Dillon's schedule is jam-packed for April (if you don't believe me, take a look), she was kind enough to pay the Fatal Foodies a visit. Rachel has written and illustrated a children's book titled, Through Endangered Eyes. I have to admit that when I first saw the book, I thought it was a coffee table book because it's so beautiful! (As far as any visitors to my house are concerned that's STILL what it is because it's going on my coffee table for everyone to see. Especially me. I love looking at these pictures. In fact, this morning I ordered three sets of note cards with matching magnets from Rachel's gallery, where you can also order prints. Rachel uses the most unique method of painting. I'll let her tell you more about that in the interview.
And while I still consider Through Endangered Eyes a coffee table book, it's such a valuable children's book. Rachel reaches out to children with her art and poetry to teach them about endangered animals. In addition, she has information about each animal profiled in the back of the book along with conservation organization information and teaching inspirations.
Q: Rachel, I read on your website where your painting technique is adapted from Aboriginal art, mosaics and other techniques. Explain to us just a bit about how you do what you do.

A: I paint with acrylics. I did have several styles inspire my own. I majored in Art/Graphic Design at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I took classes in Art History and loved the Roman mosaics, especially those found in the Pompeii Ruins. But, what really inspired my painting technique was my trip to Australia in 1992. I was introduced to Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting. The colors, patterns and textures inspired me. When I returned home and started one of my art classes, I just had to try out the dot painting method. I went to the library to find books about Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting, and they were sparse. I couldn't figure out how they made dots so perfectly round, until I saw a picture of an Aboriginal man sitting under a tree, dipping a stick into paint. I flipped my paintbrush around and used the other end to create the dots I was looking for. The dots are raised and create a braille-like texture to the paintings.
The paintings for the book were done on 9" x 12"canvas board. Most paintings were done in 8-12 hours.

I think the painting that took me the longest was the Mexican Spotted Owl. It was about 20 hours of work. I used very small dots in the face to get additional texture and detail.
The painting that was the most challenging was the Grevy's Zebras, painting stripes with dots that shape forms was tough!

The painting I was most pleasantly surprised by was the Chinese Alligator. I think that one is my favorite. I had never painted a reptile before. Their skin is perfect for dots. The book doesn't do that painting justice; there is almost a leather quality to the skin in the actual painting.
Q: I love that you have a fact sheet on each of the endangered species featured in the back of your book. You've listed many conservation organizations and ways readers can help. Have any of these organizations opted to use Through Endangered Eyes as a fundraiser? [I think it should be in every school and in every zoo!]
A: Thank you so much for the comments - I agree, animal fundraisers, schools and zoos are a perfect fit for the book. Surprisingly, zoos and conservation groups haven't responded much to my queries. I contacted the World Wildlife Foundation, and as long asI make money from the book, they can't work with me. I was considering approaching them with a fund-raising idea, by adding a mailing envelope to my book. I think a "Donate a Dollar" campaign would be great to teach young kids the importance of philanthropy and might make them life-long givers.

I am really enjoying my time reading my book to kids in classrooms. The teachers are wonderful and the kids make the book worth so much more. Their enthusiasm and questions are magical.
Q: How long did it take you to compile Through Endangered Eyes?

A: It took six years from the start of the process to the published piece. I signed a contract with a publisher, Stemmer House in 2004. Two years later, after more than doubling the book pages, my editor passed away and I was told they weren't going to publish my book. I resubmitted my manuscript to about 14 publishers. About a year later, Windward Publishing, Finney Co., called me and I signed a contract. Within the year, my book was published.

It was an emotional roller coaster for me. I wasn't born with much patience. The process to get published was long and hard, but filled with learning opportunities.

Q: I read you're a lifelong animal lover, but what was the actual impetus for Through Endangered Eyes? Was there any particular moment when you said, "I need to do something"?

A: After my daughter was born, I felt this desperation to do more than my marketing job. I wanted to make a difference in the world, no matter how small. I bought a book called "Wishcraft - How to get what youreally want," by Barbara Sher. I started compiling memories of what I loved to do as a kid; when my mind was pure and I did things just because I loved to.
That self reflection spelled out my most ideal circumstance: work from home, write, paint, teach kids and help animals. I put together all that I love in my book. Once I had the idea that if I organized my thoughts and poems about endangered animals, and submitted a couple of my paintings, maybe someone would be interested in making it into a book. I researched the market on children's books on endangered species, I didn't see any books like mine, so I felt maybe I had a chance.

Q: What's next?

A: Well, I am having a blast promoting ThroughEndangered Eyes. I am going to keep doing that -Oprah look out! I have started my second book, "Through Desert Eyes -a poetic journey with endangered animals" (working title.) I have chosen 21 species and will start researching their information, then start writing the poems. My next steps after the text is done, is to start working on artwork sketches. Then I will submit these to Windward Publishing to see if they are interested in my second book. I hope to create a series of books on endangered species with my artistic style and writing, for children.

Thanks for taking the time to ask questions about me and my book :) Bon Appetite!
Order your copy of Through Endangered Eyes or ask your local bookseller to order it for you. You won't be disappointed. Also, please point it out to your local children's librarian. It would make a terrific addition to their library!


Gayle said...

Hi, Rachel:

I just wanted to comment that it must have been horrible to come so close to publication only to have to go back to the beginning of the process. I'm so glad you persisted.

Dana Fredsti said...

I love these paintings! Thanks so much for stopping on our blog and now I must get some notecards of that tiger...

Gayle said...

Dana, you're the first person I thought of when I saw the cover of this book! I thought to myself, "Self, Dana would love that!" :-)

Chris V. said...

Rachel's paintings are gorgeous and so unique! I was glad to be able to host her.

Krysten said...

Love the book cover. I actually had that book "Wishcraft," too. I bought in while in my freshman year to help me decide which classes to take.

Cathy C. Hall said...

How great is it when you can bring all your passions together to create such a wonderful book?!

Love the artwork, love the cause you're supporting! I've got a feeling kids will love it, too.

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Gayle - you are right, it was tough emotionally to watch my dream of publication slowly float away. I am glad that another publisher felt connected to it, like my first editor:)

Dana - Are you holding a tiger in that photo?

Thank you all for commenting:)

Gayle said...

Rachel, I love that your initials spell RAD because you are a "rad" dot painter! 