Would Mrs. Nordstrom Approve?


I was complaining yet again to my incredibly patient husband about my inability to draw and how it prevents me from self-publishing my stories. He had the audacity to suggest I learn to draw and do the illustrations for my stories all by myself. Learn to draw?

I proceeded to go on a rant about how I can’t draw and how he had no right to put that pressure on me, blah, blah, blah.

But I thought about it for a few days, looked at art courses online, and now I’m wondering if I should give it a shot. What harm could it do?

When at the beach as a child, I liked to make sand sculptures–mostly faces. One day, I did a pretty good George Washington. A man walked by and asked my mother who did the sculpture. He said he was an artist and he thought it was very good. He took the cigarette he was smoking and stuck it in Washington’s mouth. I was over the moon. A perfect stranger told my mother I was good at something.

But I can’t use sculpture in a picture book.

I took an art class in high school. At the time, in New York City, it was actually a required course. We did a little bit of everything, including learning some calligraphy. I had the most eccentric art teacher you could imagine.  Mrs. Nordstrom. She was an older woman with straggly gray hair and tinted glasses. She smoked cigarettes in one of those long, thin holders, like an actress in a silent movie. While in her class, I did a watercolor painting of waves breaking on the shore. It was featured in the school art exhibit that year. I enjoyed the class and did learn a few things, despite of my lack of natural talent.

But can I learn enough to illustrate a picture book the way I think it should be done? I hate illustrations that look slapped together, but can I do any better? In Mrs. Nordstrom’s class, I found it easier to paint than to draw. My hand just doesn’t seem to know what to do with a pencil. I think I can manage scenery and inanimate objects passably; but what about characters and facial expressions? I can see these things in my head, but can I get them to paper?

I guess I’ll give it a try. I’ll start on my own with one of those “how to” books and go from there. I may come up with material I can use. Or I may end up owing illustrators everywhere a lavish apology.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Helen Pollard
    Oct 26, 2014 @ 16:33:22

    I don’t see what you have to lose! But have you thought about another medium to illustrate your books, like collage? (Eric Carle did this for his books, I believe – Hungry Caterpillar etc.) I cannot draw for toffee, but a few years ago I did get into card-making and collage as a hobby, and discovered that although I can’t draw, I do have an eye for colour and putting things together in a pleasing way.


  2. mlrover
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 10:53:01

    I also “see” in three dimensional when it comes to art. Is there a way for you to create your visons inexpensively, like clay, take photos and use them instead of creating on a flat surface? Just a thought to fiddle with. I love that I can bring to life the images for my book covers via a friend graphic artist. I’m lost on a computer.


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