I am one of five children born into a creative family of artists. I grew up surrounded by paintings, literature, music, and the boundless creativity of my brothers, sisters, and parents. We lived in a rural setting, encouraged to fill our minds with nature, reading, researching, and asking questions. Since it was the 50s and we lived near a small mountain, we got lousy TV reception. At the time I felt put upon, but now I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. Our visions were our own; our thoughts were spurred on by one another.
I struggled painfully with school. I was bright, but had difficulty learning in a purely conceptual way. Since school usually presented information this way, learning was drudgery. Dick, Jane, and Spot can only ignite the vast imagination of a child for so long! As I grew up, all my previous wonder, delight, and enthusiasm for learning disappeared.
From 12 until 18 when I escaped, I went to a very strict all girls’ boarding school. No boys was bad enough, but we had no art programs, and no encouragement to think outside the box. Punishments were swiftly administered when we showed signs of unconventional thinking. Since, to my frustration, I couldn’t learn their way, I was labeled, “fun loving and irresponsible.” This experience allowed me to deal with low self-esteem for decades, no doubt putting my therapist’s children through college.
As I continued my search for creative knowledge, I attended various prestigious art schools around the country taking a class here and there only to be told repeatedly, “You have no talent. Give up!” Eventually something in me snapped and I realized I needed to take a new approach to the learning process. I needed a school that embraced its students with respect, with dignity and with a delight for learning and for teaching.
A Great Teacher Can Change Everything
My love affair with learning was re-ignited when I attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington. That love returned in full under the tutelage of Tim Girvin. He taught a calligraphy class that could have been calculus or nuclear science class because his technique was so irresistible, engaging and FUN, he made learning and retaining information easy and certain. He had a palpable excitement in engaging our minds. He spoke to each one of us as if we were the most important, most interesting, capable, intelligent, creative student he’d encountered to date. The way he emphasized, “This will be easy for you,” or “I have complete faith you’ll understand,” exhilarated us. Amazing how much positive action faith can create. Even when an uninteresting or unimaginative assignment was brought in, he always responded with a sparkle in his eye and a word of playful encouragement.
Sparking Interest Though Pictures
When I chose to become a children’s picture book illustrator and author, I leapt at the opportunity to use all the tools I’d been given along my journey. My entire purpose in illustrating is to match the exuberance, delight, and vitality of children.
This illustration depicts how I feel about being an illustrator—the utter joy of imagination gone wild.
My passion for creating learning through picture books and my school visits serve to bring awareness to children while they are still young. I emphasize the pleasure of reading, the delight of words, and the pride of information learned. In all my presentations, I place special emphasis on learning as fun; the tools I use are joy, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, curiosity, and imagination coupled with ample interaction. Using their own imagining to draw examples of characters from a book, combined with ideas and suggestions taken from the students, makes for an exciting and engaging learning session.
I love illustrating and writing picture books. I receive deep satisfaction and pleasure from working with children. They continually inspire me and bring me laughter.
Whether you are an adult or a child, make your learning into art, love, rhythm, and rhyme. And if you have a dream never, never, never give it up.
Woodleigh Marx Hubbard is an illustrator and author of children’s books including All That You Are, Imaginary Menagerie, C Is for Curious, and Once I Was.... She was recently featured in Wings of an Artist: Children's Book Illustrators Talk About Their Art . You can see more of her work at www.woodleighhubbard.com.
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