I'm a professional illustrator with over 85 published children's books. In addition, I create coloring books for adults, book covers, fantasy art, collector's plates, and more. I've been very busy, happily. I also enjoy teaching writing and illustrating for children in a summer graduate program at Hollins University, in Roanoke, VA.
I license my images on many products including greeting cards, puzzles, tins, and more. Contact me directly for inquiries about the availability of images in my PORTFOLIO section.
Every summer for six weeks I teach in the graduate programs in children's literature offered at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. It is a beautiful campus! Click on the programs below for details, and feel free to email me if you have any questions.
Hollins University offers a graduate level certificate in children’s book illustration. Closely associated with Hollins’ longstanding graduate program in the study and writing of children’s books, this new program is taught by noted illustrators, including core faculty Ruth Sanderson and Ashley Wolff. Students undertake four courses over two six-week summer terms. Picture Book Drawing Fundamentals and Creating Picture Books for Children in the first summer are followed by Picture Book Design and Picture Book Media in the second summer.
The Illustration Certificate program runs concurrently with the graduate program in children’s literature and includes an exceptional array of visiting speakers and the chance to participate in the annual student-run Francelia Butler Conference on Children’s Literature.
THE FIRST COMBINED MFA in both the craft of writing and the craft of illustrating for children in the country is now being offered by Hollins University. I am the co-director of the program, along with Amanda Cockrell, who is the director of the MFA in Writing for Children at Hollins. We worked hard to combine a solid foundation in both writing and illustrating, as well as the critical study of children's literature, to create this degree for people wanting to be author/illustrators.
A LONGER BIO: MY JOURNEY AS AN ILLUSTRATOR
by Ruth Sanderson
I grew up in the small town of Monson, Massachusetts. I lived there from the time I was born in 1951 until I was 18 and went away to college in 1969. When I was growing up in Monson, my favorite place to play was the woods. I spent many happy hours with my friends at "Cat Rock," which was a beautiful spot in the woods not far from our house on Main Street.(shown here) My imagination came to life there, and I believed there were magical creatures living in the tangled underbrush that I might catch a glimpse of if I were very, very lucky. I still believe that, I must confess.
Besides the woods, my other favorite place was the library. I was a shy child and books were a way to identify with characters that were brave and got to do exiting things. One of my treasured possessions was a battered copy of Grimm’s Fairytales that once belonged to my father. I read the stories over and over.
My grandmother, Ruth, was the librarian in Palmer for over 40 years. My sister, brother and I spent many hours with her at the library when we were quite small. I remember being in awe at the tall stacks of books and the varnished wooden walls and desks. When I was older I walked from our house to the Monson library. After moving from picture books to chapter books and novels, I fought over Black Stallion books with my best friend, Judy McDonald. (sometimes she won) We anxiously awaited each new adventure, for the series was written during these years. After reading the stories we would gallop through the woods on our imaginary stallions. When Judy moved from downtown to a farm up on Munn Road near the Wales border, our adventures in the woods expanded into the Brimfield State forest and Dean Pond.
One of the most magical places in the woods near her house was an abandoned Theme Park. I remember singing songs from the Wizard of OZ ….Lions ands Tigers and Bears Oh my! as we walked the few miles to reach the dirt road which was our gateway to adventure. At the end of the long, tree-lined road a pink castle loomed. Of course it was locked, but it was easy to get into the old park through the woods. Inside were many buildings in miniature, big enough to stand inside, but small- there was Santa's workshop, a little church, a miniature railroad. My favorite was a fieldstone cottage – probably intended as a fairy-tale house – perhaps the home of the Seven Dwarves. The place also included a Frontier land- A main street with a boardwalk, saloon and hotel, and covered wagons left abandoned to rot in a field. I don't believe the place ever opened to the public. But my imagination was opened there.
In the early eighties I struck out on my own without an agent. I began to do a number of Golden Books and quite a few full color jackets for young adult novels.
My "big break" into the "trade" market was the assignment to illustrate an edition of Heidi with one hundred full color paintings. Up to this time I had only used fast drying mediums for assignments, such as watercolors, colored pencils, airbrush and acrylics. Heidi had a one-year deadline so I decided to paint it in oils, which had always been my preferred medium. I enjoyed painting again in oils so much, I felt I had returned home. I went on to illustrate The Secret Garden and then I did my first fairy tale, The Sleeping Beauty, which was retold by Jane Yolen.
In 1988 Jane introduced me to Maria Modugno, the children’s book editor at Little, Brown. She expressed an interest in having me do a fairy tale for them, and gave me the opportunity to retell it myself. The Twelve Dancing Princesses was the result of a year and a half of work and was published in 1990.
The archetypal characters and the symbolism that one finds in fairy tales contain truths that are universal and can be as meaningful for children today as they have been for centuries past. So many of them are "rites of passage stories", where the hero(child) leaves home to seek adventure or to go on an impossible quest, learning in the process how to become independent and to form new relationships outside of parental influence. In The Twelve Dancing Princesses, the three magical woods that the princesses pass through are symbolic to me of their rite of passage into adulthood.
The broken glass that crunched under our feet was music to our ears as the dust motes danced in the slanted beams of sunlight coming through the shattered window panes. The combination of my love of fairytales and actually getting to play in a magical fairy-tale play land, overgrown and mysterious, without a doubt had a profound effect on the direction of my life.
My love for stories and especially horse stories fed into another passion - drawing. From the time paper and pencils were available I drew the object of my dreams - the horse. I even conducted a Saturday morning art class in 4th grade and attempted to teach my friends how to draw horses as well. Finally, after years of begging and cajoling, when I was 13 my parents bought me a horse. Of course we kept him at my friend Judy McDonald’s house.
The happiest times in my teenage years were spent trail riding with Judy and her younger sister Susie. There was Taffy, the trusty pony belonging to Susie, Judy's big chestnut mare Ginger, and Ricky's horse Satan, a little black gelding who lived up to his name. My horse was a sweet bay gelding named Duke. The McDonald's farm had practically everything from the song- pigs, chickens, cows. It was a great place to grow up. We belonged to a 4-H club, put on horse shows, and galloped at breakneck speed through the trails in the woods. A low branch once swept into my face and my glasses flew off into the underbrush, and are probably there to this day because I never did find them. Perhaps the fairies hauled them off and made a few windows for one of their dwellings.
Sadly, when I was a Senior in high school, a drunken hunter shot and killed my beloved horse, Duke. My childhood was over. I found solace in drawing and painting. A number of times during winter vacation in art school I went to the the old theme park and took pictures of the decaying wagons in the snow, which were amazingly still there. A few years later I believe vandals torched the whole place. Now there are houses in place of the pink castle and the stone cottage. But the magic of their memory is alive in me and is reflected in my books, especially my original fairytale, The Enchanted Wood, which is, in great part, a homage to my love of the Monson woods.
I have always loved to draw, especially horses. I decided to teach myself oil painting when I was around 13 years old. The first thing I painted was a horse head, shown below,
For my Senior Art History project in high school I copied a Manet painting, The Bar at The Folies-Bergeres in its original size- almost five feet wide. I decided I wanted to make a career out of art. After spending a year at a liberal arts college where the art courses were all abstract, I transferred to the Paier School of Art so I could take a combination of traditional drawing and painting courses and commercial courses as well. I really wanted to make a living and decided that illustration was the way to go. The modern fine art scene did not appeal to me, though I admired older painters like Magrite, The English Pre-Raphaelites and the Hudson River School. The illustrators whom I admired the most were the Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and Mark English. In 1974 I graduated from the Paier School of Art in Connecticut. An agent in the children’s field took me on, and though I did a little magazine and advertising work on my own, I soon was busy with children’s illustrations, mainly textbooks, for the first five years. I started to do some full-color covers as well. The books I had read as a child, the Black Stallion series and the Nancy Drew series were being put into paperback for the first time and I was fortunate to get the assignment for 18 covers in each series. I did some black and white picture books and an edition of The Little Engine that Could.
My original story The Enchanted Wood grew out of my love for the woods, for paths, for fairytales. Trees have always had the ability to hold me spellbound, at sunset especially. An old tree can have such character and majesty. In the story, three sons go on a quest for the Heart of the World (which is a magical “tree of life”) The fact that success often comes at a great sacrifice is the central theme of this story.
Papa Gatto is the result of combining a number of Italian fairytales with a similar element — a talking cat. It is a Cinderella-type story with a bit of Puss in Boots as well. And a slightly modern twist at the end, when the young lady declines the Prince’s proposal in favor of living with her beloved cats! My own cat Duke was the model for Papa Gatto, along with my daughter Whitney who posed in costume for his body.
When I illustrated The Nativity I decided to try for a stylized approach. I was influenced by early Rennaisance, Byzantine, and illuminated manuscript styles. I appreciate the more stylized, iconographical approach to religious subjects, being an Orthodox Christian myself. It creates a more timeless effect when the art is less “fleshy.” In Orthodoxy icons are considered to be “windows” to the spiritual realm.
Rose Red and Snow White was my next retelling for Little, Brown. I enjoyed inventing a dwarf and putting him through various antics. This was the first character that I painted in a realistic manner which was invented without reference materials. I always find models, dress them in costume, photograph them and use the pictures for reference in my paintings, though I don’t copy the photos slavishly. It was scary but liberating to realize I could make up a character and paint it convincingly to blend with my “real” people.
After I did a series of collector’s plates with a Night Before Christmas theme I suggested a picture book version to my editor. I tried to paint a “traditional” Santa set in the Victorian period when the verse was first written. The images from the book have also been made into greeting cards, tins, gift bags, wall hangings, pillows, stockings, and even the cover of a corporate annual report.
One sleepless night the idea came to me to do stories of women in the Bible illustrated to look like woven tapestries. The title would be TAPESTRIES, Stories of Women in the Bible. My editor had requested a Bible story, perhaps featuring one woman only, but I wanted to include as many women as possible, giving a short account of each. We ended up with 23 women in a 32 page picture book, which gives readers a chance to find out about a numbber of lesser-known characters. (such as “The Witch of Endor” from the Old Testament and Phoebe from the New Testatment.) It was a nice change of pace to try to simulate woven tapestries in oil paint.
I enjoy taking different versions of a story and combining the most interesting elements in my own retelling. For The Crystal Mountain I went a step further and combined two stories whose only tangent was a magical mountain and a quest. I took my favorite elements from The Glass Mountain, a Norwegian story, and The Magic Brocade, a Chinese tale. On the surface this would seem an unlikely match. However, the Chinese tale about a weaver of brocades transferred nicely into a weaver of tapestries, a 15th century European trade. As that is my preferred time and place to set my fairytales, it all worked out quite well. I added the three magical horses from The Glass Mountain to The Magic Brocade and voila — The Crystal Mountain was born.
I have always loved Russian folklore, and decided to merge a few stories that included magical horses and the firebird, and I added an original twist to the end of the story. The Golden Mare, The Firebird, and the Magic Ring was chosen as the Texas Bluebonnet Award for 2003, with close to a quarter of a million Texas schoolchildren acting as the judges.
Cinderella (2002) was a real challenge to retell and illustrate. I decided to merge the French and German versions of the story, keeping the magic of the pumpkin coach and fairy god mother while weaving in more symbolic elements from the more serious Grimm’s version. I also decided to change the part where the glass slipper is tried on the various young ladies by the prince’s servants – in my version, the prince himself comes along and sees Cinderella out the window. Taking the glass slipper, he goes outside, kneels before her, and puts it on himself. It is the ultimate romantic moment and a great scene for an illustrator to depict. In my version, the birds peck at the stepsisters and chase them back into their house where they can never come out again, softening the Grimm’s version where they peck their eyes out. So, I have made sure the sisters are punished and not just married off to rich nobles, as in the French version.
Saints, Lives and Illuminations (Eerdmans, 2003) contains the stories of 40 saints from the first millennium, from martyrs to desert fathers to great Doctors of the church. Again I chose to use a more stylized approach when depicting the saints, and I used intricate border motifs as well.
The Snow Princess (2004) was inspired by the Russian opera/ballet the Snow Maiden. In the opera the Snow Maiden is warned by her parents, Father Frost and Mother Spring, not to fall in love or she will die. Of course, she falls in love and eventually perishes by melting in beautiful operatic style. In my version there is a surprise ending, when the character realizes that she is in love and wonders why she has not died. Her mother Spring appears as the snow is melting and explains that she will indeed die, for now she is mortal, and like all human beings she too will grow old and die. So, everyone lives happily ever after in fairy tale fashion. This is another coming-of-age story where the character must make a sacrifice and go through an ordeal (a rite of passage) in order to become independent from parental influence.
More Saints, Lives and Illuminations is a companion volume to Saints and tells the stories of saints from the second millinneum, including a few people that are “Blessed,” like Mother Theresa, a step on her way to beatification, but not yet having the number of miracles that the church requires before making someone “officially” a saint. Most saints are first revered by the populace before the Church takes official action.
Mother Goose and Friends is a 64 page collection of the most well-known rhymes, along with a few new “treasures” I have added to the collection. (March 2008)
Goldilocks There is a very different ending to my version, involving blueberry muffins.
The Golden Key (Eerdmans) A long-time dream cam true when I finally illustrated my favorite fairy tale by Victorian writer George MacDonald. And I discoverd a new medium--scratchboard, and went wild and illustrated this 136-page book with 47 pictures.
The World of Fairies. Lately I've been having a great time creating coloring books for adults. See the COLORING BOOKS tab for more info!
PHOTO ALBUM and News archive
This is our 25-year old Quarter Horse, Shadow in 2011. He is the model for many of my unicorn paintings.
May 1st, 2008 - Here I am having a ride on our Appy, Thor
I was very proud of winning the Texas Bluebonnet Award in 2003 for The Golden Mare, The Firebird, and the Magic Ring. It is judged by a quarter of a million Texas school children in grades 3-5. Winning for a picture book, when you are competing against chapter books too, makes it very rewarding.
Exhibition of Women Illustrators at the Norman Rockwell museum
The 2011 Lenox Christmas Collector Plate
On their annual Holiday plate, an inviting snowman stands at the center of the tranquil winter scene. The year-dated exclusive is crafted of glazed ivory porcelain, banded in 24 karat gold, and trimmed with the popular holly-and-berry motif of Holiday, the most cherished seasonal fine china pattern. Click This Page to get to their website page for this plate.
New! release of Risky Chance - the 7th in the Horse Diaries series!
For all lovers of horses and history, it's the next book in the popular Horse Diaries series. Born in California at the start of the Great Depression, Risky Chance is a gray thoroughbred who was born to race. Life at the track and being spoiled by his jockey's young daughter, Marie, is all Chance could ask for. He loves nothing more than running fast and winning. But after an accident, Chance discovers a side of horse racing that has little to do with glory.
Like Black Beauty, this moving novel is told in first person from the horse's own point of view and includes an appendix full of photos and facts about thoroughbreds, horse racing, and the Great Depression.
New - release of SAINTS combined version in PAPERBACK
My two books of stories of the SAINTS are now available in paperback in one 80-page combind version.
April 28, 2011
My studio is named after THE GOLDEN WOOD, a painting from my book THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES I just finished a new cover painting (below) for a 2012 edition , published by Crocodile Books. In 2013 there will be an exhibition of the original paintings at The Norman Rockwell Museum, in Stockbridge, MA. It was really fun to revisit this place in the book where the princesses travel through a golden wood, where the leaves are sparkling with gold. This painting is 24x36 inches, oils on canvas, and took close to 4 weeks to complete.
APRIL 7, 2011
CINDERELLA JUST RELEASED AS AN APP FOR THE IPAD
Animated sparkles make fairy dust come to life in many of the scenes, and users can tap to hear sounds such as birds, ballroom waltzes, horses, the clock striking midnight, and the jingling of the fairy godmother's magic wand. The story is sweetly read by a young narrator. PicPocket Books is the App Developer.
MARCH 15, 2011
is the latest release in the HORSE DIARIES chapter book series, published by Random House.. On the right is DRAGON SERENADE
, a private commission that is available as a limited edition print.
For older news, click on NEWS ARCHIVE in the navigation bar above.
Fall/Winter 2010 NEW BOOKS
This is a new reprint of THE NATIVITY, originally published in 1993 by Little, Brown and reprinted by Eerdmans.
My latest collaboration with the incomparable Jane Yolen. A sweet lullaby for young horse lovers.
This is my daughter Whitney's first book - hurrah! I illustrated it, and you can read details on my HORSE DIARIES BLOG.
PAPA GATTO is now an i-phone app!
Now children can read along on an i-phone while the narrator reads the story of PAPA GATTO. Produced by PicPocket Books®, text pages alternate with images from the book. The narration is superbly done.
Here are a few sample pages...
This app can also be read on the new ipad, a large format, full-color device announced this month by apple computer, which will be for sale in the next month or two.
Click HERE to order PAPA GATTO for the iphone!
And look for THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN app as well.
Both made by Pickpocket Books.
I have invented a new product - a book that turns into a puzzle that turns back into a book.
These are perfect for 3-6 year-olds
The pieces are numbered, which helps with the book page order as well as making it fun for children who are learning to count.
Each piece becomes a page in the book when stacked and bound with the easy-to-use rings. Younger children might need some help at first with clipping the pages together, but it should become part of the fun to make their own book, take it apart, make the puzzle, then stack the pieces, bind them with the rings and make the book again!
WHITE MOUNTAIN PUZZLES is the distributor of the PUZZLEBOOKS. They are starting with CINDERELLA and MOTHER GOOSE. I'd so appreciate anyone passing the word on these - It is tough to market something new but I hope these will take off and I'll be able to repackage some of my out-of-print picture books and give them new life in a different and entertaining format.
ORDER CINDERELLA PUZZLEBOOK
ORDER MOTHER GOOSE PUZZLEBOOK
2009 NEWS ARCHIVE
Holiday 2009 News
My version of The Night Before Christmas is back in print in a special edition sold exclusively at
POTTERY BARN KIDS, (look under KIDS/BOOKS) along with plates, tumblers, a Santa snack set, ornaments, and a puzzle.
POTTERY BARN KIDS LINK
If anyone on your Christmas list is a puzzle fan, SUNSOUT has a number of puzzles for sale with
my images, including three Unicorn puzzles (one is above) and a Fall Faerie with 1500 pieces.
Buy the puzzle- UNICORN
Buy the puzzle-FALL FAERIE
October 15, 2009
The Bears were auctioned off - my bears were purchased by the Easthampton Savings Bank and donated to the Easthampton Library.
I am painting two fiberglass bears for the Easthampton Bearfest,
based on Papa Bear and Baby Bear from my upcoming book, Goldilocks.
You can often find me on a Saturday morning,
painting in front of the MANHAN CAFE on Cottage Street.
Look for GOLDILOCKS this Fall
September, 2009 - GOLDILOCKS received a starred review in KIRKUS!
NEW HORSE DIARIES STORY - OCTOBER 2009
THE FINISHED BEARS!
I finished these in May, 2009
See below for the details
BEARS IN PROGRESS:
KODA is a Quarter Horse story, set on the Oregon Trail. These have 18-20 interior drawings.
A great chapter book series for horse-loving girls!
I am now working on the next two in the series for release next year- a Lippizanner story and an Appaloosa story.
HUSH LITTLE HORSIE written by Jane Yolen
This will be a fall 2010 book
2008 NEWS ARCHIVE
------2008 EVENT CALENDAR------
March 28th 4pm-6pm and March 29th 2pm-6pm - MOTHER GOOSE BOOK SIGNING and Open House at my studio at the the Thorndike Mills Art Center in Palmer, MA. I will have all of the paintings from the book for viewing; books and prints, cards and gift items will be on sale.
May 2nd : 10:30am - Storytime and booksigning at Barnes and Noble, Milbury, Ma ( 70 Worchester Providence Turnpike)508-865-3525
July 19th 1pm Slide talk and booksigning at The Eric Carle Picture Book Museum of Art, Bay Road, Amherst, MA
October 10-12 FAERIECON in Philadelphia
November 6-9 ILLUXCON Altoona, PA
November 16-Jan 31 R Michelson Galleries in Norhhampton Ma - Children's Book exhbit of origianl art
November 29-30 Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair at the Town Hall, Main Street, Monson Massachusetts
9-4 on Saturday and 12-4 on Sunday
December 6-7 : Open House at my studio in the Thorndike Mill Art Center,
4145 Church Street, Thorndike, MA From 10-4 each day.
December 12 7-9 pm Signing at Barnes and Noble in Holyoke, MA
DIRECTIONS TO MY STUDIO: From Mass Pike: Take exit 8, turn left onto Rte. 32. At second light take a left. Go straight, over RR tracks and at the end of the factory complex and metal building on left, turn left into Gate 4, the final factory gate. Enter door with blue arches.
I have just created my very first FAERIES calendar for 2009 -
available on Cafe Press
Goldilocks Sneak Preview
Here is the painting that I recently finished (in March) for the cover of my version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Little, Brown 2009)
New Random House Horse Series
I am very excited to be on board at the beginning of this great new series of horse stories for Random House. Think "Black Beauty meets the American Girl Series" and you've got the idea. These two will be published in spring 09, the next one will be a Quarter Horse story for fall of 09, and then there will be hopefully one every spring and fall for as long as the series is selling well. I am in horse heaven. There will be 18-20 interior black and white drawings in each book. The age range is around 7-12
A NEW BLACK STALLION BOOK
Here is the wrap-around cover I finished in April (08) for the new Black Stallion story, The Black Stallion and The Shape Shifter, by Stephen Farley. This will be published by Random House in 2009.
I plan to offer prints of this in the fall as well, so check back or sign up for my newsletter for details.
Mother Goose is here!
Look for my 64-page Mother Goose and Friends in March 2008. See a sneak preview of the artwork on the Galleries page.
Do you recognize Mother Goose?
It is the modern-day rhymer herself, Jane Yolen.
Two new chapter books for 2008 -
SUMMER PONY and WINTER PONY
---FALL 2007 EVENT CALENDAR---
October 1-30: Exhibit at the Manhan Cafe, 23 Union St., Easthampton, MA
Nov. 1-4: Exhibit: Showing at The World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, NY
Nov. 15 Booksigning -Easthampton Library
Nov. 24-25: Monson Arts Council Holiday Fair - Booth #1 - Town Hall, Main Street, Monson, MA (10-4 and 12-4)
December 1-31: Exhibition of 20 original paintings at the Needham Public Library, Needham, MA ( Dec 1st program and booksigning 3pm)
December 15-16: Open Studio at my studio at The Thorndike Mill Art Center - 4145 Church Street in Palmer, MA (10-6 Sat. and 12-6 Sun.)
Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure
Illustrator Grace Lin founded this auction in 2004 with her husband, Robert Mercer (who has recently passed away from Ewing's Sarcoma) to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Every Nov-Dec over 200 snowflakes are auctioned off, all painted by children's book illustrators.
The Final Auction is LIVE.......Dec 3-7th.
My snowflake is now up for auction along with some wonderful artwork by other children's book illustrators....
(Click on the Robert's Snow link above - to bid!)
MY EBAY AUCTIONS
Next Auction - December 2nd-9th, 2007
My next auction on Ebay will be The Nancy Drew Flying Saucer Mystery, which I illustrated in 1980. This will include a pencil sketch of Nancy on the half-title page, shown below. I have started to offer some extra copies of my "collectible" books on Ebay, and will post a few every other month or so. I'll include the listings in my newsletter and I will also have the direct link here.
LINK TO MY EBAY AUCTION
MORE SAINTS, Lives and Illuminations (Eerdmans, 2007)
More Saints received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Read about it on the , and see some interior paintings on the Galleries page.
(In progress....more pictures to come.. .)