I’m a professional illustrator with over 85 published children’s books. In addition, I illustrate coloring books for adults, book covers, fantasy art, games, concept art for animation, and license my work for greeting cards, collector’s plates, puzzles, and more. I also enjoy teaching writing and illustrating for children in a summer graduate program at Hollins University, in Roanoke, VA. I live in Massachusetts the rest of the year.
I license my images on many products including games, greeting cards, puzzles, tins, and more. Contact me directly for inquiries about the availability of images in my PORTFOLIO section or to commission work. firstname.lastname@example.org
For children’s books, book covers and magazine illustration, advertising, editorial and original art commissions, contact me directly: email@example.com
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 teach in the program most summers.
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.
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.
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)
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 24×36 inches, oils on canvas, and took close to 4 weeks to complete.
APRIL 7, 2011
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
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.
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.
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.
October 15, 2009
THE FINISHED BEARS!
I finished these in May, 2009
See below for the details
BEARS IN PROGRESS:
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
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.)
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.
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.. .)