Art+Writing, Art or Writing: All the Arts Sustain Us

While writing was always my first love, art was a close second. 

As a high school student, I kept those two worlds fairly separate. I enjoyed my English, creative writing and journalism courses, though I also fully immersed myself into fine art,  sculpture, drawing and painting classes. It was my art teacher sophomore year who suggested I intertwine the words and the art. Mostly, she wanted me to have enough to do and create and test my limits. I agreed. My teacher (ironically named Mrs. English) bumped me up a level to a senior art class project. There, second graders at the elementary school were writing a short story. We, as the artists, were to take those words and interpret it into a illustrations and a book cover. Together, it would bring words and art to live - in what better way possible - than a book. 

I loved the assignment. I worked with a young girl who wrote about a misfit penguin, who, though lost and lonely for awhile, ultimately found a friend on on another iceberg. Intertwining art and writing together brought me an entirely new love. It was a new way to see the words I wrote and translate them to imagery outside of my head. The little girl kept her hardcover first-print book. I still have the photocopy version. 

While I never became a children’s book illustrator nor children’s book writer, it has continued to be a medium I pick up when I’m writing. The distraction of pulling out what’s in my head onto the page as watercolor pigments and ink lines, pouring over the page and taking up space, calms my mind and opens it to where I can get back to writing. Art has always been a form of healing for me, one that opens my mind an doors.

I’m fortunate to have worked with many awesome illustrators in my time as a small town author. Artist Tadgh Bentley took my words of my first middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap, and did such an amazing, beautiful piece of art for the cover. Every time I see that cover - now as a poster on my wall - I stop and stare into that little world I wrote about and pictured, now brought out so stunningly with details and emotion in layers even deeper than I could have drawn. 

One last thought on art in these often frightening days as we quarantine and work to regain and maintain health as a nation and as a world: In these darkest of hours, in these days of fear and ever-changing uncertainty - it is art to which we turn to. To the writers and the dreamers and the drawers and the dancers and the producers. We pick our books we want to read, we loan library books through e-readers, we watch TV for shows and movies and plays where the artists are acting and writing and bringing us hope and light. It the artists who remind us, there is always something to hold onto, to look into, to find peace in. 

Happy reading!


  1. I love that you've worked directly with illustrators for covers!


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