Children’s Book

Old Geezer Grandpa

grandpa

Once upon a time I lived in an apartment with my dog Gunther…

Mostly, I kept to myself – but I did manage to make one friend: An eleven-year-old boy named Tyler.

Tyler loved to watch me draw.

Often, we would sit together on the open patio outside my apartment (with Gunther at our feet) enjoying the afternoon.

Although I drew many things for Tyler – one day he made a special request.

“Can you draw an old geezer grandpa?” he asked.

“A what?” I replied. I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly.

“An old geezer grandpa!”

Not a dinosaur, or some exotic animal.. not a spaceship, or a super hero. Tyler was practically jumping up and down with excitement – he wanted an “old geezer grandpa”… so I drew him one.

Tyler hung over my shoulder – frantically giving directions.

“Give him a moustache! And glasses!” Tyler shouted.

We spent the afternoon that way.. laughing at the result you see above.

The Wolf in the Story

lupus in fabula 001

I call this painting “Lupus in Fabula”.

It is Latin for “The wolf in the story” – meaning “speak of the wolf, and he will come”.

One of my earliest memories was a dream I had as a child.

I was always drawing when I was little. More than anything, I loved to make pictures – all I wanted was to draw well. Even at that early age, I understood that the drawings I made did not look like the things I wanted to draw – the things I saw in my mind. There was some kind of disconnect between my hand and my imagination. How could I close the gap? I remember looking at a reindeer I made – lopsided circle for a body, sticks for legs and something that looked like TV antennas on top of its head. That didn’t look anything like the animal I saw in my imagination.

Then one night, I had a dream.

I was sitting at a table in front of a blank piece of paper. Someone behind me guided my hand as I drew the head of a wolf. They spoke to me in a calm, reassuring voice “It’s easy… you see?” And it was. The wolf looked like a wolf – not a lopsided circle with dark holes for eyes… it had a snout, fur and pointed ears. It was a wolf.

I woke up, grabbed a pencil and paper – and I drew a wolf.

Just like that.

In The Secret Kingdom, I think it’s fitting that the poem I wrote for “Lupus in Fabula” came to me while I was asleep.

I must have been dreaming of wolves again.

 

 

Mr. Crazy’s Lament

MrCrazysLament

My dog Gunther was my constant companion for 11 1/2 years. I first held him in my hands when he was a week old. Dalmatians do not have spots when they’re born – so he looked like a chubby white rat. Gunther was my beloved child.

Like most dogs, Gunther had many nicknames. Gumpy, Lumpy, Dog-head, Goonar, the seal-dog… and of course, Mr. Crazy. Mr. Crazy was what I called him when he was exceptionally happy – which was very often. He would burst into a room, flinging toys.. tongue flapping and wagging his tail like a propeller. Watching him prance and leap around the house filled me with joy.

I call this painting “Mr. Crazy’s Lament”

It was what I was working on while making the decision to put Gunther down.

It was the first time a blackberry appeared in my paintings… since then, there have been many others.

I remember sitting on a stool in the kitchen.. deep in thought. My sister came in – she had brought me blackberries. So I sat there at the table – eating blackberries and petting my beloved Gunther.

I held one of the berries in the palm of my hand. It was so delicate and fragile. This dark and beautiful object tasted so sweet.

I put it in my mouth – just for a moment

and then it was gone.

If I Can Do it – So Can You

rose and sam

I remember making a book when I was little. I vaguely recall the story had something to do with a family of animals living near a beach. I made drawings of weird dog-like creatures on pieces of paper that I folded to look like pages. My grandfather liked it, and that was good enough for me.

It never occurred to me that I could make a real book. Even as I got older – such a thing seemed so far removed from the realm of possibility. Books were made by famous authors and illustrators.. not regular people like me.

That was what I thought… until I met Tad Smith.

I met Tad at an art gallery where I was one of the exhibiting artists in a group show. Since Tad and I were both artists, conversation came easily. I couldn’t help but smile when he told me that my paintings would be perfect for a children’s book. That had always been a dream of mine, I explained. So when Tad told me about his book: Tales of a Tombstone, AZ Tortoise – it blew my mind.

Suddenly, I realized that books CAN be made by regular people like me.

If Tad could do it – so could I..

And if I can do it – so can you.

To Paint Like A Child

ribbon1

“Salvation and Desire” – painting by Michele Bledsoe

 

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”  Pablo Picasso

I am not sure what it means “to paint like a child” to Picasso..

but I know what it means to me.

To paint like a child does not mean a return to the artistic skill level of a toddler.

Scribbles and stick figures. Blobs of random colors. Lopsided animals.

To paint like a child is to paint with abandon.. a complete lack of inhibition and restraint.

When you put a piece of paper in front of a child

they don’t agonize over what to draw.

They don’t make preliminary sketches or thumbnail drawings.

They don’t concern themselves with composition or concepts.

They don’t follow trends or make statements.

They don’t worry about what it means..

They just start drawing.

 

When I paint, I  put a blob of raw umber acrylic paint on my palette,

pick up a paintbrush and start drawing on the canvas until it is done.

When the drawing is finished – I paint it.

That’s it.

Stream of consciousness..

the painting becomes whatever it wants to be.

That’s how every one of my paintings begins..

And that’s how every illustration in The Secret Kingdom came to be.

The Journey to The Secret Kingdom

richard and michelePhoto by Sebastiao Pereira

Richard Bledsoe’s in-depth article offers a unique perspective on the story behind the creation of The Secret Kingdom.

THE JOURNEY TO THE SECRET KINGDOM (part 1).

THE JOURNEY TO THE SECRET KINGDOM (part 2).

THE JOURNEY TO THE SECRET KINGDOM (part 3).

Curator of Frozen Zoo..

zoo

Like most people, I have hobbies.

I read.

I play classical guitar.

I collect marbles.

And I am the curator of a frozen zoo.

 

One of the pages from The Secret Kingdom

was inspired by my painting, “Frozen Zoo”.

 zoo

And my painting “Frozen Zoo” was inspired by…

my Frozen Zoo.

 

freezer

Inside my Frozen Zoo you will find all the creatures depicted in my painting.

There are other creatures in there,

but the turtle, the mouse, the lizard and the octopus are my favorites.

 

My Frozen Zoo has not had many visitors

since not many people have seen the inside of my freezer.

Actually, I think I am the only person who opens the Tupperware container to view the exhibits..

until now.

Every copy of The Secret Kingdom includes a trip to the Frozen Zoo.