Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Robert’s Snow: Connie McLennan

Two features in one week! It’s been a busy week here, and this is sure to be just as exciting as the previous features. This is my last one too, although I am sorry to see them go! I know this is old news, but some people still haven’t heard of Robert’s Snow. If you’ve read this before, skip down to see today’s snowflake.

Robert’s Snow was started in 2004 by Children’s illustrator Grace Lin when her husband Robert was diagnosed by with a rare form of cancer. That year, Grace gathered several children’s book illustrators together to each create a unique snowflake that could be auctioned off to raise funds for cancer research. Since it’s beginning, Robert’s Snow has raised over $200,000 dollars for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

And here’s Connie McLennan’s 2007 snowflake: “Blue Morpho” (Please note that these pictures are ones the illustrator took herself, so they are WAY more detailed than the official Robert’s Snow photos. Click on the picture to fully enlarge it.)

I am absolutely speechless. This is just too beautiful. If you’d like to learn more about how the snowflake itself was created, scroll down to the Q & A section of the post.

This snowflake will be auctioned off in the third set of auctions starting on December 3 at 9:00am and closing on December 7 at 5:00pm. These are the most expensive snowflakes, but they are so worth the money (in more ways than one)! Visit the auction site for even more details.

Connie McLennan lives in Rocklin, CA (near my hometown!) with her husband and 16-year-old son. She’s illustrated six children’s books including Domitila: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition, Water Beds: Sleeping In The Ocean, and The Rainforest Grew All Around. She’s currently working on a 7th book, River Beds, which will be a sequel to Water Beds. She’s also done several illustrations for “Highlights for Children” magazine.

And since I know you’re dying to learn more about how she works:

Q. Can you tell us more about the snowflake you created?

A. The base was primed with gesso, then painted with an acrylic base. The ferns on both sides are painted in oil. The butterfly is 100% rag board painted with acrylic, and iridescent blue acrylic. The back side is underpainted with metallic gold, giving it a soft luster. Edges are gold. Both sides are finished with damar gloss varnish. The wire hanger is strung with iridescent black and blue beads.

Q. How did you get into children’s book illustrations?

A. I had been a freelance advertising and editorial illustrator for a long time. In 1999, a local designer I knew was creating a business system (stationery, business card, etc.) for a small publisher/distributor who recently had relocated to our area. When the designer learned the owner was looking for an illustrator for a new book, she recommended me. Domitila: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition was published in 2000. I did not do another children’s book until 2004, when I illustrated both The Wishing Tree and Water Beds: Sleeping In The Ocean.

Q. What sparks your creativity?

A. For book illustrations, I am inspired by looking at other books and all kinds of artwork, researching my subject and looking at photo reference for it—and having a deadline. Nothing sparks “creativity”—and productivity—like the fear of missing a deadline and having bills to pay.
Q. Do you have a favorite medium?

A. I have two “favorite” mediums: watercolor and oil. They are very different from each other, and I enjoy alternating between the two, depending on what feels more appropriate for a particular project.

Q. What made you decide to be an artist?

A. It seems I didn’t choose art as much as it chose me. An outstanding teacher once told me successful painting is 10% talent and 90% desire. Painting is not mysterious, it is a learned skill, and anyone who really wants to learn can do it. I am very logical and equally balanced between “left-” and “right-brained.” I guess I only became an illustrator because of my desire to draw and paint. If that hadn’t gotten in the way, I might have been a doctor or a lawyer instead. My father was a veterinarian, so medical things always interested me. If I had applied my writing and research skills to medicine or law instead of illustration, I would have made a lot more money!

Very neat! If you want to learn more about Connie McLennan, you can visit her at her website. And if you just can’t afford this great snowflake, you can still admire her rainforest illustrations in The Rainforest Grew All Around, which is available at

Fight cancer! Buy snowflakes! Yeah!


Charlotte said...

Oh, that's a lovely one! I like the daring juxtaposition of rainforest with snowflake!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I love the little touches -- the beads on the wire hanger. Putting a hanger on there to begin with - and decorating it. Lovely.

Alyssa, how did you end up with two features in one week? Weren't they side-by-side, too? I'm sorry!! I thought I had avoided that for everyone. I hope it wasn't a problem for you?? You did a fine job with all your features. THANK YOU!

-- jules, 7-Imp

jama said...

The snowflake is SO beautiful! The close-up feature was fabulous too. Too bad all the snowflakes can't be featured that way on the RS site. Thanks for the feature!

Liz Garton Scanlon said...

Wow. With the little water droplet. Wow.

tanita✿davis said...

The lighting -- the way the butterfly's wings seems to shimmer, the water dazzling with light -- truly beauteous! And such a nice-sounding person, too. Wow.

Alyssa F said...

Jules, it wasn't a problem at all! I had a blast doing this, thanks to everyone who stopped by!

david elzey said...

I'm going to second Liz here...Wow, that's just... wow.