I was born in London and then we lived in Germany and Switzerland. Our family traveled a lot before moving back to the United States when I was seven. I think my early childhood has had a big influence on my books: in Switzerland we lived close to a small town surrounded by mountains, woods, lakes, orchards, fields and farms, and I often I find myself painting pictures of the things that happen in these kinds of places. The idea for one of my first picture books, All My Little Ducklings, came from a German song that I remember singing as we went to the lake to feed the ducks.
As a child, I loved to draw and paint, and I still have some of my very first pictures. But I was often bored in art class at school when the teacher told us what to do; I always had all kinds of art projects going on at home, and I enjoyed that much more. But it wasn't until I went to college that I realized I wanted to be a professional artist, and not until several years after that I decided I wanted to illustrate children's books.
I went to the University of Michigan School of Art and studied pottery, painting and printmaking, Afterwards, I returned to Europe for several years, living in London, working in an antique porcelain gallery and at a museum and traveling to Spain, France, and Italy. Then I moved to New York City and became a freelance artist. I worked in a pottery studio during the day and took classes at night at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Gradually, I started to do more painting, and because of the style and images that were developing, I began to think of illustrating children's books. One of my teachers at SVA, Bruce Degen, helped me enormously to get a portfolio ready to show publishers, and one of the pictures in my portfolio - a class assignment illustration for the poem Who Is Tapping at My Window? by A.G.Deming - grew into my first book, which was published in 1988. I have writing and illustrating children's books ever since.
The idea for a book usually starts from pictures I want to make. It is vague in the beginning. The pictures and words go through many revisions and slowly the book begins to take shape. Going through the different stages of making a book is a lot of work, but it is always enormously satisfying. I spend my days doing exactly what I love to do, and it is very gratifying that my work goes out into the world and is shared with other people. I feel incredibly lucky.
I teach a children's book illustration class at the School of Visual Arts, in the continuing education department. I love working with my students, helping to prepare them to break into this field. I think it takes a combination of talent, lots of hard work, determination, perseverance and a certain amount of luck!
I live in New York City. I have illustrated over 40 books (and written most of them). I have one grown daughter. She is a ballet dancer with New York City Ballet. My two cats are named Lola and Zoe.
Here is a teachingbooks.net link to a recording where I introduce myself
and talk about my name: