Monday, July 13, 2015


I spent about seven years of my life completely obsessed with Harry Potter. This was due, in large part, to the brilliance of the characters that J.K. Rowling had created, but it was sustained by the like-minded people I met online. Only a few weeks after the events of September 11th, a group from the Sugarquill got together in New York City to watch the first Harry Potter movie. I might not have gone if I wasn't attending Pratt and living in Brooklyn at the time. But when I tell people that Harry Potter changed my life, I mean it, literally.

One of the people I met that weekend was Megan Morrison, a tall, charismatic redhead, who also happened to be an incredibly talented writer. I liked Meg instantly - we had many things in common, but I also admired the things that made her different from me. She was more vivacious and open than I was, for sure, and her gorgeously long hair inspired me to grow my own out. She was a few years older than me, out of college and attempting to balance making a living in New York with her pursuit of the arts - acting and writing especially. And as it turned out, she lived only a few blocks away from me.

The New Yorkers in our group got together frequently over the next few months. Eventually, Meg moved away to pursue a teaching degree, but she returned to the city shortly before I graduated college. I spent a few of my last days before graduation with Meg and (future New York Times bestselling author!) Melissa Anelli, at Melissa's parents' house. It was a perfect weekend - we watched 'Into the Woods' and sang along to 'Rent', caught Lindsay Lohan promoting her last good role (Mean Girls) on SNL, ate great food, star-gazed, and shared our various creative projects. Meg let us read a couple of chapters of a draft of a fairy-tale story she'd been working on and like everything I've ever read of hers, it was a total delight.

Jump to just a couple of years ago - understandably, I was thrilled to hear that Meg had secured a publishing deal with Scholastic. The tiny glimpse of 'Tyme' I'd seen back in 2004 was more than enough to convince me that this was a series that the world needed, much like the one that had brought us all together in the first place. So when Meg asked if she could hire me to do some images for her personal author website, I jumped at the chance.

We started e-mailing back and forth about what the main image should look like - Meg wanted a header or background showing Rapunzel's tower and its surroundings. She sent me a detailed description, along with links to a couple of Pinterest boards she'd created for visual inspiration. I wanted Rapunzel's tower to clearly fit in the fantasy world of Tyme, but I also wanted to draw from a variety of cultures and artistic traditions. Each area of Tyme has its own distinct geography and sensibility, and I wanted something that would look natural planted in the soil of the Redlands, amongst the tall evergreens and distant mountains. So I did a quick round of sketches and sent them to Meg for feedback.


Meg looked the pictures over with Ruth, who co-created Tyme. They agreed that the spindly, Scandinavian-inspired tower with the dark wooden shingles looked like something that Envearia, the witch in Rapunzel's story, would create. However, the balcony as I'd drawn it wouldn't fit with the description in the story. Meg also pointed out that the proportions needed to be changed a bit to make it large enough for Rapunzel to walk about. So I started my first round of revisions.

While I really liked the extra pointiness the balcony and its supports offered, it didn't fit with the story and needed to go. I revised the tower one last time before placing it in the landscape. In the end I think we came up with something that feels unique and organic while sticking to the story. It comes back to the heart of what attracted me to illustration in the first place, whether it was creating Harry Potter fan art alongside hundreds of other artists, or being the only kid at my elementary school who would check out 'Ramona Forever' repeatedly to draw all the characters in their finery for Aunt Bea's wedding.

Meg also asked me to create some little spot illos to use as buttons, and on the finished website, they move, which charms me way more than it reasonably should. 'Grounded' came out in April, and I devoured it within hours of getting the book. It's a wonderful, whimsical, adventurous read with memorable characters and an imaginative world. I can't wait to return to Tyme next year, when the second book in the series will be published. Congrats to Meg, and many thanks for including me on this wonderful journey!

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