RIO RANCHO, N.M. — For children’s books, the standard approach is this: The writing comes first and the illustrations follow.
Not with “Enchantment,” an exhibit of linked illustrations and writings presented by the New Mexico chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
For the exhibit, which is up at Los Griegos Library through May 31, the illustrations came first.
Nine participating illustrators each created a single illustration based on the “Enchantment” theme, and the images were randomly paired and sent to writers, said Melinda Beavers, illustration coordinator for the chapter.
The writers weren’t told who created the illustration they were writing about. And they were limited to writing on a single page of text in any form.
“I think this does represent both sides of the organization and, for those of us who haven’t been published, to get an idea of what it is like when you’re assigned a story,” said Albuquerque’s Bonnie Bryant,who coordinated the exhibit. “And it gives writers an idea of what illustrators are working with. It’s an interesting turnabout.”
Bryant, one of the nine illustrators, has had her art published in such magazines as The New Yorker and British Vogue, and in newspapers, though not just yet in books.
Her image, titled “Mora, 10:33 p.m.” (gouache on paper) shows two youngsters airborne. “It was inspired by a coworker who talked about growing up with a sister in northern New Mexico,” she said.
Lisa Casaus’ illustration “The Onion Awakens” (acrylic) was the basis for a Chris Eboch poem.
“When I saw the illustration, I thought it was cute and whimsical but I had no idea what to write about it. I had it for a few weeks, looked at it a few times. Nothing came to mind,” said Eboch, a Socorro resident.
While showing Casaus’ illustration to her writers’ critique group, Eboch recalled one member saying, “‘I don’t understand why a kid is tickling a laughing onion.'” I said, ‘That’s it. It’s not meant to be a laughing onion.'”
The gist of her poem is that the kid is trying to be a mad scientist but has no space to work, so his creations go awry, she said.
Eboch is a published author. Her most recent children’s book (for middle-grade students) is “The Genie’s Gift,” a fantasy that draws on the mythology of the Arabian Nights.
Casaus, an Albuquerque resident, said her idea of the enchantment in the image is the effect of the light on the baby onion in the pot.
Casaus’ logo happens to be a baby onion.
She illustrated the 2010 children’s book “Grandma’s Magic Tortilla.”
Lois Bradley of Tijeras wrote something based on Mary Sundstrom’s illustration “Greeting the Dawn,” a cut-paper collage in shades of purple and pink pastels.
“I thought about the piece. I let it brew in my mind a few days. I started making notes about the elements in it, and eventually I came up with a 212-word manuscript,” Bradley said.
She is also an illustrator and, in fact, is one of the nine illustrators in the exhibit.
“I’ve done book covers and book designs. I’ve published a story in Highlights magazine. And I also illustrated Shirley Raye Redmond’s children’s book ‘Blind Tom,'” Bradley said.
Casaus finds the writers-illustrators society a great resource and support group. She enjoys meeting fellow illustrators, getting advice and learning how they’re building their careers.