Do you ever look outside and just wonder? Wonder why everything is the way it is, why animals are the way that they are? I believe that we were made to wonder. I believe that God placed in us an instinct to wonder and imagine, to be curious and interested in the world around us so that in doing so we can bring Him praise and awe and glory!
Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe began as an exercise in wonder. Wonder from my seven-year-old daughter, Scarlett. She had a cute habit of wondering about this or that animal and then stating her own imaginative facts about them. The very first one that I recall was due to a word mix-up.
“Did you know that cheetahs eat cantaloupe?” She had meant antelope, but with it being the summer time, I suppose melons were on her mind. We had a good chuckle about it, and life continued going on. But once in a while, she would come up with these “animal facts”, and soon I had about 20 written down in her keepsake memory journal.
This was in April, 2020. BC had continued it’s first set covid lockdowns and I found myself with more time on my hands and more boredom, too. So I took these sweet little animal facts and illustrated them into fun, stand alone comics. I felt that the world could use a little extra humor those days, so I uploaded them to my Instagram. Scarlett, Zoologist (ish) was well received.
After a few months, I found myself back into lockdown during the winter months. Winter is never easy and I was wondering about what sort of long-term project I could begin that would help keep my mind occupied and away from all the lockdown-related stresses that were so evident. My mind was turned to the Zoologist comics. Perhaps, I thought, perhaps I could turn them into a children’s book, with full-page illustrations. And so I began playing around with the idea – sketching different characters and animals, trying to refine what my “style” would be. Playing around with different mediums; pencil crayon, watercolor, markers. It took a few months to get it all tuned, and on February 1, 2021, I decided to make it official.
Being a self-taught artist with no prior experience in illustrating a book proved to be an amazing experience for me. It was a LOT of trial and error, multiple sketches and re-sketches for every single page. I feel very blessed to have a team of encouraging people that helped me keep going, especially my cousin Breanna. She not only was my personal cheerleader, but she also provided me with a lot of the expressions I needed for the illustrations. It was certainly not an easy task, but all in all I would say that it was enjoyable. It was especially fun because Scarlett was right there with me in it all. I would take one of her “animal facts”, ask her what she meant with it, sketch it out and run it by her. If she laughed, I knew I hit the mark. But if she didn’t, well, it was back to the drawing board. Every single one of the illustrations in Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe are Scarlett verified and approved.
Just before my fourth baby was born, in April 2021, I put the finishing touches on all the watercolor paintings for the book. And then, with baby Annika born, I had to put the whole project on hold for a while.
In time, though, I managed to get a handle on the whole four kids thing, and I managed to set aside time, thanks especially to my husband, to finish the book up. To be honest, I would much rather start a new artistic project than sit behind a computer and do logisital things such as research and marketing, but it had to be done, so I spent time figuring out logistics. How to get an ISBN, obtain a copyright, which printer I would use, what type of paper, etc. There were so many things to consider! It definitely was not the most enjoyable part of the process, but after all that was said and done I finally got my hands on a copy of Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe!
And now, so should you.