I grew up in Virginia, spent most of my summers in New Hampshire, and moved to the Chicago area after college. I have a BA in anthropology from Brown University (1972) and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1997). I have lived in Oak Park, IL, since 1978 with my husband, Chuck. We have two boys, now grown.
When I was young we lived on a campus where my father taught. There were trees to climb and lots of roads with almost no cars so we could ride our bikes and roller skate all around.
Summers in Virginia were very hot, and my father got to take long vacations. We usually went to New Hampshire. When I was seven my father bought the Red House, near Squam Lake, and ever since I have spent part of almost every summer there. I continue to spend weeks at a time with my family at the Red House in New Hampshire. We hike in the woods, climb mountains, swim in the lakes and rivers, paint the incredible views, and relax surrounded by the natural world I have always loved.
My father gave me real watercolor paints in tubes and a real sable-hair brush when I was about four. When I was older my dad would take me with him to the sail boat marina where he met with other artists to paint. I painted the boats, too, and the willow trees hanging low over the Potomac. One artist was the teacher and he would talk to me about my painting just the way he talked to the grown ups. Afterwards we would go to the grill and eat the best hot dogs I've ever had.
When I was 16 I took art in summer school. I was reading Lord of the Rings for the first time, and I was so in love with the characters that I drew them all the time in my school notebooks. For a final project I drew four illustrations for the books with ink and colored them with watercolor. Those illustrations are hanging in my house now.
After my first son was born, I saw my opportunity to become a writer and illustrator. I wrote every day while Lou napped. Sometimes I wanted to nap too, but I told myself that after I wrote one page in my journal I could nap. Usually writing gave me energy. Once my imagination kicked in I was no longer tired.
I also began to paint in watercolors again. I drew in my journals. I started buying unlined journals and they became journal-sketchbooks. Usually I painted scenes from photographs I took. My favorite photographs were from our vacations in New Hampshire.
Once my boys were both in school full time I decided to go to Art School. I thought I would learn to draw so that I could illustrate my stories. Instead I got side-tracked. I fell in love with Art of all kinds. I love to paint and sketch in watercolor. I no longer work from photographs, but from small sketches that I do on the scene. I love collage -- making pictures from torn paper and other junk. I love working on my Moon Project which has branched out into all kinds of art -- music and film and drawing and sculpture.
Sometimes I work on my art and sometimes on my writing. It felt as if the art was competing with the writing for my time. My journal was the place where I could declare truce and fit both art and writing into my day. I use my journal to take “field notes,” writing about the world around me, the things I observe. The ideas for all my children’s books, two rhyming truck books and a book of poetry, all grew out of my journal observations.
My first two books were illustrated by other artists. But my third book, The Robin Makes A Laughing Sound: A Birder’s Journal, is filled with my artwork. It is a book of bird poetry illustrated with watercolor and pen and ink sketches. I’ve been a bird watcher ever since seventh grade and I’ve been drawing the birds I see for many years. Both the poems and the illustrations are based on what I see when I watch the birds in my back yard.
Working on the bird book has changed my way of writing. For this project the artwork came first. It inspired me to write about the birds I was sketching. More and more the art I make gives me ideas for what I want to write about. I am working on a manuscript inspired by The Moon Project.
To view my artwork, check www.salliewolf.com.