Friday, January 16, 2009

Introducing Growing Your Vocabulary Artist, Ned Harrison

Recently, Prestwick House recently introduced its first vocabulary series especially for middle grades students, Growing Your Vocabulary: Learning from Latin and Greek Roots. Often, a project of this size requires large numbers of illustrations in a short amount of time. For this particular project, Prestwick House recruited the help of illustrator Ned Harrison to bring a fresh, new perspective to a younger audience. Ned was provided with sentences from the 4-6th grade books and was able to create some truly memorable characters and scenes.

“He really did an amazing job with the assignment, bringing his own unique take on the sentences we provided,” says art director, Larry Knox. “On top of that, he was able to produce high quality work under extremely tight deadlines. Paul Moliken, the Senior Editor on this project, really got a kick out of his interpretations. I’ve overheard him on more than one occasion commenting on them to his writers.”

Meet the Artist

Name: Ned Harrison

Age: 35


Where He's From: Seattle, WA

Occupation: Illustrator/Factotum

Education: Bachelor of Arts/Graphic Design, Central Washington University, 1996

Favorite Children’s Book: Arnold Lobel’s Owl At Home

Favorite author: George Macdonald Fraser

Favorite Poem: Jack Prelutsky’s “The Mummy”

What other interests or hobbies do you have besides art?

I like to read and snowboard, but not at the same time. My huge project this winter is the rehabilitation (not restoration) of a 1975 Toyota Landcruiser. I am learning how to weld, and the plan is to finish the entire project by summer.

About Ned Harrison’s Art and the Growing Your Vocabulary Project

How did you get interested in art? Is it your full time job?

I’ve always had an interest in art; the hard part is making money doing it. Fortunately, I am not easily discouraged and I like to try new things. Another of my jobs is as an assistant-director of a summer camp. I am also exploring the possibilities of grad school in order to earn my teacher’s license.

What kinds of art do you do besides illustration and dough craft?

I like to take photos with my Nikon FM3A camera. I prefer it to my digital camera because traditional film forces me to take my time to get the exposure and aperture correct the first time. There is a sense of satisfaction to be able to imagine what’s going on behind the shutter.

What artist most influences your work?

William Steig is an illustrator I look to for inspiration. Throughout his long career Steig’s drawing became better by becoming simpler. His books are honest and perceptive studies of human interaction and family connection.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

The best part about being an artist is the freedom to explore possibilities. Would it be fun to wear my pajamas all day? Yes, it would. Should I drive to the store to buy a new set of chalk pastels? That sounds fine. Was it a bad decision to wear pajamas to town? Absolutely.

How did you get involved with Prestwick House?

Prestwick House art director Larry Knox brought me into the Growing Your Vocabulary project in January 2008. He saw my work posted on a commercial portfolio website. Larry told me that Prestwick House would be introducing curriculum for the middle school market, and I was eager to join the team.

What was your time frame, and how many illustrations did you create for this project? What was your process?

I drew more than 400 illustrations in twenty weeks for the Growing Your Vocabulary series. That’s about twenty drawings per week. Easy to do, as long as you stay on schedule, or else you might find yourself doing 400 illustrations in a weekend! (I stayed on schedule.) For this project I worked with an egg-timer to keep myself from spending too much time on any single drawing. If I couldn’t finish one in ten minutes, I needed to speed up.

I like to develop my sketches on tracing paper. Frequently, funny ideas appear unexpectedly on separate overlapping drawings. Also, if there’s only one or two sections of the drawing that I like, I can simply trace-up onto a fresh sheet.

Is illustration your main focus, or was this project different from what you normally do?

Illustration is my main focus, and the Growing Your Vocabulary series is my widest exposure so far. It has been an important step in growing my portfolio.

What are your thoughts on the Growing Your Vocabulary Project?

The content of the three Growing Your Vocabulary books greatly exceeded my expectations. These are smart textbooks, and I am proud of how successfully the text and the illustrations work together. My goal was to add another layer of explanation and humor to an already interesting series. I’d like to work on more Prestwick House textbooks in the future.

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