I grew up in Fresno, California. I always loved art, especially making realistic pencil portraits of my friends. When I was 12, our family spent a year in Europe, and upon visiting the Louvre, I was exposed to a new world of creativity. The paintings were dramatic, unlike pictures I’d seen before, and the eyes of the people had such depth. I returned to Paris during my junior year at the University of California at Berkeley, to study oil painting and life drawing at College Art Study Abroad. During this time, I was an au pair girl to young children and my interest in writing and illustrating picture books was sparked.

As for my official “fine art" courses in Paris: teacher Roger Terry Barr knew Picasso and would often refer to him; he showed us how to “get inside” the figure, draw it quickly and forcefully, exaggerating gestures as needed. On occasion he’d guide or direct my hand, determined that I should feel his confident strokes, or the purposeful application of a color. 

Following my year overseas, I transferred to a creative arts hub: the University of California at Davis, graduating with a B.A. in art and an 
almost minor in drama. Favorite teachers included Don Nice, who made us paint realistically, depicting the most minute details. This discipline really improved my work by forcing me to slow down. I took Art Theory with Wayne Thiebaud, a legend in his own time. He demystified the intimidating world of modern art, urged us not to be a “copycat” and instead to seek our own unique nature. One assignment was to write our autobiography.

I lived in Spain for seven months after college, sketching boats and people in a little seaside village. Then I returned to California, where I taught art-related subjects to children at local art centers and later served as Program Director at the Monterey Peninsula YWCA.

My interest in the field of children’s storybook art really grew when I became a new mother. I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and took a course in children’s picture book illustration at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  It was taught by renowned author/illustrator Ed Young. I’d been struggling for some time to let go of my need for perfection, so his focus was just what I needed: he wanted us to “see" the essence...to capture what was beyond the surface. One day he took us outside; we were to draw him while he was doing Tai-Chi. It was difficult until it occurred to me: don’t draw his body realistically, just relax and draw the energy lines of his movements. 

After our family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, I volunteered at our children’s schools — as an art teacher, muralist, and general art aide. I also took on an occasional commercial art project. At one point I decided to combine my love of fine art and art history with my background in college filmmaking to produce and host a three-episode local TV show called “My Search for Art.” However, I put away my oil paints for a long time, concerned about the fumes. Instead, I developed a satisfying soft-pencil drawing technique that combined the looseness of a paint brush with the precision of a pen.  

My husband’s career in the travel industry brought our family to Maui. I continued to work in pencil, though I did a little oil painting as well. During those years, I was honored to have nine pictures chosen for the island’s two annual juried shows: three for Art Maui and six for the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center. I also taught art-related subjects to children at a few schools and centers, and volunteered at Maui’s Upcountry Youth Center, both as a teacher and a member of the board.

We eventually relocated to northern Arizona. I’ve worked on a variety of art-related projects since then, including a commissioned oil portrait commemorating the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Army’s “Wolfhounds” regiment support of an orphanage in Japan. The portrait, based on a small black-and-white photo taken in 1948, depicts a soldier holding a little Japanese girl. Even though I considered the painting unfinished at the hard deadline, I’ve been told that the children at the orphanage really like the picture and relate to it.

Along with my ongoing art work, I’ve continued to be involved with children’s education: I teach Montessori-based "Catechesis of the Good Shepherd" to kindergarteners throughout each nine-month school year. The need for brevity, brightness, and essentiality in communicating with children has helped me better understand the discipline of storytelling.

As for my lifelong interest in the
artwork in storytelling: I’ve attended a number of annual SCBWI conferences, and the workshops, lectures, and consultations have all helped me immensely. As a result, I’m finally close to finishing my many-times revised illustrated/authored picture book, entitled “How Big is My Baby.” My own little grandchildren enjoy it, so I’m hoping others will too!


The story of how Sergeant Hugh O’Reilly of the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Regiment—the famed “Wolfhounds”—came to be involved with the Holy Family Home in Osaka, Japan, is quite moving, and was told in the mostly accurate 1955 Hollywood feature film 
Three Stripes in the Sun.

The old black-and-white photograph (
click here to view) captures the moment he went to an orphanage and lifted a blind child, a little girl whom others would avoid touching due to her skin diseases. He not only overcame his prejudices, born out of his brutal experiences during the war, but married a Japanese woman, and for the rest of his days made the support of Japanese orphans in the Holy Family Home, and other Japanese orphanages, the work of his life. 

The original photograph conveys the feeling that it’s not only about the little girl being saved, but also about the soldier who wants to help her. Both of them had experienced such pain in their lives. Both of them are lost, both are longing to be healed.