My first two books about dinosaurs, If The Dinosaurs Came Back and Whatever Happened To The Dinosaurs? were just pure fun. Dinosaur Cousins? was my first book where I combined fact with fun.
After reading more about the dinosaurs, I was becoming hooked on them. I wondered just like in my opening spread: "Whenever I go to the zoo, or read a book about animals, I see so many animals that remind me of dinosaurs. I wonder... Are they dinosaur cousins?"
When I looked at a rhinoceros, it reminded me of a triceratops. When I looked at an ostrich, it reminded me of a struthiomimus. I kept finding similarities between many animals and dinosaurs. A new theory that was just starting to be talked about was that birds are dinosaur cousins, and this captured my imagination.
Dinosaur Cousins? was also my first full-color book. In my earlier books I was limited to two or three flat colors because full-color was too expensive. But my publisher, Harcourt Brace, found a way to produce high-quality full-color books at much lower costs.
While working on the final full-color artwork for Dinosaur Cousins?, I made many discoveries, some I call "happy accidents." I was using permanent markers to color my illustrations, which were created with a felt-tipped pen. I made a mistake and tried to correct a color by going over it with another color. I liked the effect I got, and I tried experimenting. I noticed that lighter colors were good for blending, and then I wondered if there was such a thing as a wet marker without color to help me blend. When I went to several art supply stores looking for such a marker, I was told they didn't exist.
I almost gave up, but I tried another store. They had "color blenders." I bought a bunch and had a ball finishing my final artwork. In fact, when I sent the final art to Harcourt in San Diego, they called me to tell me how excited they were with my color effects. Their art department wondered how I did it!
Since that first full-color book, I have learned more and more about color and using this blending technique that I "blundered" into. So when children ask me "How do you do what you do?", I answer, "Many times I don't know what I am doing. I just keep at it, experimenting with my words and my pictures and not being afraid of failing, because I am learning as I am doing."
I dedicated my first full-color book to my father, who was a housepainter and had a great sense of color. He taught me much about color.
I am very proud of winning the Washington Irving Children's Choice Award for Dinosaur Cousins?. Readers from kindergarten to fifth grade voted for it as their favorite book. It boggles my mind that Dinosaur Cousins? could appeal to such a span of ages!
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