Issue No. 11 Fall/Winter 2001
Farm, family and friends
Hey, two newsletters in one year! Well, I did need to make up for zero newsletters the year before. We have decided to save trees and postage from now on and post all our newsletters on the website. This will be the last "snail mail" mailing. If you would like to continue the usual newsletter via snail mail, call or write us and I will keep you on the list, otherwise and from henceforth all newsletters shall be posted on-line. Web site newsletters work best for us because teachers and students are able to click onto the site and catch up on our activities. And there are many! Our biggest news around the farm is our new little addition...the purchase of 12 more acres to add to our homestead. Making Hazel Ridge Farm a grand total of 40 acres. I mentioned our new land in the last newsletter, but now Gijsbert is having fun "tending" it. He has begun planting large prairie sections and transplanting trees. The land is like a new canvas for him and he is preparing his palette for his biggest painting yet. Of course to do this he simply had to get the proper equipment. All this fall (during his spare time) he has enjoyed brush-hogging the back fields with his new toy..a big green 20 year old John Deere tractor (donít ask me how many rpmís or gigabytes)and a big green JD brush hog. He says itís work...but I see the gleam in his eyes as he sits atop the tractor "hoggin". Or could that be the diesel fumes? Our new neighbors are gems. Rachel and Kelvin Potter. She is a petite veterinarian who, rumor has it, can wrestle 6í4", 185 pound Kelvin down to the ground and makes a mean Martha Stewart pear marmalade, to boot. Kelvin wears many hats, but he is a carpenter by trade. He has helped Gijsbert countless times with repairs of all kinds. Just the other day he called and asked, "Hey Nick, ya wanna go tool shoppiní?" How can it get any better than that? We are glad they are our neighbors. Heather has been at Western Michigan since fall and she loves it. Before classes started she called home and described college as "just like summer camp". A week after classes started she confessed it wasnít like camp anymore. Kelly misses her big sister and talks on-line with her 4-5 times a week. I think they both appreciate each other more now. Itís nice to see their renewed closeness. We had quite a few groups visiting the farm this summer and fall and happy to report we didnít lose a single body to the back 40. Though I do think many kids and adults were tempted to hide away so they wouldnít have to leave. It is always a pleasure to see our visitors new appreciation for nature as they walk the property. We feel very lucky that our Montana trip was postponed this year and replaced with an expertly planned summer trip to New York City. Kelly planned every detail..from the time we awoke to the time we went to bed at night. Her scrapbook of the robust city will always have a deeper meaning since September 11.
If you havenít seen it yet, we are proud to announce the release of Adopted by an Owl, the true story of Jackson, a great horned owl that lived with us for 13 years. He imprinted on us and adopted our family as his own. There was a point during his stay with us that he attempted to join the owl world. He was missing from the farm and we thought he finally cut the apron strings..but he showed up two weeks later on our roof top screeching for food. We never found out what happened to him during those "lost" two weeks but he never left our family again. The book is a condensed version of his life with us. Sleeping Bear Press is having a video made of Jackson from our live footage we shot around the farm. Next in line for Gijsbert is a true story about one of the pilots who was part of the Berlin Airlift after WW ll, dropping coal and food for the hungry. Col. Gail Halvorsen, often referred to by the German children as the "chocolate pilot" or "Uncle Wigglywings" began dropping candy, attached to mini-parachutes, for the hungry children in Germany. Gijsbert flew to Utah and visited this truly good man and his gracious wife, Lorraine, in October and is very eager to get started on his remarkable story. Look for a spring release. A new series Sleeping Bear Press has christened "The Cub Series" will be geared towards younger children. The format of these books (to be written and illustrated by numerous authors and illustrators) will be smaller, aprx. 7"x7" square with 16-24 pages. Just the right size for small hands to hold and cherish. Gijsbert will kick off the cub series with a cute tale about a child and her piggy bank. We are going to keep the title of the next legend book under wraps for now..just for suspense. Ever since the success of The Legend of Sleeping Bear, many folks have made comments on how lucky we were to connect with Sleeping Bear Press and how fortunate Sleeping Bear Press is to have us. Other publishers can learn a valuable lesson from publisher, Brian Lewis and childrenís book editor, Heather Hughes and the entire staff. If you treat your writers and illustrators like commodities that is all you will get. If you treat them like a friend, you will have the loyalty of that friend forever. The mutual respect and caring we have for one another makes this dynamic duo work..afterall, have you ever heard of a dynamic one-o?
We had an excellent time at the Birds in Art exhibition at LeighYawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau this year. As always, it was my vacation and Gijsbert had a chance to reconnect with other artist friends. Adopted by an Owl will have itís own exhibition at the museum from November 2001 through January 2002. Labeled Gizmos, Gadgets and Flying Frogs, this exhibition will show our step-by-step process in the making of Adopted by an Owl, from beginning sketches and rough drafts to final originals and text. The web site is http://lywam.org/exhibitions.htm, then click onto current exhibitions. And speaking of a venue for childrenís book illustrators, the MAZZA event this summer was a blast. It felt like we were at a combination teacher conference/book signing with all the thrills and energy of a game show. The enthusiasm for all the presenters during our two days was incredible. The University of Findlay Ohio hosts childrenís book illustrators as they present to an onslaught of bubbling teachers and librarians. These folks are truly are biggest supporters. It was a new and enlightening experience for Gijsbert to hang out with other childrenís book illustrators. What a fun bunch of people. The grand opening of the new Schulers bookstore at the Okemos Meridian Mall in November was a hoot!(pun intended). Piggy-backing the unveiling of the 12 foot by 5-foot mural he did for the childrenís section of the store, we had our first "Owl" book signing in the area. It was amazing! Lots of oooohís and ahhhhís over the mural ..an enlarged painting taken from The Legend of Sleeping Bear and a seemingly endless line of people to have their books signed. Credit goes to Holly and Cheryl of Schulers Books for the evenings success. On display during the 2 hour signing was the "Legend" chair Gijsbert painted for WKARís spring auction. April 19-27, 2002. Customers wanted to bid on it right there and then.. Check it out on WKARís web site at wkar.org/auction. We will be hosting our annual Holiday Open House, Saturday and Sunday, December 8 and 9, 11am-7pm. After canceling last years show, this years event will be better than ever. It is a time we open Gijsbertís studio door to old and new friends. Prints, originals and books are available for purchase, food and drink will be in abundance and conversation is warm and festive. Please join us in celebrating the gathering of old and new friends.
Before you board the Shepler Express to visit Mackinac Island and all its historical sites, consider cruising the streets near Fort Michillimackinac first. Gijsbert designed all the new banners and painted all the larger than life images of colonial people lining the streets. These computer enlarged images are meant to intrigue tourists to enter the "other fort". He painted all the colonial men, women, Native Americans and soldiers about 12 inches tall, then Mackinaw Signs expertly digitized them to 10 feet tall. He is very pleased with the care they took in reproducing his original work to such a large format.
That just about does it. Enjoy the holidays. Stay well and stay happy. Use the holidays to reconnect with friends and family. Oh, and one more thing..... .
....remember what Ward Cleaver said to the Beaver, "Youíre never too old to do goofy stuff." Leave it to Beaver
Newsletter Issue No.10 June 2001
Farm, Family and Friends
It has been a year and a half since our last newsletter and many have asked what the heck is going on over there. Why no newsletter? No big mystery, weíve just been busy. Too busy to sit at the computer and plunk out the activities that have kept us hoppiní. Winter used to be catch up time for those little tasks. But not this past year. We have realized, though, that life is too short to get caught up in that bustling whirlwind and weíll be slowing the pace back down to "Hazel Ridge" time... unhurried and unruffled. We plan to reduce book signings and school visits to a more relaxed and enjoyable pace. Kelly is in high school, driving and enjoying her freshman year with very few bumps that often go with the middle school - high school transition. Heather has enjoyed the busy life of Senior year. She is looking forward to her independence as she begins a new chapter in her life attending Western Michigan University this fall. They are both wonderful young women. With the help of Becky Schwarz and Pat Stewart, who kept the kitchen and food running smoothly, her graduation openhouse was an absolute success. Heather appreciated family and friends stopping in to congratulate her and wish her well. And we enjoyed visiting with old and new friends. We are planning a real live family vacation this year. Our "vacations" have always piggy-backed art shows. Well, Big Apple here we come...via the car. We have tickets for the Lion King and plan a three day whirl wind visit/exploration of the city. The country mice are going to the city. With all the rain and snow we have had, the ponds are at their highest levels in 5 years. The farm now has itís third pond. Well, actually the term is "sediment trap". Every spring for the past several years, our "westerly" neighborís property has flooded due to collapsed and clogged drain fields. It has always been an ongoing patch job to keep it running..a band-aid on a flowing wound.(pun intended) Last year the county drain folks came out and created an open drain bed (the running creek we have always wanted) and a large pond for it to flow into. It attracts abundant wildlife, making our daily walks even more special. Plus we are 12 acres richer. The farm and 20 acres just east of us went up for sale and we were concerned it might be developed. Instead the landowner realized the importance of protecting itís natural state, selling us a portion and our new neighbors a portion. Weíve not only gained a beautiful piece of property but great neighbors who believe, as we do, that people need to be protectors and caretakers of the land. It is a beautiful piece of land with open fields, interspersed patches of evergreens and an old apple orchard. We are now in the process of creating a wet and dry prairie habitat on our new land. Gijsbert totally loves the new addition on his studio. With skylights and almost an entire northern wall with windows, the natural light is excellent to work in and the added space is a dream. It is a pleasure for him to go to work everyday.
PublicationsSince last I wrote, the book business has been booming. After the still going strong, Legend of Sleeping Bear and Mackinac Island, as well as The Blue Spruce, Gijsbert has released five new books. Continuing the Legend series, The Legend of the Loon was released spring of 2000, and The Legend of the Ladyís Slipper, written by Kathy-jo Wargin, came out this April. They are beautiful and he has continued the habit of hiding things in the books...especially the Loon, so look close. This past fall saw the release of The Legend of the Teddy Bear, the true tale of how the American Teddy Bear got itís name (through a notable bear incident with Teddy Roosevelt) and L is for Lincoln: An Illinois Alphabet Book. Our publisher has teamed up with Mackinac State Historic Parks to produce Gijsbertís first Michigan history picture book. A Place Called Home: Michiganís Mill Creek Story, written by well-known childrenís historical writer, Janie Lynn Panagoupolos, is the true story of a Scottish family remaining on the mainland near Fort Michilimackinac to start a lumber mill. The Campbellís mill furnished all the lumber to build Fort Mackinac, as well as homes, shops and churches. It is a glimpse into Mackinacís history that many people are unaware of. This joint effort was for the purpose of enlightening folks to Fort Michilimackinac and Mill Creek, the two other important historical sites in the Mackinaw area. Three more of his books have won important awards this year. The Legend of the Loon and The Legend of the Teddy Bear were chosen as recipients for the 2001 Childrenís Choice Award. Every year 10,000 school children from all over the United States read and vote on the childrenís books that they like best. The Childrenís Choice list is a joint project supported by the International Reading Association and The Childrenís Book Council. The Blue Spruce by Mario Cuomo received the National Arbor Day Award. We are honored by both of these awards. Our next project will be a family affair with the "Jackson" story. Several years ago I began writing a chapter book about our family Great Horned Owl, Jackson. I am now developing a spin-off for a childrenís picture book. Sleeping Bear Press has decided they want to put the picture book out first before the chapter book, so that will be our next priority. It looks like a Fall 2001 release. Gijsbert has continued to do school programs as his books remain popular with Michigan teachers. He travels throughout the state, from March through May, sharing with kids and teachers how drawing can be as simple as circles, squares and triangles. His program takes kids through a step-by-step process creating completed drawings. Usually the drawing comes right from one of his books. He loves sharing with students his philosophy he learned from his father.."make your hobby your career." The success of Gijsbertís school programs is a true tribute to his dad. July 23-27, Gijsbert will be a guest speaker for the 2001 Mazza Summer Institute at the University of Findlay, in Findlay, Ohio. The Mazza Institute is the first and largest teaching gallery specializing in original art of childrenís picture books. Their website is www.mazzacollection.org/ if you would like to check out the program. Click on the "special events" icon. Gijsbert can honestly say that each new book he paints is better than the last and he loves the freedom and growth his paintings have taken. This artistic freedom has flowed over to his other paintings. He experiments with bolder, more contrasting colors and loves the results. Our annual holiday show in December would be a great time to stop by the gallery and see what heís doing these days. It is scheduled for December 8 and 9, 2001.
Itís hard to believe Gijsbert has time to paint anything other than books but he thrives on variety and challenges, finding it very difficult to say no. The folks at Fort Michilimackinac and Fort Mackinac have kept him busy with projects. His newest project involved a new childrenís exhibit at Fort Mackinac called Kids Quarters- Hanginí with Harold. He combined his love for history ( his second favorite subject in school) with art, in one package. I donít know what he likes most, researching the project or painting it. For the Kids Quarters exhibit, opening this summer, he was asked to do what he so often did as a creative kid...make shadow boxes. But he didnít use shoe boxes this time. The Cappuccino Cafe can boast another showcase for Gijsbertís work. Besides their 3 successful coffee shops they now own a full menu restaurant specializing in French cuisine, varying itís menu each season. Thus the name - All Seasonís Bistro. Itís right next door to their Lake Lansing cafe. They commissioned Gijsbert to create ten paintings and one mural for the walls. Combined with the food, decor and atmosphere, his paintings truly give you the feeling of being in the south of France. Another mural he is excited about doing will be for the new Schuellerís Book store in the Meridian Mall in Okemos. The childrenís section of the store will exibit a permanent image from the Legend of Sleeping Bear. They plan on opening in the fall. The Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation has a fund raiser gala every year to raise money for the Henepin County Medical Center Childrenís Hospital supporting the Research, Education and Advocacy for Child Health (REACH), to improve the lives of children in the heart of the city. This year, selected childrenís book illustrators were asked to paint a papier-mâché face mask from the theme of one of their books. These masks will be auctioned silently and live at the October 27 gala, as well as on-line bidding. To view Gijsbertís Sleeping Bear mask, along with the other beautiful donations, click onto www.mmrf.org. then click onto events. They can be seen on-line after August 15th.
September 2000 was the 25th anniversary for Leigh Yawkey Woodsonís Birds in Art show in Wausau, Wi. ...and Gijsbert didnít get in. Bummer. The only reason I mention that he didnít get in, is to dispel all those ugly grumblings that once an artist has been selected ten to eleven times in a row insures an automatic acceptance into future exhibitions. It just ainít so. But he spent a week in Florida this March to take bird photos to create something for this years entry. Well, we will be traveling to Wausau this September but not with a Florida bird painting. They accepted a large ostrich painting entitled Somali Ostrich...from his Africa material. As a quasi-replacement for last years Birds in Art weekend, Gijsbert and I were treated to two nights in Mackinacís Grand Hotel. In exchange, he spent the morning with doctors and their spouses guiding them through the painting process. Everyone completed a painting of the panoramic view from the Grandís deck and enjoyed their new experience with paint and palette. August 11th will be our annual trek to Charlevoix for the Water Front Art Festival. It always proves to be a whirlwind day of sales on Saturday and a much needed "winding down" on Sunday at Hurandís Walloon Lake retreat.
This is the section I usually add items I donít quite know where else to stick, including my book recommendations. These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner is a thoroughly enjoyable and fast read. Great for a summer relaxing read. It is a fast paced historical prose that I couldnít put down. Our newsletter mailing list has tripled so we would like to save trees, postage and time by sharing our news with you on-line. If you like the tactile feeling of the hard copy and would like to continue receiving our Hazel Ridge News through the mail, please let us know, otherwise news of whatís happeniní will now be on-line. Call and leave a message - 517-641-6690 or e-mail us.
Thanks and have a great summer!