by Marilyn Maple, Ph.D.
Family, Friends Help Illustrator Tackle Story of a Dying Child
How do you show death as part of life? With a lot of help from your friends.
When Sandy Haight was hired by Parenting Press to illustrate On the Wings of a Butterfly, talking about death, especially the death of a child, was a difficult topic.
Rather than borrow someone else's child to model for the book's water color illustrations, Haight used her own daughter Shayla. She was delighted to be featured in a book, especially when she received part of her mother's advance as a modeling fee. Shayla, then 10, also created the children's drawings suggested by book author Marilyn Maple.
Friends were equally supportive: neighbors posed as the main character's parents and even lent their home as the background for the book's pictures. Staff members at Seattle's nearby Children's Hospital and Medical Center posed for the photographs on which Haight based her paintings of doctors and nurses. And a friend biking hundreds of miles away in eastern Washington interrupted her trip to find the milkweed plant Haight needed as a reference for the caterpillar's home.
This encouragement and interest in On the Wings of a Butterfly helped Haight with her goal of sensitively depicting a very emotional experience as a beautiful part of life.
"This is a very powerful concept—you don't expect to find death scenes in a children's book," she notes. "But, of course, this isn't an ordinary children's book."
On the Wings of a Butterfly is different from Haight's other illustration projects for children—and even more of a departure from her other work. Just as Maple did children's films in the 1970s, Haight created cartoons for educational film strips early in her career. More recently, she's created artwork for dozens of educational CDs, cassettes and workbooks. Her very first publishing venture, however, was the self-published Busy People's Naturally Nutritious, Decidedly Delicious Fast Foodbook.
"We told people that if they had time to read the book's title, they had time to make almost any of the recipes," she chuckles. As the maxim goes, the whimsically illustrated hippie-era health-food guide was the right product at the right time—and even more so was the followup cookbook called Tofu Goes West. But eventually Haight decided she'd rather focus on drawing; one cookbook was sold to a New York publisher and the other was taken over by Haight's business partner.
Today she focuses on more stylized illustration (see www.sandyhaight.com), for clients that range from American Express and Macy's to Carnival Cruises and the Wall Street Journal. She uses a calligraphic brush-and-ink style of drawing with water color. A graduate of the University of Colorado's B.F.A. program, she has taught high-school painting workshops and occasionally lectures on careers in illustration at Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts and nearby community colleges. Haight's work has been included in Northwest illustrator shows at Seattle's Frye Art Museum and local college galleries.
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