Fabulous Furry Friday ‘bears’ tribute…

…to some of my guiding lights of writing and illustrating for children.

You know how sometimes someone plants a little seed of an idea in your head, and for a while you don’t notice that it’s growing. Say for maybe, for example, 20 years or so, and then one day, it just springs forth with a great big duh!?

My friend, writer and teacher, Deb Lund and her husband Karl Olsen used to house sit for my landlords, when Deb and Karl first moved to Whidbey Island. I got to know them and they came to know and admire my artwork.  One day Deb said, “You know, you would be really good at illustrating children’s books.”  I said something like, “yeah, yeah, in my spare time,” because I was kind of on a fine art mission, and I didn’t want to get distracted.

So, fast forward 20 years and one day, after I had been panda-ing around with my cartoons for a year or so, it popped into my head that It.  Was.  Time, and so I called Deb up and said, “It’s time!!! NOW what do I do????” Deb pointed me in the direction of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)  and I went to a conference, started paying attention, took a class with Deb, and soon Pandamorphosis started on it’s long journey.

pandamorphosis illustration

Don’t you just hate it when your refrigerator is infested by…pandas? Especially when you need a snack for a long journey!

There are some other big influences in my trip to writing and illustrating for children, but they are people I have never met.  (OK, one of them signed the book I bought, but that doesn’t really count.)  The author/illustrators I consider to be my primary guiding lights are Chris Van Allsburg, and David Wiesner. They create art and stories that inspire me.  The paintings they create for their books are brilliant in their own right, and when put in service of whatever tale they are telling, pure magic happens.

When I was making the rounds of publishers and agents with Pandamorphosis, one agent who turned me down commented, “don’t you think the artwork is too good for children’s books?

‘Scuse me?
I don’t think that’s possible.

So I will try, to do my duty, to art and illustration, to aspire to the quality of art and the rich and quirky story telling, of my heroes.

And here is a Fabulous Furry Friday Funny, cause, like, I did NOT forget!

And just how did the panda kindergarten get her address?

And just how did the panda kindergarten get her address?

inside Bob's Brain

What’s that stuff getting all over my paws? Oh…it’s frosting!


Be the Bear,
Bob T. Panda


10 thoughts on “Fabulous Furry Friday ‘bears’ tribute…

  1. Ann feldman

    Maybe I’m missing something, but why do so many artists disdain illustration? Especially of children’s literature? The agent’s comment shows he has not really examined children’s literature.

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      I blush to admit that in art school, as a painting student, I was as arrogant about illustration as the rest of the department. Bug dope slap delivered all these years later. One of the worst things I did to myself by not taking any classes in the illustration department was not getting to study with some amazing artists. Dope slap applied again. Now that realism in painting is in disregard again (I know! I know!) I have no qualms about going whole hog as an illustrator as well.

      It’s just a snob thing that I am glad to have gotten over.

  2. cordeliasmom2012

    What a great compliment – “your art work is too good.” I’ve been telling you that right along (well, anyway at least since I’ve known you) – your art work is too good not to share with everyone, young and old! I personally can’t wait for Pandamorphosis to arrive. Almost makes me wish I had grandkids to share it with.

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Aw, thanks C’sM. I actually took the comment as a compliment, not to mention that it made it clear this was not the agent for me. Last year I had the epiphany that “the next big thing is not going to come from following the ‘trends’ ” and then went to a lecture by Chris Van Allsburg, where he says that he writes and draws for himself, that he doesn’t ‘focus group’ test his ideas. If he is excited by an idea, that is good enough for him.

  3. Nancy

    What a ridiculous idea that art should be “too good” for children’s books! (Says the librarian who was formerly a children’s librarian.)

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      I know, and this was an agent for picture books. I can understand some dilemma, after all, advances for PB’s are notoriously small, and I can see an agent thinking: gee, this took her three years? yikes! low grossing client, but I think that attitude underestimates the ability of children to understand and enjoy complex artwork.

  4. Vicky V

    Some of my fondest memories as a child are of sitting in a library reading beautifully illustrated books. The illustrations would send me to other worlds. How sad that an agent thinks your brilliant work is too good for children!
    BUT – what a compliment for you 🙂
    Thank you for doing the work you do. When I look at Pandamorphosis I am transported to a world filled with cheeky pandas and a heartwarming cat. I cannot wait to have Pandamorphosis in my eager hands!! Until then I will enjoy the images you share from the book.
    I’ll also continue to enjoy playing in the world of the Panda Chronicles – especially now that Pinky & Co are part of the Panda Kindergarten:)

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Thanks for that. I just don’t know where that agent was coming from. Taste is a personal matter, of course, but I agree…my favorite books as a child had lots to look at and discover in complex, beautiful illustrations. From a pure economic view point I can see wheels turning…”my commission for one book every 2 or 3 years, versus 4-6 books a year” I get it, I just have a different viewpoint.


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