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Airlie Anderson

I grew up in Carmel, California. It is a beach town, but not the hot kind with boardwalks and inner tubes. Carmel is the cold, crisp kind of beach town with a deep blue abyss and green-black cypress trees. The sand is white and squeaks when you walk on it, and you can hear sea lions and seals and crows. The surf culture is strong, even though the ocean can be icy cold. I treasure that post-swim feeling of tingly saltiness. I think it's why I love oysters.

My mom would read Serendipity to me, and I loved all those Steven Cosgrove books. I wondered how could anyone draw something as shiny and soft as the unicorn in Morgan Mine? I would ask my mom to draw Serendipity - copy it exactly - from the cover. She could do it so well! I would try, but my lines were wobbly and it just didn't turn out right. Mom said it was just because she had a lot of practice holding pens and drawing. I would be able to do it someday too. I think I asked my mom to copy the Serendipity cover at least ten times. Other all-time favorite picture books were Turtle Tale by Frank Asch, The Long Dive by Mr and Mrs Smith, and of course all the Maurice Sendak things.

My dad would work on a single portrait of me, right before I went to sleep. It was on a sheet of pale blue paper, with a pencil. He would read Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind aloud at bedtime. It seemed like such a thick book; a real epic. It took many nights to finish it, and that was part of what I loved about it. That led to several favourites that I read myself, like Roald Dahl's Danny Champion of the World and The Chronicles of Narnia.

At our house, my little sisters and I shared The Craft Box, which was wooden and used to house a Jeroboam from my dad's winery. It contained probably the whole line of Crayola products at the time. We had unlimited paper, also from the winery. On one side was some kind of dot matrix print-out, so we used the blank side and had about a ten-year supply. Other favorite media from that time were Play-Doh, Fimo, Puff Paint, and at special times, my grandma's acrylic paints on tiny canvases. I liked stapling together my own illustrated stories and spent a lot of time trying to copy Disney characters perfectly. The head of Bambi was almost impossible!

Craft time at school was, of course, my favourite time. In high school I found that I didn't want to leave Ms Chic's Art Room, with its still lives and closet full of unlimited art supplies, including the exotic Gouache. I was accepted to Rhode Island School of Design. Off to Providence!

After approximately a zillion figure drawings and studies in oil, a study abroad programme in Rome, stints in San Francisco and New York City, I have my own little studio near Princeton. Around here you can see fireflies, rabbits, deer and woodchucks all at once!

See books by Airlie

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