Collicott, Sharleen 1937-(Sharleen Pederson)
COLLICOTT, Sharleen 1937-(Sharleen Pederson)
CAREER: Writer, illustrator, ceramist, sculptor, and educator. Duntog Foundation, artist-in-residence, 1983; Otis/Parson Design Institute, teacher, 1983; California State University, Long Beach, teacher, 1983-84. National Endowment for the Arts, panelist, 1985; affiliated with India Ink Galleries, 1985-86, and Every Picture Tells a Story (art gallery), 1991-95. Has also worked on special effects for motion pictures. Exhibitions: Exhibitor at galleries in Los Angeles, CA, including India Ink Gallery, 1983; Los Angeles City College, 1984; Every Picture Tells a Story, 1991, 1994; and Storyopolis, 1997.
AWARDS, HONORS: Society of Illustrators, Los Angeles awards; Art Directors Club of Los Angeles awards; Advertising Age awards.
FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Seeing Stars, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.
Mildred and Sam, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Toestomper and the Caterpillars, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.
Toestomper and the Bad Butterflies, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
(As Sharleen Pederson) Michael Hallward, The Enormous Leap of Alphonse Frog, Nash Publishing (Los Angeles, CA), 1972.
(As Sharleen Pederson) Suzanne Klein, An Elephant in My Bed, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1974.
Mouse, Frog, and Little Hen, DLM, 1990.
Sharon Lucky, The Three Dinosaurs Dreadly, DLM, 1991.
Karen Radler Greenfield, The Teardrop Baby, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 1994.
Laura Joffe Numeroff, The Chicken Sisters, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 1997.
Judith Barrett, Which Witch Is Which? Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
Also contributor of illustrations to Elementary Math Series, Addison-Wesley, Frickles and Frackles, DLM, and Pattern Palace, DLM. Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including Psychology Today, Westways, National Wildlife Federation, Human Behavior, Lady Bug, and Ranger Rick.
SIDELIGHTS: Highly regarded illustrator Sharleen Collicott has been creating picture-book images since the early 1970s. After working for over twenty years teaching, illustrating the work of children's book authors, and exhibiting her paintings sculpture, and ceramics at art galleries, Collicott decided to expand her creative talents even further. In 1996 she published Seeing Stars, the first of her works containing both original art and text. Her pictures—colorful, detailed paintings that range from intimate views to double-page spreads—characteristically feature fantastic animals and have been compared to such artists as Hieronymous Bosch for their imaginative quality and attention to detail.
Born in 1937, Collicott enjoyed drawing even as a child, and animals were among her favorite subjects. She graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1969 with a degree in sculpture, then went to live in England for several years, where she worked on special effects for motion pictures. Although ceramics and welded steel were originally her artistic media of choice, she began to draw seriously during her stay in England when, because of rainy weather, she spent many days indoors at the London Zoo. In an interview with Marv Rubin in Communication Arts, Collicott explained that being at the zoo "put me much closer to the animals than I had ever been. That inspired me to try sketching in my notebook, and to discover how much I enjoyed it." Attending a centennial exhibit of nineteenth-century British illustrator Beatrix Potter's work convinced her "that drawing the things I imagined was indeed legitimate." After filling the pages of her notebook, she showed them to others, including director Stanley Kubrick, for whom she was sculpting alien creatures for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although Collicott's aliens were ultimately cut from the film, Kubrick encouraged her to add background to her animal sketches for exhibition or publication. She took his advice and has been illustrating ever since. "When I paint now," she told Rubin, "I'm revealing something from my imagination as realistically as possible."
Collicott began her new career as a professional artist by illustrating advertising copy, magazine articles, educational material, and record covers. One of her most recognizable works was the first wide-screen version of the "Columbia Lady," the image of a woman holding a torch that is featured at the beginning of movies produced by Columbia Pictures. Collicott has also taught art at the university level, served as an artist-in-residence in the Philippines, and formed affiliations with several Los Angeles art galleries. However, by the early 1990s she had decided to focus her efforts on illustrating and writing picture books.
Many of Collicott's initial book illustrations were done for educational publications, such as the easy-readers An Elephant in My Bed and Mouse, Frog, and Hen. The first children's picture book she contributed to was Karen Greenfield's The Teardrop Baby, published in 1994. In this original fairy tale, a childless couple meet a magical woman who creates a child for them from their tears. When the boy is seven, the old woman comes back to claim him and makes him her servant; after tricking the woman with a fortune baked into a loaf of bread, the boy returns to his parents. "Collicott's illustrations, with many-eyed flowers and a deliciously scary depiction of the edge of the world, realize and enhance Greenfield's cryptic tale," declared a contributor to Publishers Weekly. In a review for School Library Journal, Lisa Dennis called The Teardrop Baby an "unusual picture book" and noted that the illustrations "suit the fairy-tale flavor of the story." Collicott's "decision to paint eyes on the flowers creates a distinctly creepy atmosphere," concluded Dennis.
Collicott's 1996 work Seeing Stars marked her debut as a children's book author. The story describes how two small animals, Motley and Fuzzball, build a makeshift spaceship out of parts found in a junkyard in an attempt to reach the stars in outer space. Through Collicott's illustrations, the reader knows exactly where the ship lands: in the ocean. However, the befuddled pair thinks they are in space and that the starfish are actually stars. Writing in School Library Journal, Jane Marino noted that "younger readers may forgive the lapses in the story to enjoy the beautiful illustrations and may even sympathize with these two wayward passengers." A Publishers Weekly reviewer found Seeing Stars "impressive for its eye-catching visuals," and noted that Collicott "adroitly pulls off the kid-pleasing contrivance" of letting young readers in on a secret of which her characters are unaware.
As is characteristic in Collicott's books, animals take center stage in Mildred and Sam, the author/illustrator's 2002 easy-read chapter book. Mildred and Sam are fieldmice who make their home under a patch of daffodils, but the overwrought homemaker Mildred despairs of their tiny home ever being big enough for company. Although at first Sam is totally in the dark as to what his anxious mousewife means, he eventually understands when a litter of eight tiny mouse babies makes its appearance. "A well-balanced narrative with plenty of judiciously repeated phrases" make Mildred and Sam "a fine choice for beginning readers," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor, who also praised Collicott's "fetching graphics." Praising the book's "whimsical" illustrations, a Kirkus reviewer wrote that the book's "fanciful themes and vibrant illustrations make this an enjoyable romp to share as a read-aloud."
Collicott's self-authored Toestomper and the Caterpillars and its sequel, Toestomper and the Bad Butterflies, feature a trio of bad-mannered rodents—Barfy, Basher, and Nightmare—who call themselves the Rowdy Ruffians and whose leader, the bullying Toestomper, suffers a change of heart when faced by small animals in peril. Actually, the peril in Toestomper in the Caterpillars is Toestomper himself; the uncouth rat crushes the bush a caterpillar family calls home before pangs of conscience kick in and he makes the homeless insects his friends. While a Publishers Weekly reviewer found the book's storyline "mediocre," the reviewer went on to dub Collicott's illustrations "cuddly" and the Rowdy Ruffians' behavior "funny."
In addition to illustrating her own texts, Collicott has continued to contribute highly praised illustrations to books by other authors. Among these are Laura Joffe Numeroff's 1997 work The Chicken Sisters, which features three sister hens whose hobbies—baking, knitting, and singing—annoy a neighboring wolf because of the talent (or lack thereof) of their practitioners. The story "comes brilliantly alive in Collicott's pictures," declared Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper, who added that the artist's work "is chock-full and pretty darn adorable." In School Library Journal Jane Marino commented that the illustrations for The Chicken Sisters "reinforce the text, giving personality to the feathered siblings," while a Publishers Weekly contributor predicted that toddlers would enjoy "the bright colors in Collicott's intricately detailed art." Collicott's contribution to Judith Barrett's Which Witch Is Which? were hailed by Booklist contributor Connie Fletcher as "eye-popping gouache paintings [that] deliver just the right kind of creepy-crawly landscapes" for Barrett's rhyming wordplay.
Collicott works from her artist's studio in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she has lived for several years. Although when she began illustrating she used colored pencils, she has since expanded her medium to include water colors, egg tempera—a blend of ground pigment powder and egg yolk made using recipes and techniques dating from the Middle Ages—and gouache, an opaque form of water color. In her interview with Marv Rubin in Communication Arts, she explained that in individual illustrations every area is "equally important. I don't like empty areas or unimportant areas." Collicott spends almost as much time preparing for an illustration as she does painting it. "I plan the pictures and their 'stories' carefully," she explained to Rubin. "I 'cast' all the characters before I begin. I do research on them and on their settings. I know all about them."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Artist, October, 1994.
Booklist, May 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of The Chicken Sisters, p. 1497; November 1, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of Which Witch Is Which?, p. 480.
Communication Arts, January-February, 1983, Marv Rubin, "Sharleen Pederson," pp. 66-70.
Crayola Kids, June-July, 1998.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, review of The Chicken Sisters; September 14, 1999, review of Toestomper and the Caterpillars, p. 1498; November 15, 2002, review of Mildred and Sam, p. 1689.
Publishers Weekly, August 15, 1994, review of The Teardrop Baby, p. 95; April 29, 1996, review of Seeing Stars, p. 70; April 7, 1997, review of The Chicken Sisters, p. 90; September 27, 1999, review of Toestomper and the Caterpillar, p. 104; December 23, 2002, review of Mildred and Sam, p. 68.
School Library Journal, September, 1994, Lisa Dennis, review of The Teardrop Baby, p. 184; April, 1996, Jane Marino, review of Seeing Stars, p. 105; May, 1997, J. Marino, review of The Chicken Sisters, p. 109.
Today's Art, Volume 27, number 8.
Collicott, Sharleen, interview in promotional piece, DLM Publishing.*