january 2015 | by michael warner
Not a phrase you hear very often as an illustrator. Especially coming from a client that you’ve met a grand total of 1 time and who has never seen your artwork. Most people might think it would be liberating. Not me. Usually this statement is followed up at a later date with one of many dreaded statements: "I didn’t think it would look like that," "Why did you choose that style?" or the always popular "Huh."
But obviously I did something right in a previous life, because when David, a teacher at Pleasant Valley School outside of Portland told me, "Do whatever you think looks good" he meant it. From rough sketches to final art, everything went smoother than I could have ever imagined. Which is great for many reasons. Not only because I wanted my illustrations to accomplish their goal, but because I personally like what the Pleasant Valley School is doing with the Wildside, and loved being a small part of it.
Let me explain. Pleasant Valley School took 8 acres of mainly blackberry bushes and scrub brush, and transformed them into a beautiful burgeoning forest. Schoolchildren tore the place up and started from scratch. Ground that was once covered with mostly invasive species is now the home to thousands of native trees planted by the students themselves. What was an area devoid of biodiversity now teems with varied wildlife. Garter snakes take shelter under tin and wood frames made for them by the students. Hawks and owls sit atop school-made perches looking for the unwary mouse, vole, or snake. Deer wander in to bed down or eat from one of the fruit trees. Even coyotes wander in to take advantage of this tiny island created in the midst of a neighborhood.
The children of the school worked very hard to make the Wildside into the forest it is today. Along the way, they learned why they were doing it, and what made it so special. I’m just hoping that if I come back in 10 years my panels will have helped everyone else understand also.