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Young Artist Set to Illustrate Children’s Book Series

The writer and the artist (l-r): Terri Sabol and Anna Edwards. (Photo - Bret Brogoitti)

The writer and the artist (l-r): Terri Sabol and Anna Edwards. (Photo – Bret Brogoitti)

By Mara Soloway

Anna Edwards feels she has made the right decision to pursue an art degree at the University of Texas at Austin this coming August instead of something that might be more financially lucrative. “I realized I should do something I love,” said the senior at Fort Bend Christian Academy, who turns 18 in May.

“It took me a while to decide because earlier on people told me not to be an artist because I couldn’t make a living. Once I decided I wanted to pursue art, it really changed things for me; I feel pretty confident in this decision.”

Anna has always loved to draw. Part of what helped cement her career decision was winning acknowledgements for her work, including second place in her division for the colored pencil drawing she submitted in the 2017 Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) art competition, a previous honorable mention at TAPPS and two first place medals at the Fort Bend County Fair. She also won “Best of Show” at The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which resulted in the work being auctioned for a scholarship award.

In 2016, she added the title of book illustrator to her credits. Rescued kittens Oscar and Emmy come alive for readers of Oscar and Emmy Get Rescued through Anna’s colored pencil drawings of when they were found as strays through being adopted by local author Terri Sabol and her family. Terri plans to create eight books about Oscar and Emmy. “I have a lot of stories to tell, having gotten the kittens in December 2015,” she said.

The sweet and detailed story told in rhyme has 29 full-page illustrations and some smaller ones on the title and dedication pages. Many scenes are depicted, including the kittens being found, being checked by a vet and finding their forever home with Terri.

Terri had known Anna for several years as the friend of her neighbor’s daughter. Anna had even met Oscar and Emmy in December 2015 when Terri first brought them home from the animal shelter. In January 2016, Terri got the idea to tell Oscar and Emmy’s story and started looking online for illustrators. When Terri told the neighbors where she was in the process, they asked her, “Did you know Anna can draw?” Terri was slightly skeptical that a then-16-year-old would be accomplished enough to illustrate a book, but when the neighbors showed her a drawing Anna had made of their dog as a Christmas gift, Terri was amazed.

“My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw how well Anna drew this pet, with incredible details of every piece of fur. Soon after, we met to discuss the book, and she was interested in illustrating it. In April, she did a sample page from a picture of Oscar and Emmy, and I was so blown away by it that I declined to pursue any other illustrators in favor of Anna,” Terri said. “She really captured my cats’ personalities. What she drew on the sample page was what I had imagined it to look like inside my head. It was perfect.”

Anna is a lifelong cat lover and illustrated Oscar and Emmy Get Rescued in loving memory of family pets Callie and George and in honor of their current cat, Henry. “I love the temperament of cats,” she said. “My family has owned cats my whole life so I am accustomed to having them around. It helped me that I know cats’ positions.”

Work on the book started under contract in the beginning of May 2016. For each page of the story, Terri presented Anna with her own photos of the kittens, including ones of the shelter, and some generic Google images to give Anna ideas. “I gave her a guide to what I wanted. Anna used her own imagination, changing colors or positions and adding elements of her own,” Terri said. “That was one of my favorite parts and why I self-published the book – getting to collaborate with my illustrator.”

The process was that Anna would present Terri with a sketch, then she would incorporate Terri’s comments in a color rough, which has more detail and more color to give Terri a better visual idea of the illustration. After further discussion back and forth, Anna created the final version of the illustration.

When Anna was finished in November, Terri worked with a book designer and it was printed in December. They are at work on the second book, Oscar and Emmy’s Week Before Christmas, which details the holiday adventures of the two cats, such as visiting Santa in the mall. Anna should be finished with the illustrations before she leaves for college in August, and the book will be published in time for the Christmas season.

Anna has attended FBCA since eighth grade. She calls her current art teacher, Lakita Costner, her biggest mentor who inspired her to think outside the box in terms of art. Lakita also was instrumental in helping Anna get through the college application process. “She gave me a lot of advice on college and she researched scholarships and helped me decide which I should apply to. Ms. Costner looked into art programs for me – it was really nice to have someone do that,” she said.

The art teacher also thinks highly of her student’s abilities.

“Annalise is naturally talented; her drawing skills comes from within. She is very good at drawing from observation and being able to mimic the color from photographs,” Lakita said. “Being a professional artist, I have seen a lot of art, and her style of using colored pencils is very unique. She gravitates to drawing people and animals. She produces quality work with determination and focus.”

Terri agreed, having personal experience with Anna being able to handle the responsibility of book illustration.

“Anna is a pro despite the distractions of being a teenager, school and a part-time job. The most important thing is we kept in constant contact. And she kept up her grades the whole time. She’s so talented. I hope to continue collaborating with her during her college career.”

Knowing that other students are probably hearing the same message that she did about not pursuing art as a profession, the young artist advises them to evaluate their priorities. “If making a ton of money is what you want in life, go after a field that is going to provide that for you,” Anna said. “But if you want to do what makes you happy and makes you get out of bed in the morning, then you should definitely pursue your passion.”

Oscar and Emmy Get Rescued is available for purchase on Amazon. A portion of the sale proceeds are given to private animal rescue groups. Oscar and Emmy’s Week Before Christmas should be available in October.

© photo - Terri Sabol

© photo – Terri Sabol

© photo - Terri Sabol

© photo – Terri Sabol

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