Telluride Gallery of Fine Art: de Sainte Marie featured in illustrators' show

Telluride Gallery of Fine Art: de Sainte Marie featured in illustrators' show


A little stork is an avatar for Jeanne B. de Sainte Marie, one of 10 author/illustrators whose magical images will be on display at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art starting July 28 in a show entitled “From Beasts to Babar: Ten Children’s Illustrators.”

La cigogne de Noël (The Christmas Stork, Editions du Bastberg, France 2000) is the tale of a stork that decides not to fly south with his peers. He wants to see snow. But how will he eat and stay warm? Through his trials and triumphs, Little Stork learns the rewards of following a dream.

Just like Jeanne.

Growing up, Jeanne’s brothers and sister teased her for sitting and staring out of windows, daydreaming of “magic places and treasure boxes, flying with birds and strolling on castle grounds.” Later, Jeanne found her wings and traveled to Europe and North Africa, studying fine art and textile design at the University of Michigan and at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, ultimately developing a career in freelance illustration and design: CD covers, posters, periodicals. Eventually she created her own books, perhaps to fuel another child’s dreams: The Christmas Stork and Yan Yan, le premier panda noir et blanc (Yan Yan, The First Black And White Panda), which answers the burning question about how pandas became black and white.

Because Jeanne lives mostly in France, we conducted our interview via email.

Q & A:

SV: Jeanne, did you retreat into a dream world as a refuge from your brothers and sister, or was something else going on early in your life?

Jeanne: Ha! Are you trying to get me into trouble with my brothers and sister, Susan? Seriously, I was staring out of windows because I was an introverted child with a creative mind. Now I am less introverted, but I still enjoy being alone in creative pursuits at my drawing table or out on site with my watercolors.

SV: What were the books that fueled your dreams?

Jeanne: Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” Beatrix Potter books, “The Wind in the Willows,” “Ann of Green Gables” are the first that come to my mind. I could name many more. I loved the stories and the pictures. My parents gave me ‘how-to’ books about drawing and painting that set me on the path to becoming an illustrator: I learned watercolor painting by copying from a Walter Foster book. Today the picture book for young children is my favorite type of book to create.

SV: How does your experience as an automotive designer influence your current work?

Jeanne: I designed and/or selected color and materials for cars. Back then, I dealt with color and pattern, and this is part of an illustrator’s work as well. I love colors and I see patterns everywhere I go! Lately, I’ve been drawing bees and I am struck by how much bee antennae resemble windshield wipers. In the automotive industry, I had to work in a team to bring a product to life, which is then marketed. Although the writing and illustrating of a book are done in the solitude of creation, there is another phase where I interact with an editor, an art director and the publisher. The production of a book is a team effort too. I have my ‘introverted’ phases and my ‘extroverted’ phases in the process. This suits me well.

SV: What made you want to create your own books? What are your current book projects?

Jeanne: The desire was probably bubbling up inside me from the moment I was born. The possibility didn’t dawn on me until much later, though. When our two sons were born, I bought them picture books. I relished poring over all the books I found. I read to the boys or told them my own stories. One day I came across a hand-made book, which I created when I was 12 for a school art project. It was my own illustrated version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, entitled “Travel”. A light bulb flashed inside my head: I could do this! 

Currently, I have several projects in the works. I am doing the illustration and animation for an iPad children’s book app. I just spent a day animating a peony, petal-by-petal! It is a collection of poems by American author, Orel Protopopescu. We are working with an up-and-coming French developer. It is too early to tell you more, but I’d be happy to when we launch the app. One of my projects is about a Parisian mouse who flies way up above the rooftops of the city, on the back of her pigeon friend. Another story takes place in the Middle Ages. I loved doing the research for this, especially looking at original illuminated manuscripts at the national library in Paris. I have a story about the friendship between a penguin and a stork (a different stork). The idea came to me when a class of pre-school children sent me a drawing after their teacher read them La cigogne de Noël. The school was on Stork Street in a small Alsatian town. And I’m working on a project about a family of mountain goats. While in Telluride this summer, I hope to see some for my research. Can anyone in Telluride introduce me to a family of mountain goats? Holler out and let me know!

Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my work, Susan.

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