So, now that I’m more or less a grownup, I’m more or less a bookmaker. I’ve been illustrating children’s books (and other stuff for children) full-time since 1996. My very first book, Celtic Designs, was published when I was 21, and it’s now in its seventh printing! I’ve illustrated over a hundred books — a whole bunch of early readers, a number of board books for very small people, and a nice little clump of picturebooks. Some of my favorites are Lewis the Librarian, and The Shelf Elf and The Shelf Elf Helps Out! My newest books are a series about a little boy and his toy monkey — the Rufus and Ryan series.
I really like to draw fairies and dragons and strange little creatures, but I also draw a lot of regular kids doing normal things like going on field trips. When I can get away with it, I like to stick little weird things into my pictures, even the normal ones. Check out my “What I Drew in Church This Week” blog for some of my random drawings. For more fairies, visit my “A Fairy Painting A Day” blog.
I grew up in a sweet little town hugged by the mountains in western Pennsylvania, called Hollidaysburg. (Home of the Slinky, in case you didn’t know.) My sister and I were famous as Serious Readers: teachers were always stopping us in the hallway to recommend some new series of books (“Already read ’em,” we’d sigh.) I’m pretty sure we read every single book in the children’s section of the library. When I wasn’t reading, I was drawing: little mice dressed up in quaint outfits, trees with faces and twiggy fingers, dancing bugs — usually in soft, thick pencil on spongy yellow lined tablet paper. I studied fine art at Bryn Mawr College. In a tiny studio with a little arched green door, I created etchings with zinc plates, but of course the subject matter was pretty much the same. After graduating I went to work for Hallmark Cards, but my particular job didn’t allow me to do any artwork — this turned out to be Not Much Fun — so I soon left the lovely Land of the Greeting Card. Then there was a bizarre (but fairly brief) career swerve — I went to the extremely intense Wharton School of Business for an MBA degree, and worked for a while in advertising as a business-type person. But I kept on drawing — goblins appeared on marketing reports and dancing carrots on spreadsheets. The arrival of a baby inspired me to paint a wacky rabbit-filled world on her nursery walls –my favorite scene was “Imperative Park” which featured little signs saying “Walk,” “Sit,” “Eat,” “Smell” (the flowers.) On seeing this room, my ol’ college pal, the wise and also world famous illustrator R.W. Alley, ventured the opinion that it looked as if I might want to be doing some illustrating instead of writing marketing strategies. He was right, of course. So it was back to silly pictures for me. Since then, I’ve been living happily ever after!
I live in a pleasantly spooky Victorian house in the charming Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia — with my very cool husband David (who is a public policy/government type by day, but guitar man by night), and two silly barky dogs named Rory and Zero. (I also have two weird and wonderful daughters — Blair the writer and Alice the artist. I have a terrific studio up on the third floor, just filled with books and pictures and funny little objects. (I believe in the creative power of clutter.) I love stuff that floats in the air, so the studio has five or six homemade mobiles, plus a rubber skeleton, a giant trout, and a dragon with flapping wings, all hanging from the ceiling. I also have a real thing about clocks — right now I have about fifteen, mostly homemade, mostly on-time, ticking away around the studio. (One of these days, I’m gonna add a page here on How to Make Clocks (More Fun than Functional) All by Yourself — so do stay tuned.)
I love to sing as much as I love to read and draw. I study classical music in a Very Serious Way with my extremely talented teacher Gayle Wieand, and I sing with Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, a distinguished symphonic chorus, and also with my quite wonderful church choir at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. I also sing with a band called Reckless Amateurs! We play music that some people call “alt country” and others call American “roots” music — whatever it is, it’s a whole lot of fun, and we would love to play at your next party…
My new musical adventure is trying to learn to play the violin (okay, it’s really the fiddle). My teacher Hollis is terrific, an amazing musician, and extremely patient. The dogs love to listen to me practice…
And finally, if you’re looking for more stuff with which to decorate your life, consider stuff that has my art on it. (What a great idea!) I have a little on-line shop (as does most every other artist on the planet) where you will find Totally Essential Items You Already Have Way Too Many Of , like…oh, coffee mugs and t-shirts and bags and things. But these particular items happen to be Unique and eminently Collectible and Status-Building, you see, because these items have my pictures on them somewhere. And let’s just say right here that nobody else you know will have things like THAT. So, if you’re feeling acquisitive, I encourage you to work through the feeling here: www.cafeshops.com/rthornburgh. (I particularly recommend the clocks, but of course that’s because I have that slight obsession I mentioned earlier…)
And that is enough about me. Way enough.