Williston illustrator paints for children

Nov. 18, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff
Amy Huntington

Amy Huntington said she once convinced the workers in Williston’s Public Works Department to put a snowplow on a municipal truck in the middle of the summer. An illustrator of children’s books, Huntington wanted to take photos for her artwork in “Grandma Drove the Snowplow,” a book released in September. When the public works employees learned she needed photos of plows, they dragged one out and put it on the truck.

“I put a thank you for them in the book,” Huntington said.

It wasn’t the first time that Huntington, a Williston resident, has used scenes from the town in her books. The book is author Katie Clark’s sequel to “Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck,” which has illustrations inspired by Williston buildings and events. In “Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck,” Huntington included scenes from Williston’s Fourth of July celebrations.

The image above, by Huntington, appears in ‘Moose Power! Muskeg Saves the Day.’

“Grandma Drove the Snowplow” tells the tale of Grandma clearing the streets when a blizzard hits town on the day of the Carol Sing.

Huntington said she often works from photographs when making her illustrations.

“If I don’t do that, I have houses that look the same, people that look the same,” she said.

“They’re joyful illustrations, and it’s fun to see that ‘Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck’ has illustrations of some of the buildings in Williston,” said Natacha Liuzzi, owner of Brown Dog Books & Gifts in Hinesburg.

On Saturday, Huntington will sign books at Brown Dog Books from 11 a.m. to noon. She’ll be joined by another Vermont illustrator, Liza Woodruff.

“She’s very friendly with the kids,” Liuzzi said of Huntington.

She noted that Brown Dog Books prominently displays Huntington’s works in the store’s Vermont Section, and said they’re popular with customers.

In addition to “Grandma Drove the Snowplow,” Huntington recently illustrated “Moose Power! Muskeg Saves the Day.” Both works were published by Down East Books. Written by Susan Williams Beckhorn, “Moose Power!” tells the story of an orphaned moose calf named Muskeg who lives on the farm of a retired lumberjack.

To illustrate the story, which takes place in the 1800s, Huntington said she researched old logging and farming equipment and learned where to put a harness on a horse.

“The moose is hard to render,” Huntington said. “In a way it’s really fun to paint …. You can give them pretty incredible expressions because their nose and mouth is so different.”

Huntington said it typically takes four or five months to illustrate a book. She starts by making thumbnail sketches, eventually working her way up to full-size sketches. Once she runs those past her publisher, she creates the final images using watercolors.

She’ll also show drafts of the books to children.

“I read that to kids, see what works and what doesn’t, based on the reactions I get from them,” Huntington said.

Huntington said she studied art in college, and used to show her watercolor paintings in galleries. Though she still does her own work not associated with children’s books, she no longer displays her art in galleries.

“It’s too much work to keep up with that and illustrations,” she said.

Huntington has also started working with oil paints.

As for the appeal of children’s books, Huntington said she likes “the challenges of finding ideas that kids are going to relate to.”

Williston illustrator Amy Huntington will sign books at Brown Dog Books in 11 a.m. on Nov. 20. Brown Dog Books & Gifts is located at 22 Commerce St. #3 in Hinesburg. For more information, call 482-5189.