Joining the team at the 2018 Tunbridge World’s Fair

Teamwork is everything in my business of creating picture books. The author/illustrator team, the author/editor team, the illustrator/art director team, all of the above, plus the marketing team, bookstores, librarians, teachers, parents, grandparents–ALL of us are on the same team–to get good books into the hands of children.

So imagine my pleasure when I was asked by Robert Howe, Tunbridge Fair’s postermeister, to join his team and design the official poster for 2018. The theme is Celebrating Working Teams.

Of course the word Team can mean something different at the fair, but I still took it as a good omen.

The 1st time I went to the Tunbridge World’s Fair was with my parents, back in the early 1970s. We camped at a friend’s farm in nearby Chelsea and drove over to the fair, always held the 1st weekend after Labor Day. In those days there were still girlie shows at this and other Vermont Country fairs.


The Tunbridge World’s Fair was, and still is, a genuine agricultural experience, set in a lovely, narrow river valley.

Tunbridge2015 copy

There are horses, cattle and sheep, pigs, chickens, goats and rabbits proudly on display.  There is a midway with rides and game booths, and all the greasy, sweet fair food you could want.

Nowadays, I go to draw the animals and the people.

Gabby and the Girls

So it was no surprise that the poster I chose to design featured both.


I was lucky to be given excellent reference photos by two fair photographers: Nancy Cassidy and Mark Dixon. Drawing from elements of these and my own research material, I created a rough sketch.


Photo by Nancy Cassidy


photo by Nancy Cassidy


photo by Mark Dixon


Once I had a B&W linoleum print,  I painted it with gouache, layered a little painted carousel onto the girl’s tee, and added text in Photoshop.MGRTYPEgaptooth_1

I began by trying to match this old-timey font, found in the background of a photo, as my poster display type, but it didn’t enhance the finished artwork so I switched to Linolschrift for the finish.

photo 2

The last adjustment was to eliminate the “gap tooth” on the little girl. The consensus was that it made her look a little too young.


I’m pleased with the finished product. I hope 2018 fair goers are too!




My life as a Muralist

When I was in high school I began painting murals around my parent’s house.

I kept them small until I painted a 3/4 scale horse on my sister’s bedroom wall. I found I liked working large and could draw and paint freehand.

doolittle_2webOne summer during college I convinced my boyfriend to hire me to paint a mural of the Garden of Eden as a Vermont pastoral landscape on his brand new barn door. I promised to drive the tractor and help with the haying when I wasn’t painting.

It was huge!

I needed to use his bucket loader, normally used to scrape manure off the barn floor, as a lift to get to the top 1/2 of the door.

But that mural only took a few weeks, so I began painting the other barn doors too. He was raising  Charolais cattle, so one door showed a crowd of cows appearing to leave the barn. I was trying to create a simple trompe l’oeil effect by adding a bright window to the back “wall” of the mural. To add complexity I sat our two dogs outside the barn door, and later photographed them, posing  as themselves.

doolittle_4webRay, the hired man, fed a pen full of imaginary pigs,


and I leaned provocatively out of another doorway.


Eventually I painted every door, on every barn and outbuilding.


And was finally able to paint a fully life-size horse.



All these photos  were taken by Tim Clemens and appeared in an article and  Calendar produced by Vermont Life in 1978. The barns on Doolittle Road are still there but the original murals are long gone. Back then I didn’t know much about using oil paints  and I didn’t prep the older doors properly. The murals deteriorated over time. Since then I have painted many more murals with better success. I’ll talk about some of them in future posts.

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