Random Illustrator Feature: Jennifer Sattler

h1 June 8th, 2009 by jules


Have you all seen Sylvie yet? Here she is, the star (you can tell she doesn’t mind being in the spotlight) of Jennifer Sattler’s new title, Sylvie, published by Random House at the end of last month. Sylvie’s story has a lot in common with Petr Horáček’s Silly Suzy Goose (from ’06): Sylvie, the wee flamingo, looks at her family one morning, all very pink, and then takes a look at the rest of the very colorful world and wonders why she is pink. “Well, dear,” her Mama tells her, “we’re pink because the little shrimp we eat are pink.” Sylvie then takes it upon herself to change her hue by nibbling on palm leaves (thus turning green), some grapes (turning herself purple), some chocolate…You get the picture. Here she flies by a kite…

…becoming “Scarlet Sylvie with just one bite!”

And here’s her metamorposis after seeing someone’s particularly fetching floral-patterned beach hat:


“Why wear flowers on just your head . . . when you can be a whole bouquet!”

But, oh yeah, back to Suzy Goose and what Sylvie shares in common with her: At the end of this title, though I don’t want to give too much away, Sylvie realizes that being yourself might possibly maybe perhaps be the best kind of you to be, even if you’re the same color as everyone else. But on the book’s spirited final page, she proves that there’s still a bit of a rebel in her after all.

School Library Journal has already written about this title, “Sattler’s art steals the show,” calling the colors “eye-popping and vibrant, right to the swirling bright endpapers.” And they would be right about that: This is one of those titles whose art work will brighten your day. It just can’t help it. So, I asked Jennifer to stop by for one of my in-her-own-words illustrator features. Fortunately, she agreed to do so — as well as share a sneak-peek at her next title.

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Sylvie, in her attempt to be paisley:
“Sylvie had to tiptoe across the sand for a taste of swimsuit.”

I spent many years doing abstract landscapes, showing my work and teaching college students. This was what one did after getting an MFA, right? When my children were born and I spent time every day reading and looking at picture books, I was hooked. Why would I make paintings to just hang on the wall when I could try to make picture books that could also make children laugh!

When I tried making my first book, I had an idea of what ‘illustration’ was supposed to look like. I threw everything I had learned in grad school about making images out the window and tightened my belt. Big mistake. It was like I was learning to draw and paint all over again. It wasn’t until I started work on Sylvie that I reminded myself that being a painter was not irrelevant to picture-book making.


“…Sylvie didn’t feel like Sylvie at all.”

I had the pleasure of working with Ellice Lee, an art editor at Random House, who shared my love of abstraction. I spent half of my time painting small abstract ‘backgrounds,’ which to me had to be able to work on their own, and the other half drawing my favorite little flamingo (with help from my seven-year-old daughter Lily, who has a flair for expression). I used acrylic, gouache, colored pencils, and finally (gasp!) Photoshop. When in graduate school, I was sure that anyone using a computer to make images was cheating!

I was finally in touch with my goofy side, long neglected in my professional life in the quest to be ‘taken seriously.’ This was what I was meant to do, because when it comes right down to it, I’m a complete goofball.

My next project is Chick ‘N’ Pug. It’s a story of a little chick that longs for a dog’s life, which to him means a life of adventure. He comes across a fat, lazy pug. The chick is not dissuaded. In his mind, this dog is magnificent… even if, as we find out in the end, it’s chick that is the real superstar.



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Many thanks to Jennifer for visiting this morning…Here’s to flamingos of every stripe.

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Spreads from SYLVIE © 2009 by Jennifer Sattler. Published by Random House. New York, NY. Posted with permission of Sattler. All rights reserved.

All other illustrations © 2009 and courtesy of Jennifer Sattler. All rights reserved.

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8 comments to “Random Illustrator Feature: Jennifer Sattler”

  1. “You are what you eat” makes for a chameleon-like flamingo! I like it!


  2. It’s a gorgeous memorable picture book! Don’t miss it!


  3. Great book! The pictures are amazing!


  4. How delightful


  5. Who knew a goofball could be so talented? Spectacular.


  6. Purple and green Sylvie looks like the color scheme in our library. Got to check this one out for sure.


  7. A beautiful, fun, and profound book! I highly recommend!


  8. […] is the third picture book from fine artist Jennifer Sattler. (This 2009 7-Imp post features art from her first two titles.) It tells the story of Fergus and his baby brother, Dink, […]


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