Ashley Wolff teaches Creating Picture Books for Children
here at Hollins University in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books and Certificate in Children's Book Illustration programs. And I'm happy to share she had a new book come out this year while we were apart - IN THE CANYON written by Liz Garton Scanlon. Today, Ashley dropped by to share her creative journey with us...
Welcome to the Grand Canyon
by Ashley Wolff
One the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”
It’s about 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, Its walls contain rock layers that reveal a timeline of Earth’s history.
To make In The Canyon as good as it could be, I had to explore the Grand Canyon. I took my excellent and intrepid little sister and in we went!
from RIM to RIVER…
The main character of In the Canyon, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, speaks in the 1st person voice. She begins her narration like this:
“Here’s a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”
I always enjoy working with a model and I found a lovely girl in San Francisco named Willa.
I spent a few hours with Willa taking pictures, and then used those to draw from while illustrating the book.
She gazes at the reader from the jacket, inviting you to join her In the Canyon.
As soon as you dip below the rim of the canyon you enter a vast, deep bowl that has no direct route to the bottom. The trails are constantly zig zagging down the steep walls. Occasionally you can spy the river, way down deep.
My sister Peri, seen from a few switchbacks above, with many more to go. The Colorado river, bright green, is crossed by 2 bridges. One is visible here.
If it is a cool spring morning on the rim, it is full, hot summer at river level. Along the way are blooming cacti and yucca, birds, lizards and curious squirrels.
I can't get enough shots of the blossoming Beavertails.
“Here’s a footstep, dusty red, another one and more ahead.”
Signs like this one are a regular sight. To do this rim to river to rim hike one must be very fit and prepared for a lot of heat and exertion.
Some people choose to travel by mule. Mules are chosen from Tennessee and Missouri. They are used for pack supplies to Phantom Ranch and pack mail out of the canyon and later promoted to trail mules.
I used a photo of a family, gathered under an overhang, as inspiration for this illustration.
“Now here’s a tiny slice of shade, a yummy lunch, some lemonade. And a lizard, still as sand, his head all speckled, body tan.”
Finally, we're at river level, where the deep shade around Phantom Ranch is most welcoming. Time to recharge and load up on water and salty snacks for the hike back out. Peri and I made it back to the rim by nightfall, a 16 mile roundtrip.
But the child in In the Canyon
is luckier. She gets to spend the night, camping by the river.
“Here’s the dark and here’s the shine, and here’s the moon—it’s like it’s mine. To tuck inside me way down deep, Grand and wild, mine to keep."
I'll come back to the Canyon someday, no doubt with enough overconfidence to descend to the bottom and back in one day as I did with Peri.
After all, I have what it takes: "a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”
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