China's wildlife and the deep connection I felt with it fuelled "What the Dragons Know," a self-published children's book that I wrote and illustrated. My objective was to create a fun and interesting book for children that gave abroad introduction to Chinese wildlife, art and animal mythology. The Chinese landscape has a captivating and unique beauty, which competes daily with the devastating effects of pollution. This project was the manifestation of the passion and sorrow I felt for that landscape. I drew on these feelings, as well as personal past experiences and research into Chinese art, to portray the magnificence of that world and hopefully inspire others. My approach to this challenge consisted of researching Chinese art theories, styles, and techniques, and choosing aspects from all eras that I felt would most engage young readers. I then interpreted and transformed what I'd learned, filling it with my personal style and character. Dong Qichang, a Ming scholar-official, artist and art theorist, emphasized transformation of older models. He, among others, believed that artists should refer to the masters for guidance: using old models as inspiration, imbuing them with one's own style, and creating their own works. His ideas and those of other literati painters drove my approach to this project. This was not so much an effort to make the pictures "look Chinese" per se, but instead my own interaction with and response to Chinese art and art history. My approach to the writing process began with researching Chinese animal symbolism, which I planned to incorporate into my writing. I then outlined an interesting plot and began writing the story, which in turn influenced the illustrations. Like artists of Emperor Huizong's court who painted pictures based on lines of poetry, I also based my compositions around what was happening in the narrative \u2014 using each picture to capture a moment in the story. The illustrations, although primarily intended to be aesthetically appealing, were an experiment with how I reacted to and interacted with the long and intriguing history of Chinese painting. Essentially, I intended to complete a book that was both enjoyable to read and appealing to look at; that would portray the splendor of the Chinese landscape and reflect my feelings for it. The final book will be self-published using CreateSpace.com, and copies will be available for purchase during the Celebrating Honors Symposium or through Amazon.com.
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