Lynne Avril packs every summer to spend it in Paris. She commutes to work in Ahwatukee wearing her pink flannel pajamas, feeling the cool cement floor on her bare feet as she patters from bed to studio. She may sit with the morning sunlight warming her back and continue until her eyes grow tired from the bright glare of the lamp perched on her desk. Maxie, her recently groomed puppy, is snuggled on the white leather chair nearby. White pieces of paper conceal most surfaces with countless sketches venturing to show a story written by another. She expresses her thoughts with black lines and passionately coloring outside of them, endearing characters evolve. A teetering stack of paper plates splotched with carefully chosen paint colors are her pallets and labeled with names like Amelia, Ruby, Nellie Sue or Sadie. Just a few steps down the narrow hallway her front bedroom displays her work. Tall bookcases hug the walls, parading the colorful books she brings to life.
“I’ve always known I was going to be an artist,” Avril said.
Growing up under the beautiful Big Sky Country of Montana, Avril’s artistic father wasn’t too timid to tell her what he thought of her work. Her dad never had the perspective of telling his kids they were the best, he taught them how to accept criticism and “how to see” art. In the sixth grade Mrs. Johnson saw her student had a gift. She encouraged Avril to trade walking home for lunch to eating with her, they spent those hours writing stories and drawing pictures. Favorite classes in junior high and high school were always art. The University Of Montana awarded Avril her fine arts degree.
“There is an inner drive I can’t control, I need to be making art every day,” she said.
Avril would have to wait until after her second child was born to find her fate. With her young son buckled into his car seat she was employed delivering typeset to print shops. Her employer received a call from Josten’s Learning Corporation looking for an illustrator. Always fueled by her art, Avril had the spirit to apply. Employed as the new illustrator she found her artistic home.
“My heroes are thinkers not afraid to dig into life,” Avril said.
Having formal training in college, Avril felt she now needed to study illustrations from children’s books she found at the library. After creating black and white drawings for 18 books, her personal style evolved. Her mother, who owned a bookstore, encouraged her to send drawings to New York. The publishers liked her work, but wanted color so Avril bought watercolors and began to experiment. When the phone rang in 1992, Avril was not aware Simon and Schuster was calling to hire her. Several artists were being considered for the job of illustrating “Amelia Bedelia” in 2007. Each applicant was asked to choose one of two manuscripts to illustrate, Avril sent in both.
“I don’t see life with obstacles to overcome, I see it filled with abundance,” she said. “You put the vibes from your head into your art.”
To develop enchanting art is a reflection of Avril’s love for children, giving her the most pride are her own son and daughter. Encouragement is reflected in her books and in the generous time she spends volunteering. Sharing her craft with student authors and illustrators, Avril hopes they will follow their dreams through art. Creating professionally isn’t always straightforward, B.B.B. are the initials she calls, “Beginning Book Blues.” When a new manuscript arrives Avril isn’t sure which direction to take, but she has learned to trudge through and it eventually finds its path. She quotes Einstein, “Nothing happens until something moves.”
Back in Montana, Mrs. Johnson is delighted, they remain good friends.
“I receive the greatest amount of satisfaction from making art,” Avril, an award winning illustrator, said. Her books have been selected for awards by the American Library Association (the Schneider Family Book Award 2011), the Junior Library Guild, the Society of School Librarians International, the Children’s Book Council, and the Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio.
With more than 80 books proudly beaming her name, Avril began her love affair with illustrating over 20 years ago.
To learn more about Avril, visit www.lynneavril.com.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Peggy Alt, M.Ed., focuses on exceptional people doing the unexpected. Contact her through her blog: goldenspringchickens.com.