Illustrator Colors Alaskan Native Tradition | Stage
The program, called “Baby Raven Reads,” was designed for families with Alaska Native children up to age 5 throughout Southeast Alaska. In addition to sponsoring a series of books, the program supports events that include family home evenings where participants participate in storytelling, sing songs, and various cultural activities. Participants also receive free books and literacy kits.
It is also noted in SHI’s information that the Library of Congress selected the Baby Raven Reads program for its 2017 Best Practice Honoree because of its success in applying research-validated practices to promote literacy.
In a phone interview Monday morning, Foote said she was inspired to apply as an illustrator for the program’s latest book by her brother Nick Alan Foote, who illustrated an earlier program book called “Raven and the Hidden Halibut”.
“Alaska Native literacy and early education has always meant a lot to me,” Foote said, adding that “being able to represent Alaska Natives in the media — especially in children’s books — that we don’t see much, also meant a lot to me.
She said the book came out in June and was already sold out in person as well as online.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
Foote said that although art is an important part of his life, his background is in linguistics.
“I’ve worked in schools and been a language teacher myself,” she said, adding that she had recently worked for the National Resource Center for Indigenous Women as a language specialist. communications.
Foote said she still has family in Ketchikan, but now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Talking about her illustrations for the book “Celebration,” Foote said she uses an approach that combines watercolor paints with digital art.
“A lot of the backgrounds are done in watercolor, then I layer the digital drawing and paint on top of it – I used a drawing tablet,” she said.
The “Celebration” picture book offers a historical perspective on celebratory events in a taste of history, which states that festivals began in 1982 to “celebrate the survival of our traditional cultures and honor our ancestors”. .
The book includes photos from previous Celebration festivals, held in Juneau. The photos show people at the Native Artists’ Market, the Native Cooking Contest, people dancing in ceremonial attire, and participants in the Native Fashion Show.
Foote’s illustrations highlight the story of a young Native girl who anxiously awaits the start of Celebration and the Alaskan state ferry ride to get there.
The girl says her family has been practicing her songs and dances “for many months” to share at Celebration.
Foote’s illustration for this part of the text shows a whimsical background painted with children and adults dancing and drumming together. Other illustrations show cheerful figures weaving, carving and sewing together in preparation for the festival.
“Our badges show who we are, tell our stories and sometimes our history,” reads author Hope’s text on another page.
Foote’s illustration for this section spans two full pages, depicting a watercolor background of a formline raven holding the sun in its beak, with a maiden in full dress echoing its flight in one corner.
When the girl’s family finally get their turn to share at Celebration, the young character says that when the dance leaders play the drums, “it feels like our heartbeats are all beating together.” I dance hard.
This illustration shows the girl wearing regalia and dancing fancifully, almost floating above the crowd near a pair of drummers.
One page is filled with an illustration of fluffy whipped soapberries that the girl’s grandmother had made – which won her grandmother first prize in the soapberry contest.
Towards the end of the book, the young girl declares that “The celebration is my favorite moment. Being together as a family, wearing our badges, dancing, speaking our languages, eating together and sharing our cultures.
Foote created a page illustrating this text showing the little girl held by her mother, both smiling and standing against a stylized background of a large gathering of people.
Foote’s first and last illustrations in the book show an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry, which Foote says is how she and her family got to Celebration.
Foote said she worked as a teacher, which she really loves, and her extensive experience working with children drew her to the opportunity to illustrate a children’s book.
“It’s something that has always fascinated me,” she says.
Speaking about the importance of the Baby Raven Reads project, as well as the “Celebration” book, Foote said that “growing up, I didn’t see a lot of representation of Alaska Natives – especially children – in the media, and it’s kind of like seeing yourself portrayed in this media that’s so important. It’s kind of adding that to the conversation and keeping that in mind, knowing that Alaska Native kids will be able to to see, to see their family, their culture, their language in that kind of format – it’s so important.
Foote said the opportunity to pair her love for creating art with a children’s book seemed like the perfect next step for her growing art business. She said she had done art commissions for people before and the book was “a huge step forward” for her artistic career.
The hardest part of illustrating the book “Celebration” was “wanting to accurately represent my childhood – Alaska Native traditions accurately and with great respect.”
She said she was nervous about honoring her legacy, while also wanting to create images that would be accessible to children in a meaningful way.
The most fun part of the illustration project, Foote said, was “drawing inspiration from family — you know, brothers, aunts, uncles — and also drawing things that I’ve seen in my From traditional foods to costume making, it’s something I haven’t been able to share so publicly until now, and it was just a joy to bring those memories to life for other families.
The project she is currently working on is to write and illustrate a sci-fi graphic novel, she said. Foote also said that she and her brother, Nick Alan Foote, are working on creating art that combines her form line art with her more painterly style to create prints, t-shirts, hoodies and other products.
“I have so much gratitude for Sealaska,” Foote said, adding that she was “honored to work with Lily Hope, who is a top weaver in our community. It was like a dream come true.