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August 30, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Lucy and Sherman were just figments of an author’s imagination until Ashley Meyer made them real. Meyer, 27, brought the canine pals to life when she was hired to illustrate a children’s book titled Forget the Vet.
Terry Martin, Meyer’s professor at William Woods University, recommended her to AKA Publishing in Columbia. The company produces fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, children’s books and young-adult fiction and also offers self-publishing. “She did a collage illustration that was remarkable,” Martin says. “Her observation and sketching skills were original. I thought, ‘Wow, she has the talent of an illustrator.’”
Meyer drew a sketch, added watercolor paint and sent it to author Elizabeth Brownell-Lynn for her new book. After Brownell-Lynn looked at Meyer’s first painting, the artist got the job. Meyer started in February and received college credit for her work.
“It takes a long time,” Meyer says. “When I started, I began with painting whole scenes. Now, I do single paintings and take them into the computer and clean up the little things using Photoshop.”
Staying true to her own style, Meyer worked with Brownell-Lynn and publisher Yolanda Ciolli to perfect her illustrations. Meyer added her personal touch with whimsical trees swirling from roots to limbs.
Ciolli frequently sat down with Meyer to help make the illustration process easier. She suggested that Meyer draw an entire page of eyes and facial expressions and scan them into the computer. That way, Meyer could paint the body of the dog and go in later to add eyes and a mouth.
“Without (Ciolli), I would probably still be on the first two pages,” Meyer says. “The facial expressions were the hardest things for me to do.”
Leaves, grass and sky, on the other hand, were easily added. Drawing individual leaves and placing them on the trees made each one distinct. Using Photoshop, Meyer painted a wash and then changed the hue to blue for sky and green for grass. As the illustration process came to a close, she added details, such as birds and squirrels, to fill the pages.
Forget the Vet was released in August and is expected to be available at online bookstores in September.
AKA Publishing is trying to get the book placed in Village Books and Columbia’s Barnes and Noble. It is Brownell-Lynn’s first book, but she has several others on the way. Ciolli says she hopes to use Meyer for all of Brownell-Lynn’s illustrating needs. “She is so talented and has such an imagination,” Ciolli says. “Her only fault, which really isn’t one, is that she’s a perfectionist.”
Meyer is pursuing a studio arts degree and says she hopes to eventually get a minor in business so she can one day own a shop to sell her paintings and refurbished furniture. She also has a stand at Apple Wagon Antique Mall in Williamsburg.
Kelly Hague, the owner of Apple Wagon, says she’s excited to see Meyer’s finished product. “She has the skill to do something elegant and grown-up,” Hague says, “but the spirit to do something fun for children.”