News Detail


Last week, illustrator and author, Michael Dooling ( visited Valley School to talk with our students about drawing, storytelling, working with publishers, researching history, and the value of making mistakes. Mr. Dooling is the author of 5 children’s books, including: George Washington’s Army & MeThe Great Horse-Less Carriage RaceYoung Thomas EdisonDear Mother, and Fossil Hunter. He is the illustrator of 65 additional books. His primary genre is historical fiction.
Mr. Dooling presented to small assemblies throughout the day about his year-long process of creating a book. Generally, the writing and illustrating take him a year. He explained that his research leads him to museums, historic sites, and libraries in search of primary sources. He uses models—family members, friends, and neighbors—dressed in period clothing to ensure that his drawings and paintings are as accurate as possible. Sometimes Mr. Dooling creates models of historic objects so that he can replicate them on canvas. Our Lower School students were especially impressed with the to-scale Hadrosaurus tibia Mr. Dooling created for Fossil Hunter, his book about William Parker Foulke, the man who discovered the first full dinosaur skeleton.
Students also enjoyed getting tips on creating artwork. Mr. Dooling taught them some of the elements of drawing—color, shape, perspective, mood, etc.—and encouraged them to be keen observers with their “artist eyes.” Students who are especially interested in art had time to meet one-on-one with Mr. Dooling. He looked at their work with them, talked with them about their strengths as an artist, and gave them advice for improvement. He then sketched every student who visited with him.
Over the course of the day, Mr. Dooling encouraged Valley School students to be bold in their pursuit of their interests. He let them in on the big secret of success in art and other endeavors: “Don’t be afraid of mistakes.” Mistakes, he explained, are part of the learning process, and a necessary experience along the path to improvement. “Mistakes will always be a part of any artist’s work. Even very experienced and accomplished artists make errors. And every mistake holds within it the opportunity to learn something, to achieve a new thing. If you’re attentive and thoughtful about your mistakes and take advantage of the opportunities they present, one wonderful mistake will lead to the pleasure of being able to make even better, more sophisticated, and inspiring mistakes… And in the end, your art will be all the more brilliant for it!