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North Saanich artist celebrating 25th anniversary of Jessie’s Island

Artist Sheena Lott with her illustrated pictures that can be seen in Jessie’s Island. - Carlie Connolly
Artist Sheena Lott with her illustrated pictures that can be seen in Jessie’s Island.
— image credit: Carlie Connolly

North Saanich artist, Sheena Lott is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Jessie’s Island, a book she illustrated back in 1991.

Written by Sheryl McFarlane, the book tells the story of a girl named Jessie who writes a letter to her cousin Thomas about the endless variety of living on an island.

“The reason I was interested in doing this book in particular was it really did mirror the environment that we live in around here,” said Lott about her experience illustrating the book.

She’s also always loved nature and had kids about the age in the book.

The book is set in the Gulf Islands, however McFarlane wanted it to be a generic Gulf Island, not just a specific one.

Lott said it could also be perceived to be an island up the coast or even in Alaska.

To set the scene for the book, Lott took photographs and put them together after visiting a few places around the Saanich Peninsula, including Island View Beach, Chalet Beach and others.

“The first thing I had to do was read the book and then break it down into 16 illustrations,” she said.

The average children’s book, she said, has 32 pages.

Lot then proceeded to do a story board, where she could draw out in pencil her vision of the book to show the characters and the scene.

She said she believes the book has sold around 50,000 copies, and has done very well, and continues to do well today.

“I think it’s sort of a travellogue of this area and the words are simple, but they’re really evocative,” she said, adding that she’s met lots of people that have the book and who are from different areas.

When taking photos for the characters, Lott got some models together of friends and family, which she said she tries to include in any book she works in.

She’s even gone to schools looking for a model for the books.

Lott will be celebrating the book’s 25th anniversary alongside McFarlane. Also joining them will be the author of White Jade Tiger, their friend, Julie Lawson. Her book, too, is celebrating its 25th year.

The women will be at Munro’s Books on Jan. 21 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

“The average children’s book, they’re out for a year or two years, and then they sort of disappear,” said Lott, adding that this one really stuck, which is something to celebrate.

Currently, Lott is working on some commissions still paints actively, along with gardening at her home.

 

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