Illustration Inspiration: Tracy Dockray, Illustrator of Izzy and Oscar
The Children’s Book Review | April 14, 2015
Tracy Dockray grew up on the plains of West Texas with a love of books and innumerable pets. She moved to New York where she studied fine art and acquired several old motorcycles. Her career veered from sculpture to puppet making to murals and finally to children’s books. She is ecstatic to have illustrated 30 books including two that she wrote herself.
Tracy now lives in a creaky, cavernous brownstone in Greenwich Village, with a hairless cat, two fuzzy dogs, two children and a very tolerant husband. She is thrilled to have been able to illustrate Mrs. Cleary’s Ramona series and The Mouse and the Motorcycle series since she has a soft spot for them both. Although Tracy studied Fine Arts in school, she has come to the happy conclusion that drawing pictures for children’s books is the finest art she knows
My most recent book is “Izzy and Oscar”, an octopus out of water tale, by Allison Estes. I always enjoy drawing new and different things but Oscar was certainly an eight-armed challenge. How do I make a land locked cephalopod have personality and appeal? I read tons about octopi, watched them in the aquarium and during that process, I learned that Octopi really do have personalities and are quite smart! Before “Izzy and Oscar” I illustrated a book called “Sweet Baby Feet”. Funny, I went from 10 toes to eight arms. I wonder what I will illustrate next? Hopefully, not one about a centipede….
Inspired by …
Artists and writers are sponges, all the time soaking up things that they see or that happen around them. For example, I chose to dress Izzy, the heroine of “Izzy and Oscar”, the way I did because I loved seeing kids flumping around in those big, funny Ugg boots. Other times, I’m inspired by a lack that I notice in children’s books. I wrote and illustrated “The Lost and Found Pony” for my own pony crazy daughter. At the time, there were tons of pony chapter books, but not many for the picture book reader. “The Lost and Found Pony” was inspired by Dolly, a very, old party pony that I’d encountered in West Texas. What was her story? I decided to make one up for her and after the book came out, I donated a portion of the proceeds to horse rescue.
Artistic process …
As soon as I hear that I get to do another book, first I run around the house shouting, “I got it! I got it! I got it!!!” Then I sit down and carefully reread the story and see what places need a picture. I keep a big stack of paper nearby and I start making lots and lots of pencil sketches to see which ones really capture what I see in my head. I show those to my editors and they help me narrow all of it down. Sometimes it’s a hard back and forth, but with their help, the book is always better for it. Once all the thinking and planning parts are done, I get to add color to the finishes. I enjoy that part too, because I can paint and listen to music at the same time. It’s like dancing with paint.
Favorite place to create & illustrate …
I love my studio, it’s my favorite place. My sanctum sanctorum is a small room with lots of bookshelves, pin up boards with inspirational photos, a comfy armchair for reading, and a wrap around desk with room for all my sprawling supplies and papers. Oh, and a window right in front of me for good light while I’m working and staring out of when I’m not.
Most used art supply or tool …
My pencil. Wait, no, my brain, it does all the heavy lifting. Just don’t ask it to do math.
Illustrator idols …
As a child, I loved Maurice Sendak’s darkness. I loved the winsome animals that Bill Peet created. I loved the endless roads that Dr. Suess had zipping everywhere. And I loved Tomi Ungerer’s books, where the Mellops always came home from every adventure and sit down together for Mrs. Mellop’s cake. As a grown up, Jon Klassen makes me laugh with his clever play of word and simple pictures and Vincent X Kirsch just makes me laugh, period.
All-time favorite children’s book you didn’t illustrate…
“All-time” is a tough prerequisite… Um, whew, well, I never knew why “Good Night Moon” was such a mainstay of baby books, until I had kids, then I loved reading, “In the great, green room there was a telephone… and the old lady whispering ‘hush” parts. My small children would be in my lap and I’d watch them point out the wandering mouse. (I, myself, woulda’ been bored out of my gourd illustrating that book though.) So, I’m not sure, if it’s the story, or the illustrations per se, or the experience we have with those we are reading with that make a book special. I’d like to say that it’s the illustrations, since I’m an illustrator, hah, but I truly think that it is an intricate dance between the writer, the illustrator and the readers that make a book an “all-time favorite”.
A literary character to create art with …
If I could, I’d LOVE to finger paint with Olivia, Ian Falconer’s precocious pig, or with Willy Wonka. I bet Wonka’d be a hoot and could teach me a thing or two about loosening up with color. I would NOT like to sit down and color with Alexander from “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day” because he’d probably get crabby if he colored outside the lines and fall apart if he broke a crayon.
Currently working on …
“A Scare in My Hair” about an unfortunate, sparkly headband and another one that I can’t talk about yet. Shhhhh….
Connect with Tracy Dockray …
Feel free to check out lots of pictures and books on my website at TracyDockray.com.
Izzy and Oscar
By Allison Estes; Illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Publisher’s Synopsis: Have you ever taught an octopus to roll over? It’s harder than it looks. Discover why octopuses make the best pets in this charming picture book about friendship and embracing individuality!
Izzy has always wanted a pet. So when an adventurous octopus squiggles into town, Izzy decides to keep him. After all, a real pirate captain has to have a mascot. Oscar is not very good at going for walks or playing fetch. (Although he is amazing at hide and seek). And he’s definitely not like other pets…
But he is just right for Izzy.
Readers will be tickled by Izzy’s attempts to teach Oscar to behave like a dog, a parrot, a pony-and gratified by Izzy’s realization that in the end we love others for who they are…eight arms and all!
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-1492601500
Books Written and Illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Grimms Grimmest, Chronicle Books
My Bunny Diary, North/ South Books
The Lost and Found Pony, Fiewel & Friends
The Scare In My Hair, West 26th Street Press
Illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary, Harper Collins
The Mouse and the Motorcycle Series by Beverly Cleary
Henry Huggins Series by Beverly Cleary
And six other books by Beverly Cleary
Izzy and Oscar by Alison Estes, Jabberwocky Books
Sweet Baby Feet by Margaret O’Hair, Farrar, Straus & GIroux
Jammy Dance by Rebecca Janni , Farrar, Straus & Giroux
The Bare-footed, Bad Tempered Baby Brigade by Deborah Diesen
The Tushy Book by Fran Manushkin, Fiewel & Friends
Hear That? By Tama Janowitz, North/South Books
Am I Big or Little by Margaret Park Bridges, North/ South Books
Dog Friendly Dog Training by Andrea Arden, Howell Book House
My Playdoh Books, Dutton Children’s Books
Delia at the Delano by Bob Morris, Ian Shrager Books
Micro Aliens by Dennis Kunkel, Farrar,Straus & Giroux
Discover more picture book illustration inspiration and books like “Izzy and Oscar,” by Tracy Dockray, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our Illustration Inspiration series and articles tagged with Tracy Dockray.