As a parent and former teacher, I have read aloud my fair share of children’s books. Little did I know, many of these books of lessons and delight were illustrated by local Idaho Springs artist Carol Newsom. Since 1970, Carol’s whimsical drawings have graced the pages of over 150 children’s books for every major publisher in the U.S. as well as publishers in England, Greece and Korea. While illustrating children’s books is her passion and constant revenue stream, Carol Newsom is no one-trick pony! From her watercolor paintings, which beautifully capture the essence of her subjects, to her soft yet precise plein air artwork, Carol is a masterful watercolorist with a warm smile and humble heart.
Growing up in Texas, Carol always knew she wanted to be an artist. “I was always an artist. Always drawing and painting. I would look at comics in the newspaper and say, ‘I’m going to do that!’” Ironically, she had never seen actual artwork until her parents bought a Norman Rockwell calendar. Up until then, all that she created was from imagination and the world around her.
A few years after high school, Carol left Texas to attend the Art Center College of Design in California to earn her degree in illustration. Upon graduating, she began “peddling her portfolio” to different publishing houses across the country. In the early 1970s, this was no easy task without the internet and digital technology. She did it the good old-fashioned way, with a large black portfolio case, a firm handshake and a smile. Her work spoke for itself and Carol was illustrating children’s books on a regular basis; her days of peddling for work were over.
I learned a great deal about illustrating for books from Carol. For example, an author rarely chooses the illustrator. Rather, a publishing company either buys a book straight out, or there is a royalty agreement. The publishing company interprets the author’s text and chooses the right illustrator for the job. Carol will then receive the text per page she is to illustrate and begins sketching. Once she finishes sketching, she’ll digitally send over her work. There may be some adjustments on the end of the publishing company, but once she is given the green light, Carol will use a tracing paper method to transfer her sketches to the actual page. She then utilizes her watercolor prowess to bring the black and white to life. I was taken with the playful fox book she was currently working on (image above). Every detail was on point and the playful realism she created using watercolor paints was fascinating.
My interview with Carol was at 3 pm, and that morning she had already painted a gorgeous watercolor of a circus tent that was being set up in Arvada. She belongs to a plein air artist group that gathers once a week in different locations for inspiration. The circus tent piece was completed in two hours, and according to Carol, “It won’t be added to. I go with the mood of the scene at the time with plein air work. If I’m not there,
I don’t get the same feeling, so I leave it alone.” I was flabbergasted with her humility and ability to create such a vivid scene in so little time.
Carol shares her love for painting with her students at Center for the Arts Evergreen, where she is known to be a favorite teacher. CAE Senior Director of Exhibitions, Education and Outreach Sara Miller states, “We love Carol! Her students always comment on her teaching style—they learn while having fun. She is so adaptable and is always coming up with new classes that meet the needs of her students.”
If you are interested in a little adventure, a retreat for the soul, and learning from a talented artist, Carol is hosting several watercolor workshops at a weeklong artist retreat in Queretaro, Mexico from October 22-29th. Learn more at carol.newsomart.com or email Carol to purchase artwork or commission a piece: email@example.com