Tell us about yourself and your art.:
Hi, I’m Wendy K Gray, Voice Over Actor and Creator of Sidewalk Stories! A series of self-published problem-solving books, coloring books, audio books, APPS and songs for kids! Sing the “Stop Think Act” song with Bethany Butterfly and problem-solve at the Magical ACB Sidewalk! Which Sidewalk path will they choose, Option A, B or C?
As a professional voice over actor of twenty years I voiced all my audio books, write and sing all the songs and even make all videos on youtube. I don’t draw, at least not well. This, I leave to the brilliant, Kate Shannon. I love coloring which is why we made ALL the stories into coloring books. Yes! The exact story book made into a coloring book.
What inspired you and your art style?
Creating Sidewalk Stories began from the Sidewalk Stories Theme Song I wrote while out walking in the Los Angeles neighborhood I lived in. I sat down on the sidewalk and watched an entire world going on around me. By the time I got home, I was racing into the recording booth to lay down the Theme Song. The characters and stories developed from there and are simply little pieces of me… all from a song I wrote. When searching for a children’s illustrator I discovered Kate Shannon on the internet. I saw a drawing of a Moon, in a row boat, smiling, on the water. I knew she was the one for Sidewalk Stories!
Do you have any unusual drawing habits?
I drew the original sketch I sent to Kate in Ireland. It’s embarrassing but she got the idea of the habitat I wanted to create. She is such a pro. I can’t believe how fast she is and how expressive she has made the Sidewalk Stories cast. You can follow the entire story in each coloring book, without the words, because of Kates Shannons drawings.
What artists have influenced you?
I will forever be a fan of Jim Henson, The Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and Peyo (the pen name of Pierre Culliford) who created The Smurfs. But also Seth MacFarlane who stepped in eleven years ago to help me get some meetings and pitch Sidewalk Stories as an animated series, which is still my ultimate goal.
I think it’s wonderful that Adult Coloring has become so popular. My first one was gift, Darice Garden Flowers
Do you have any advice for new artists?
Practice and be prepared. The best thing we can all do for ourselves is to be ready when opportunity comes knocking. If you love what you do, keep doing it. I get tired sometimes. In fact, eleven years ago I quit working on Sidewalk Stories. It sat on my shelf until 2017 when I was interviewed on Ryan Drean’s Podcast about my success as a voice over actor. I didn’t know what to talk about, since I am rather private. I wondered, what makes WKG interesting? I talked about Sidewalk Stories and my wild adventures of trying to get the show idea made. Reminiscing about my big dreams of sharing Sidewalk Stories with the world I realized I had lost hope, the death of a dream. I had quit! Now, I am going to finish what I started eleven years ago. Even if I have to pay for it myself. And when Netflix is ready to talk… I will be ready!
What do you think makes a good illustrator/designer?
For me, as my story is a little different than the other artists on this site, it’s being able to understand and envision the story, the brand, the idea. For example, when I send Kate the story I try to be descriptive in my words of what action is taking place but she can see beyond the page of words. Like I said, you can follow the story through her illustrations without the “story” actually being there. That… is a great illustrator! Practice and willingness to try new things has made her even more amazing to work with.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I couldn’t wait for success so I went ahead without it. A tidbit from Mary Tyler Moore.
What are you reading now?
Jodi Picoult – Songs of the Humpback Whale.
What’s your biggest weakness?
Tough one….I should probably take my own advice from Sidewalk Stories and sing the “Stop Think Act” song before I make decisions, approve material, purchases, ect and slow down!
What is your favorite book of all time?
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle but a very close second is, Phantom Toll Booth by Norton Juste.
How well do you work under pressure?
I put a lot of pressure on myself. But when it comes to Sidewalk Stories, I enjoy it! I have been told that I am resilient. When something I try doesn’t work out I quickly assess and then move on to the next idea. Don’t get my wrong, self-publishing is a ton of work and when it’s your own money there is even more pressure to be successful. But worrying about things never helped anyone get anywhere. So I take a break to rejuvenate and gather my energy and hope and I just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
Why did you become a graphic designer/illustrator?
Let’s change this question to…. Why did you create Sidewalk Stories? This answer is probably they same for any creative person, because I had to.
What are you working on now?
Just finished loading the first interactive-storybook APP onto google. Next up is the digital coloring book and audio book combined for iBooks and Google APPS. Right now, I am working on the final book in the Sidewalk Stories series. In this adventure, the cheerful and dedicated problem-solver, Bethany Butterfly, decides that retiring from trying to fly is how she will solve her problem of not being able to fly. She quits. Kate Shannon will draw her hanging up her wings, in a new career, and talking with the universe about quitting.
What is your method for promoting your work?
This is the most difficult part of self-publishing. Not going the traditional route of getting an agent and publisher, I book my own events like Farmers Markets, Art Events, Schools, Libraries ect. I have also done ads on Google, Facebook and Amazon. Sidewalk Stories is about solving problems. Getting it made and getting it out there has been my problem to solve.
What has been your most successful graphic design project? Why?
“The Lemonade Landing Mat” has the most reviews. Since I see the sales of my books on Amazon I can tell you “How Otis Oaktree Opened His Eyes” is very popular. “Meet Moby Mutt” is right behind. I submitted “Today Is The Day” to Kirkus Reviews so we will see what they have to say. If I had to pick one book I like the best of Kates drawings it would the Otis book. With an Octopus, a Preying Mantis, Mother Nature, and the 1982 hailstorm…it’s extraordinary!
What’s next for you as an artist?
It’s difficult for me to wait and see what happens with Sidewalk Stories because I am eager for the world to love it! We have two more stories to complete the series, one problem-solving story and a Christmas Sidewalk Stories Starter book for beginner readers. Both will have coloring books, of course! Kate is building the interactive animated “Meet Moby Mutt” for iBooks/Google apps. And has also put out her book and coloring book The Harvest Moon Takes A Dip, the story of the Moon in a boat that caught my eye eleven years ago! I’m continuing to write and voice the stories and music and push forward. Like Mary Tyler Moore said, “I could’n’t wait for success so I went ahead without it!”
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