Author and Illustrator Shares and Inspires

Don Tate, award-winning author and illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed children’s books, visited Parker recently to share more about his work and inspire students to discover and hone their personal passions with practice.

Tate met in small group settings with Lower School students and addressed an auditorium of 3rd–12th grade students in Morning Ex. In these gatherings, Tate shared excerpts from his work and spoke about his personal journey to becoming a noted illustrator and author.

As a young child, Tate naturally gravitated to artistic pursuits—a path that his more traditional father, who wanted him to be an athlete, did not encourage. Despite the lack of support at home, Tate practiced and practiced and practiced. He shared images of his work, revealing change with the passage of time— in his technique, artistic abilities and the materials he used.

Tate’s love for art motivated him to pursue a commercial art degree from Des Moines Area Community College. His degree led to work as a graphics reporter, publication designer, graphic artist and more. He illustrated his first children’s picture book Say Hey!: A Song of Willie Mays (Jump at the Sun) in 2000 and followed it with numerous others. In 2017, despite being less than assured in his ability to write since he was a young child, Tate took a personal risk and wrote and illustrated Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth—a personal and professional accomplishment he made sure to share with his student audiences: anyone can do what they want, if they set their minds to it and practice, practice, practice!

To the work of illustration, Tate shared glimpses into both the “traditional” and “digital” studios where he creates art for his writing. To demonstrate his process, he invited student volunteers to play the role of his model, and as he drew illustrations of his models, he detailed his thoughts and the physical process he was going through. As to the importance of creativity, Tate demonstrated how to expand a simple, unintelligible mark and create an entirely new piece. He then invited a few lucky students to join him in this process as a way of sharing their creativity with their peers and create some collaborative art of their own.

All who spent time with Tate during his time at the school gained a better appreciation for his work and heard firsthand about the important role practice, perseverance and believing in one’s self can have in changing life’s outcomes.

Many thanks to Lower School Literacy Specialist and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Heidi Byrnes-Cloet for bringing Tate to the school for this experience.

More on Don Tate is available here.
Click here for photos of Tate’s visit.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.