Created for children ages 8 to 12, the book features the life stories of 40 inspirational African American women. In addition to including well-known figures such as Harriet Tubman, Ella Fitzgerald, Octavia E. Butler and Oprah Winfrey, Harrison highlights lesser-known names such as pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm and others.
“I went to CalArts to get my MFA in film. I was making experimental films there,” Harrison said during a recent phone interview. “It was during my last year that I took some classes in the (Character) Animation Department just for fun. I drew a lot as a kid before I started making films, but once I got into the film world, I stopped altogether. So that final year at CalArts, it kind of rekindled this love of drawing that I had.” (She recalls taking Life Drawing: Illustration as well as storyboarding and visual development classes during her last year.)
After graduation, Harrison was determined to work in the film and TV industry and even moved to Atlanta to work on production for the animated show “The Awesomes.”
“(Meanwhile) I started this Instagram account that became this outlet for my newfound love for drawing. So I post pretty regularly, and I try and treat it like a daily practice,” she said.
CalArts alum Vashti Harrison
After “The Awesomes” was canceled, Harrison moved back home to Virginia to mull her options and apply for other production positions.
All the while, she kept illustrating. Harrison looked at what other artists were doing on social media and wanted to do something all for herself. “Black History Month was coming up, and I thought, ‘This would be, one, a great opportunity to learn about interesting people; and two, create a challenge to do something interesting and thought-provoking every single day for the month of February.”
She posted about abolitionist Sojourner Truth on Feb. 1, 2017, to her Instagram — and the response was immediate.
“I’m pretty good about judging the analytics of my social media, and I could see that people were really excited about this. I was really excited about this,” she said.
After the fourth or fifth illustration hit her Instagram account, Harrison contacted her agent to see if there were potential for a book. Her agent was thinking the exact same thing. They pitched and met with a few publishers, and Harrison found the right home for her first book in a short amount of time.
“It was before February (2017) was over that I had a three-book deal for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers,” she said. “It’s was kind of a Cinderella story. I’m totally aware that it doesn’t work out like that all the time.”
Harrison said that her illustration style for the women in black history — eyes closed with a subtle smile — was “shorthand” for serenity, innocence and happiness.
“It was a throwback, or kind of a shout out to these classic mid-century artists that I really love,” she said. “If you look at the cover of the Little Golden Book, ‘I Can Fly,’ illustrated by Mary Blair, the character has that same pose: eyes closed with a slight smile. The same with Roger Hargreaves’ “Mr. Happy.’ I wanted to make the illustrations vintage, almost timeless.
“As an illustrator, as a person who loves children’s books, I love the classic books, but I don’t see representation of myself in that,” she said.
Harrison said that the first two books will be Little Leaders books, and if they are received well, then the third one may also be part of the series.
“The second book is still taking shape, but it is going to be more women, not specifically black women, but women from around the world,” she said. “It all happened very quickly. No one believes me, but I was very ready to be a filmmaker and have a day job working in TV and still continue to make my experimental art films — and then suddenly I’m working on children’s books.”
While Harrison’s illustration career is taking off, she hasn’t had a lot of time to work on her experimental film practice. However, her thesis film, “Field Notes,” has already screened at nearly two dozen festivals and film programs, so with Harrison’s track record, it’s a safe bet she’ll do fine in whichever medium she chooses.
Experience new cultures monthly at the Canyon Country Community Center. Join family and friends to experience cultures and customs from around the world at the city of Santa Clarita’s "elebrate" event series, which returns to the Canyon Country Community Center, 18410 Sierra Highway, Canyon Country, CA 91351, for its second year in 2023.
The Santa Clarita City Council will hold a closed session special meeting Tuesday, March 28, beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed immediately by the council's regular open public meeting at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on the First Floor of City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita, CA 91355.
Angeli Francois, a College of the Canyons English adjunct instructor, has received a 2023 Hayward Award for ‘Excellence in Education’ from the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges for her dedication and commitment to serving and empowering students from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce has announced the 14th annual State of the County is scheduled for Wednesday, May 31 at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, 24500 Town Center Drive, Valencia, CA 91355.
Guests are invited to search for a golden egg decal placed on any of the Outlets at Tejon, 5701 Outlets at Tejon Parkway, Arvin, CA 93203. retail windows. The Golden Egg Scavenger Hunt will be held April 4-8.
A free, timely and important LifeForward workshop, “Be the Boss of Your Money – Make it Work for You!” hosted by Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley, will be held Saturday, April 1 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Tucked between the River Village neighborhood at Duane R. Harte Park is one of the most unique and hidden amenities in Santa Clarita. Home to the city of Santa Clarita’s Trail Tales, this serene location offers families and visitors a beautiful spot to take a leisurely walk along the paseos while enjoying the shade of the massive oak trees and reading a children’s story displayed on podiums dotted along the path.
The Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation has announced that California-based Vallarta Supermarkets will relocate its corporate headquarters from Pacoima to the Santa Clarita Valley in late 2023.
Playing for the third time in five days, the CSUN women's tennis team extended its longest winning streak since 2015 to nine as the Matadors defeated Chaminade 7-0. CSUN's nine-dual winning streak is tied for the fifth-longest in school history with the 2006 and 2015 teams.
Circle of Hope Inc., a non-profit organization in Santa Clarita dedicated to providing emotional, financial, and educational support to individuals and families affected by cancer, is thrilled to announce their upcoming Hoedown For Hope Music Festival and BBQ fundraising event.
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles has openings at its all-girl summer camps and are enrolling now for camps that take place June through August. Openings are at day camps in Inglewood and Claremont, and overnight camps in Frazier Park.
Beginning Monday, March 27, crews will start the construction of median modifications, paving, grinding and overlay operations along Plum Canyon Road, between Bouquet Canyon Road and Skyline Ranch Road.
On March 21, 2023, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion adopting a plan for the County Probation Department’s halls and camps, specifically as it relates to establishing Secure Youth Treatment Facilities following the transfer of juvenile serious offenders from state to county custody.
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