Local couple creates a niche in children’s book world
Jul 03, 2019 14h57
By Spencer Belnap
Greg and Amy Newbold in their art studio in Millcreek, surrounded by some of the artwork from their picture book series.
By Spencer W. Belnap | [email protected]
Amy and Greg Newbold are about to have their third children’s book published. They are a creative husband and wife duo that have begun to carve out a spot in the picture book world. From their home art studio and offices in Millcreek, the Newbolds are always working on the books and various side projects and classes.
The two grew up in different parts of the Salt Lake valley and met while attending BYU. Amy was a stay-at-home mom and did office work while practicing her writing. Greg began freelancing as an illustrator and occasionally teaching art classes around the area. After the youngest child left the nest, the timing opened itself for both of them to create the books. While visiting the Picasso Museum in Paris, Amy came up with an idea for a children’s picture book that shows different art styles and famous artists. The first publishers they pitched to weren’t interested, but eventually one was. Tilbury House, a publisher based in Maine, liked the idea and “If Picasso Painted a Snowman” was published in 2017.
“It’s a bit of a niche idea,” Amy said. “And Tilbury does more of an educational market, so they liked that it would get good feedback from librarians and teachers.”
Amy wrote the story while Greg drew the pictures. He took on the challenge of training himself how to draw and paint similar to famous artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollock. The book invites young readers and artists to think differently when it comes to art and shows that there are many ways to draw and illustrate various subjects. Some art history is thrown in as well.
“Before this one was even released, the publisher came back and asked us if we’d consider doing a sequel,” Greg said. “Which we’d never really thought about. It was conceived as a sort of one- time thing.”
The Newbolds ultimately agreed to do a second one. “If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur” was published in 2018 and turned the couple’s combined endeavor into a conceptual series of books. The second book included some lesser known artists such as Cassius Coolidge and Edgar Degas. While the first book was written prior to them being picked up by a publisher, they needed to write the follow-up quickly. They put aside most extra projects or freelance work and had it in time for the publisher’s deadline.
From there, the two books began selling more. Local bookstores were important partners in helping build awareness, as well as workshops such as the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers that takes place in Utah every year. The Newbolds have found the experience fun, challenging and rewarding.
“One of the neatest things for me was an email from someone who tutored a student from elementary through junior high,” Amy said. “They struggled with school and reading. When they read the artist biographies in the back of the ‘Snowman’ book, and about Monet drawing caricatures of his teachers in school, the student really connected with it. They liked art, and it gave them someone they can relate to.”
One school has done an entire art exhibit around the first book and the different art styles. Both books released so far are found in art museums in various states and are still being discovered by educators. The Newbolds hope their picture books inspire artists and students in Utah and beyond. They also hope others in the community think about creating their own children’s books.
“I think we really lift each other up here,” Greg said. “A lot of people want to give back to the arts and culture and to be involved.”
The third book in their series, “If Monet Painted a Monster” is set to be released this fall. The first two can be found at www.amynewbold.com and Amazon, as well as bookstores across the valley. To see more of Greg’s illustration work, visit www.gregnewbold.com.