SARATOGA SPRINGS – “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I?” tells the story of an adorable panda bear, who has big dreams of one day being able to soar through the sky. A work of collaboration between artist David Hill and writer and publisher Vicki Addesso Dodd, “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I?” isn’t just a classic children’s tale, it’s a work of art all on its own. Hill and Addesso Dodd will be hosting a book release party for their book on Saturday, February 27 at David Hill Gallery. The party will feature book signings, clips of how the illustrations were created, and giveaways of Hill’s artwork.
David Hill describes his beginning work in illustrating children’s books as “a true hobby.” Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Hill’s main body of work throughout his life has been creating beautiful and intricate oil paintings of serene nature scenes, incorporating island life into most of his pieces. In 2003, he decided to make his first children’s book, and continued it as a pastime, creating one and moving on to another, but never really doing anything with them. After Hill moved to Saratoga in 2011, he developed the beginning stages of “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I?”, and he knew this was one he had to finish completely.
“I needed to take this book to completion,” said Hill. “My son was three when I started it. I wanted to have a book that was my own book, one that I could read to my son and say, ‘your dad made this for you.’”
In fact, the panda bear in “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I” is based off of Hill’s now seven-year-old son, Griffin.
“My son was fully the panda to me. There’s a page of the book where he’s counting money from his piggy bank. My son did that every day. That page is directly from him, with the coins all spread out around him,” explained Hill. “It was great to have these little vignettes of his life incorporated into the book. I could not have done it without him.”
Hill painted each of the book’s initial images in oil, using several layers and giving a sort of transparency to certain areas.
“There’s this soft glow in the paintings of the pandas. Like the world as seen through a jar of honey. I wanted this amber tone to it, that is until the dream sequence and the colors get cooler,” David said.
After finishing the book, Hill then partnered up with Vicki Addesso Dodd, a book consultant, children’s book author, and owner of Saratoga Springs Publishing. After taking a look at what Hill put together, she fell in love with the concept, and decided to help him finish the book. Though Hill had created a storyline already, Addesso Dodd built off from that and used the illustrations to write the finished product.
“This was such an interesting project for me to do because I took the illustrations and wrote directly from them. Normally, I’m only used to writing my own story,” said Addesso Dodd, who has three published children’s books of her own through her company. “To me, [this book] is the true meaning of a picture book. It’s published in a way that if the text was removed, you can still understand the story based on the illustrations. I had so much fun with it.”
“The scaffolding was there,” said Hill, “but she did a beautiful job of taking it to a new place.”
“I just love the book,” Addesso Dodd elaborated, “The illustrations are a different medium. They relate to children, but have a different artistic view. I love the emotion in the book, and I feel that it is inspirational. It shows that whatever children choose to do, if they look within themselves, they have the power to make anything possible.”
Hill is just as thrilled with how the book turned out, and mentioned how his son is excited about the book’s completion.
“People are coming into the gallery and buying images from the book, and it’s not even out yet,” Hill said. “I wanted to think of each page as its own painting, that if you took the page away from this book, it’s a painting. It’s ready to go as its own story. That was my goal for each page, to create something that can exist completely on its own, and I believe I achieved that.”
In the future, Hill will be continuing with his gallery paintings, which focus on beauty and repetition in the natural world, but he also plans on creating more children’s books, too.
“My goal now is to have a new book every Christmas, since I have so many books ready to go,” said Hill. “But I also have a daughter that is one-year-old. My son was such a great help and inspiration that I’m tempted to do something now that is more feminine. Now might be the time to base one on my daughter.”
The book release party on Saturday, February 27 will take place at David Hill Gallery, located at 454 Broadway, at the Saratoga Marketplace, from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. The party is free to attend and open to the public.
For more information about David Hill, visit davidhillgallery.com. For more information about Vicki Addesso Dodd and her work, visit saratogaspringspublishing.com.