Local artists create children’s book of poetry based off paintings, process of inspiration

(Alexandra Scoville/DD0
Artists Michele and Richard Bledsoe hosted a release party for their children’s book “The Secret Kingdom” Saturday. While creating the book, the Bledsoes did not edit or revise their poems. (Alexandra Scoville/DD)

Local artist Michele Bledsoe always knew she wanted to create a children’s book. And this year, she finally did.

With help from her husband, artist Richard Bledsoe, Michele created “The Secret Kingdom,” a children’s book based off her artwork that incorporates poems she and her husband wrote.

Michele said she was inspired to create the book because she grew up reading beautifully illustrated children’s books. Richard even bought her a set of “Where the Wild Things Are” figurines as a testament to her inspiration.

“When you talk to her, she talks a lot about her childhood,” said Sandra Ortega, co-owner of Obliq Gallery in the Arizona Center. “She was so qualified to do this.”

Michele said she and Richard spent a month writing “The Secret Kingdom.” Their process consisted of looking at one of Michele’s paintings and writing a short poem based on it.

The pieces that influenced the poems included paintings of a dalmatian, masks, an octopus and a seemingly frozen lizard. Each poem is about three to four lines long.

Michele said the process was one of pure inspiration. There was no editing or revising.

Debra Stuckgold, an artist and art specialist who lives in Oakland, Calif., described the book as “something that children and adults can read together.”

“You don’t see books like this often,” she said.

The couple has been involved in the Phoenix arts community for more than 10 years. Richard has run galleries, studios and served on the board of Artlink, the organization that runs First Fridays art walk. The couple co-ran the art studio Deus Ex Machina on Grand Avenue for five years until its closure in December 2012.

(Alexandra Scoville/DD)
The couple wrote the book in a month using Michele’s paintings as inspirations for short poems. The paintings included a dalmation, masks, an octopus and a lizard that appeared frozen. (Alexandra Scoville/DD)

The two met in 2001 when Michele was hiding in the MonOrchid Gallery parking lot because she was too nervous to go inside for her first show. After Michele’s sister told her she heard Richard rave about Michele’s work, Michele came into the gallery and talked to him.

This is not the Bledsoes’ first expedition into the publishing process. Michele recently illustrated a book for her sister, titled “Lemon Bee and Other Peculiar Tales,” which Richard helped edit. Richard is also writing a book called “Remodern America” about his philosophy on art.

The couple hosted a release party for “The Secret Kingdom” Saturday at their home and art studio. Richard said the event was “for the artists and the poets who’ve been so supportive of us all along.”

Upon arriving at the home, it was easy to see the creative frenzy that Michele said represented the process of creating the book. The house was filled with children running around, playing with toys cars and sea creatures, while local artists and poets mingled together in the kitchen discussing their new projects.

The front room of the Bledsoe house is filled with art made by both Michele and Richard. In every room, people viewed the artwork covering the walls.

“You can almost see this line in between our studios,” Michele said, referring to the division between her and her husband’s studio space.

The Bledsoes were busy answering questions about their art and the book as well as signing copies guests had purchased.

“I’m definitely making another one,” she said.

Contact the reporter at knasiff@asu.edu