Molly Swailes is a mid-twenties, modern renaissance woman - she's talented, intelligent, giving, and beautiful. Molly studied art and architecture while at University of Minnesota and now she's designing museum exhibits and illustrating children's books.
In 2012, Molly started her service term with Appalachian Forest Heritage Area as an AmeriCorps Member. On one of the first days of training she met Cynthia Sandeno, a founding member of the Potomac Highlands CWPMA. Cynthia came to the group with the idea of creating a book dedicated to teaching children about non-native invasive species. Molly didn't know much about invasives, but she jumped at the chance to illustrate this important story. After many, many hours of designing, sketching, and painting, Tucker the Turtle was born and the project took on a life of its own.
Molly says that "every piece of art is a journey." And, the creation of 16 original watercolors for Tucker's book has been no exception. Molly's journey began with a supportive family and inspiring art teachers in the little college town of Platteville, Wisconsin. As far back as Molly can remember, she has always known that she loved making art. It started with rainbows and kittens but even then she said, "I felt like I was creating something beautiful and I was always excited to share it with others." You can see this youthful enthusiasm in the vibrancy of her work.
Through years of practice and studying technique, Molly has a style that is all her own. She loves greens and you can see nearly every shade in her wonderful watercolor and ink illustrations. Among her favorite artists are Marc Chagall and Georgia O'Keefe. You can see Chagall's use of "whimsy, dream-like" surrealism in Molly's work. In The Pests that Girdle the Home of Tucker the Turtle, Molly has captured the beauty of the ordinary, in extraordinary ways.
Molly also gained inspiration from her favorite children's books. She remembers how illustrations in books from Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss could so effectively transport her to other worlds and bring the words on the pages to life. She hopes that her work will similarly evoke emotion in others and inspire a sense of environmental stewardship.
Molly would like to thank her parents and all those who have helped her along the way. Molly hopes that "as kids grow up they will remember and empathize with Tucker the Turtle and take action to help the environment." She believes that it is important for children to be engaged in the natural world and to express themselves creatively.
"Art is important, especially for kids. It opens up new worlds, fosters understanding, educates, amazes, and inspires in a way that no other medium can. It is a wonderful means of expression and it gives us glimpses at infinite other ways to look at the world," Molly said.
Through her creativity, Molly has allowed all of us to enter the world of Tucker the Turtle and to join forces to help make a difference in the forests, rivers, ponds, and wetlands that we love to enjoy.
Oddly enough, Molly doesn't consider herself to be a professional artist and never thought she could pursue art as a career, but she's keeping an open mind. Given the opportunity, she would love to illustrate another children's book. (hint, hint authors out there)
Whatever her next adventure entails, one thing is for sure - the Potomac Highlands CWPMA and Tucker the Turtle are thrilled to have been able to be a part of her journey.