For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write and illustrate for children. My mother, unable to stop me from drawing new characters in the books she read me, put paper and crayons in front of me and suggested that I make my own book -- and the idea stuck. My parents were both artists, and I have the most vivid memories from my early life of the smell of oil paints and inks, the sound of brushes scratching against canvas, and the feeling of being surrounded by art, because our little New York apartment functioned as both home and studio. It was a cozy, nurturing atmosphere, so my interest in art developed naturally. I attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, and then went as a fine arts major to the State University of New York at Buffalo. I received a well-rounded art training, but never formally studied illustration. My attempts at illustration were done privately -- even secretly -- because I sensed that my art professors would not approve. After all, it was considered a negative criticism to be told a painting "looked like an illustration." I taught myself by trying different styles, by looking at illustrated books, and by following my instincts. Eventually, I had enough work to put together a portfolio, and enough confidence to present it to publishers. The result of this effort was a book called Six Little Ducks, which, to my great joy, was eventually published and well received -- it was named a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book. Of course, my transition from secret illustrator to professional was not achieved without considerable work, due to my lack of technical training. I actually did the illustrations for Six Little Ducks twice before they were accepted. The extra work didn't bother me one bit, though -- I was delighted that my book was being published, and that I was on my way to achieving recognition. Today, many books later, I try to keep the same happy spirit alive by varying my painting technique, and doing my best to set and meet new challenges with each new book.