Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Little Nanny Etticoat"

Developing “Our Mother Goose, A picture Book for Kindle” is bringing back a lot of fond memories. The project started in 2000 as a Web Site for kids and my artist was Jerlyn Thomas who was about 15 years old at the time. This scared me to death, as I had lived with my daughter, Dagny as she transitioned from 14 to 18 and it was not the easiest experience. Fortunately for me, Jerlyn was a delight to work with and I only saw her stubborn side one time and that is with the riddle “Little Nanny Etticoat”.

We had a simple rule to guide us in our efforts: “If Bill Gates could do it we could do it.” Failure was simply not an option. Since this riddle is particularly tough if you have never heard or read the solution, I though a big hint was in order and decided that a drawing of Nanny Etticoat should be morphed into the solution. The problem was that I had no shared language with Jerlyn to describe exactly what I wanted her to do. The only movie I could recall with a morph was Terminator 2 where the advanced metal droid kept morphing in and out of human form. Unfortunately, for me Jerlyn was about six when the movie was released and never saw it.

I had also seen documentaries on how Walt Disney made animated movies by slightly altering each static picture to give the illusion of movement when they were quickly displayed in succession. Once again it might have been easier to ask her to build a rocket ship. Jerlyn's solution to not understanding was to not start. Finally, I asked her to draw me a girl with red hair, a red nose, blue blouse, a white petticoat and pewter shoes. Jerlyn drew the Nanny Etticoat pictured with the riddle below.

She still didn't understand where this was really going as I asked her to sweep up the hair in a wind blown fashion and slowly point the feet outwards so Nanny is standing in a somewhat unnatural position as her pewter shoes were growing longer. Finally, in frustration I made her promise not to laugh and took my best shot at drawing a candle, flame and pewter candlestick holder which is the solution to the riddle. It is unfortunate that my drawing survived and Jerlyn's first great success did not. The morph no longer exists unless Jerlyn still has a copy.

After that Jerlyn accepted that if Bill Gates could do it, she could too. She was a marvel to watch as she learned several computer languages and put what I believe was one of the first coloring books on a website. By the time she went to college, the student had become the master and I pretty much let her run with any idea she had.

She is still active as a designer and you can follower her on her Facebook Fan Page, Design Lady NYC

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