April 02, 2009

Meet Author Rachel Allen Dillon, Endangered Animal Artist

Welcome to Rachel Allen Dillon, author of the fascinating new children's book, THROUGH ENDANGERED EYES - A POETIC JOURNEY INTO THE WILD.

(Be sure to read to the end to see her amazing excerpts and get some neat great suggestions for activities to do with the kids. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the rest of her blog tour! )

Talk about a cool book! The pages of THROUGH ENDANGERED EYES (Windward Press, Finney Co.) take readers, both young and young-at-heart, on a fascinating journey into the animal world via Rachel's original art and poetry.

But instead of the typical real-life portraiture or photos featured in most animal-related books, Rachel's animal art has a mosaic-like quality. She paints in dots, reminiscent of the Pointillist style of classic artists like Georges Seurat, and Henri-Edmond Cross.

While artists doing Pointillism mostly worked in primary colors, Rachel's paintings have a modern twist - her dots are bolder and mimic the colors of the represented animals. No "dainty" dots here. Rachel's paintings are bold and invite you to come closer, get to know the animals.

She also invites readers to learn more. Most of the 21 species featured in the book are endangered or threatened due to situations including, loss of habitat; poaching; hunting; accidental deaths while hunting for other species; poison; problems in producing more young; or pollution. All of these animals are in need of help in order to survive.

She says, "I believe all creatures in the animal kingdom serve a purpose and play a role that keeps the planet balanced. Although extinction is a natural process, the current rate of species going extinct is unnatural. Our children need to understand the importance each species plays to the survival of all things. They will inherit an earth that needs habitat rebuilding and scientific intervention to maintain biodiversity. Your job not only is to make your own changes to help the planet, but more importantly, to guide your children and cherish their natural desire to make the world a better place."

** See information on some of the featured animals, plus sample art and poems, below.

Meet Rachel!

Rachel developed her love of animals as a young artist, her favorite being horses. "As I got into middle school and high school, I drew quietly in my room at night trying to perfect the horse," she says.

Her love of art continued to grow well into high school. After recovering from a bout of pneumonia, Rachel began taking art classes in college and knew that she'd found her life's work. "I was hooked," she says.

She graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in art, with an emphasis on graphic design ("I already had in mind about the starving artist thing," she jokes.)


While she was drawn to mosaics, especially those found in the ruins of Pompeii, Rachel discovered a new world of creativity following a trip to Australia in 1992.

There, she discovered Aboriginal Acrylic Dot painting, a style used by native Aborigines.

"The colors, patterns and textures inspired me," Rachel says. "When I returned home and started one of my art classes, I just had to try out the dot painting method."

Unfortunately, Rachel soon learned that there wasn't much information on the technique available. "I couldn't figure out how they made dots so perfectly round, until I saw a picture of an Aboriginal man sitting under a tree, dipping a stick into paint," she explains. "I flipped my paintbrush around and used the other end to create the dots I was looking for. The dots are raised and create a braille-like texture to the paintings."

How It's Done:

Rachel uses acrylics in her art, with the paintings for the book done on 9" x 12"
canvas board. The paintings took from 8 to 12 hours to complete. An exception was the Mexican Spotted Oil, which took about 20 hours. "I used very small dots in the face to get additional texture and detail," she says.

If she had to choose one, Rachel's favorite has to be the Chinese Alligator: "I had never painted a reptile before. Their skin is perfect for dots. The book doesn't do that painting justice, there is almost a leather quality to the skin in the actual painting."




My ears are shaped like Africa,
my trunk is very strong,
my key to life is family,
that is where I belong.

The African elephant is the world's largest land animal. A male elephant could weigh as much as 16,500 pounds.

Where they live: Africa - Status: Threatened

• World Wildlife Foundation, http://www.wwf.org/
• Google: African Elephant Specialist Group


I am small but
my teeth are strong,
I dig dark tunnels
deep and long.

Chinese Alligators are smaller then their American cousins. Young Chinese alligators are black and bright yellow.

Where they live: Lower Yangtze River Valley, China - Status: Endangered




The Corroboree Frog lives in one of the coldest parts of the Australian mainland. It does not have webbed feet and is about the size of an adult pinkie finger.

Where they live: Fiery and Brindabella and the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales and Victoria, Australia - Status: Critically Endangered



While Rachel has a soft heart for animals, she also believes in helping children develop a concern for animals and their environment. Poetry and art became the perfect vehicle to do that.

"I decided to write a book on endangered animals for kids because I wanted to highlight the importance of vanishing animals to kids," she says. "I didn't see any great kids' books devoted to endangered animals, so I decided to write one.

"...For the younger ones the rhyming is fun to listen to," she continues. "For the seven to nine-year-old kids, poetry becomes a puzzle, a way to communicate something they have to look harder to figure out. That is where the factual information in the back of the book comes in handy. The facts really tell the kids the answers to the questions the poems cause. The four to six-year-olds, whose parents are still reading with them, ask the questions and the parents need to look at the facts to decipher an answer - so the parents are learning too."


Following are some things that teachers and parents can do to help children develop an appreciation for animals and their preservation.


Look at the animal information plaques at the zoo or aquarium for a Vanishing Wildlife Symbol or statement about the status of the species. Create a list and photos, if possible, of endangered and threatened species.


Teaching children at a young age about giving and sharing is a lesson that will stay with them for a lifetime. Choose a foundation or cause to donate a dollar. A dollar may seem small, but to a child it can feel like they are really making a difference.


Most zoos, aquariums, and wildlife conservation groups have an Adopt, Sponsor or Befriend an Animal program. Most adoptions include a photo, certificate and information about the animal being adopted. Frame the photo and certificate, encourage your child to celebrate their animal's birthday each year by sending a donation. Give animal adoptions as gifts to family and friends.


Children of all ages may enjoy creating a scrapbook about vanishing and threatened creatures.

You don't have to take the pictures, although it adds a personal element if the youngsters are able to take their own photos at the zoo, game park or aquarium. center piece of the book. Information about the animals can be found online or at the library. Check the status of an animal at Earth's Endangered.com to see if they are threatened or endangered.


April 1 - The Muffin, Women on Writing

April 2 - Candid Canine

April 3 - Fatal Foodies

April 7 - My Readable Feast

April 9 - Sharing with Writers

April 10 - Day by Day Writer

April 14 - Whole Latte Life, Joanne Demaio

April 17 - Book Talk Corner Today

April 20 - Margo Dill

* Want to win a copy of THROUGH ENDANGERED EYES? Leave a comment about your favorite endangered or threatened animal. Share any conservation activities that you have done. Leave an email or blog address to be contacted.


  1. Wow, these paintings are stunning! I found myself wishing to see them as giant murals on a wall, or at least in a form I could hold in my hands. Beautiful work Rachel! And great post on this blog today!

    My efforts in conservation are focused are my writing. Much of my writing is based on my experiences from living in Costa Rica for a few years and the knowledge I learned during grad school while doing research in the rainforest. Now I write for children and young adults (fiction and non-fiction) that focuses on life in the rainforest and the journey to understanding our role and place in nature. Like Rachel, I hope to reach children through literature to inspire them to see their world differently. I think my endangered species is really the entire survival of forests around the world! Thanks :)

  2. Isn't it funny how many animals we don't even realize are endangered? Like zebras? At least I never knew.

    I also never knew the Komodo Dragon was endangered until I recently went to Disney where they populate Animal Kingdom with endangered and threatened animals. My 5 year old son absolutely LOVES them. I also remember going on a class trip years ago(I've been taking my kids on field trips for 13 years)to the National Zoo and some little boy who drove everyone NUTS on the bus and in the zoo was totally mesmerized by the Komodo Dragon. "Hurry, hurry. It's a real dragon." he kept telling his mom.

    Rachel, it's fascinating that you actually had to discover how to do the dot art. I would love to see the originals. Have you ever had a show of them?


  3. Hi Rachel and Christine:
    Just wanted to say Rachel that you have a beautiful book, and I am looking forward to you being on my blog toward the end of the month!:)

    Christine--love the dog! :) I am a dog lover, too. And I wrote about your blog today on mine. :)

    Margo Dill

  4. All I can say is Wow! I so enjoyed seeing the art work and the written messages.

    Thank you.

    Vivian Zabel

  5. Nice to see another fine children's book coming out of Finney Company! They are awesome, as evidenced by their publication and support of this book!

  6. Wow! What Beautiful Mosaics! Thanks so much for sharing them with us Chris! I just posted an Award for you on my blog! Please stop by and pick it up! ~ Tracy

  7. Thanks for stopping by! Her work is great!

  8. Very beautiful. Looks like painstaking work. Takes lots of patience.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. Isn't it wonderful what conversations books create? So powerful and beautiful! Many of the species in the book I knew little about, if at all. Educating myself about species I never heard about has certainly opened my eyes to many different ecosystems and locations.

    Kimberly - you are so right about the rain forests and being an endangered ecosystem. What was it like being there in the midst of the rainforest? Has the destruction slowed at all? I am planning on endangered rainforest species for book number three...it would be awesome to chat if you ever have time.

    Jodi - yes, I have shown my artwork in galleries and international exhibits. I was just recently accepted as a signature member of Artists for Conservation, natureartists.com. It is a true honor. I would LOVE to have a one-woman show of just the artwork from the book, it would be cool to see them all hung in one space.

    It is interesting you mention the Komodo Dragon. I guess they have recently been in the news for killing some people, wow, that is one powerful lizard. The media actually seems to give the dragons the benefit of the doubt though, instead making them villains.

    Margo - I look forward to your blog. I am starting to get the hang of things, the rookie that I am:)

    Thank you Vivian and Minisontheedge, for your kind words.

    Christina - I knew your name, but couldn't figure out which book..."Storm Codes," I am going to order that. I checked out your web site, wonderful! Soft and expressive faces.

  10. A friend of mine suggested to take a look at your site coz of great stuff you have here. I must say your blog is very interesting.

    By the way you might be interested to join DIRECT ART AUSTRALIA'S monthly photo contest. Winners will have the chance to turn their photos into hand-painted portraits. You can check out their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=70645093608

  11. Morgan - yes the painting style does take a lot of time, but it is a medatative process. I get lost in the colors of the painting.

    Direct Art Austratlia- how cool! I'll check your site out:) Thanks.

  12. WOW! These are stunning!!! What a beautiful project and way to give back to our world.
    I just love the manatee and I do believe they were close to extinction at one time too. They are such gentle giant creatures.

    ~Barbara Techel
    Author & Mom of Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog

  13. We've drawn a name and .... Vivian Zabel is the winner! Vivian send me your snail address, I'll contact you at your blog also. Thanks all for commenting and stopping by!


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