Kathy Hamrick, Part of a Winning Pair

June 27, 2024
By Anne Marie Duquette
Featured image for “Kathy Hamrick, Part of a Winning Pair”

Anne Marie Duquette interviewed Kathy Hamrick,Winner of the 2023 DWAA Writers Contest in the “Children’s Picture Book” and “Graphics--Best Series of Illustrations" categories for “Sydney and The Christmas Star.”

View the Winning Entry

Congratulations on your win!  Tell us about your experience and expertise, and how this relates to your entry.  What target audience did you write for, and why?

I have worked as artist/Illustrator in a commercial/fine art capacity for most of my life--which seems like a really long time!  This book is number 3 in the “Tales of Sydney” series, and I have created all the illustrations. The target audience is children aged four to ten and includes parents and grandparent readers as well.

What prompted you to submit this specific entry?  Why do you think it struck a special chord with the public and the judges—and with you? 

Christmas is probably the favorite holiday celebration in our nation.  Kay and I both feel that it’s important to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas, despite the barrage of commercial chaos often found in typical holiday celebrations.  “Sydney and the Christmas Star” is a reminder of the “Reason for the Season,” and offers a message of acceptance and peace in our chaotic world.

Of course, dogs are as dear to people’s hearts as children are to their parents.  And so it is with Sydney and her delightful, loving persona. Sydney’s antics are always comical, and the situations she gets herself into are visually and psychologically humorous.

Since most people love to smile and have a good laugh, the book provides a cheerful look at life’s everyday situations through the antics of a special dog.  The bright primary color pallet provides a light and lively scenario for the unfolding of Sydney’s silly personality.

I’ve enjoyed the challenge of putting into visual expression each page of copy and transforming the characters into cartoon form with all sorts of awkward positions and ridiculous costumes.  It’s a delight to infuse humor into each nonsensical situation and illustration.

How big a part have dogs played in your personal and professional life?  Was there a particular dog that sparked your interest in interacting with the public?  Tell us about this special dog in your contest entry.

I came from a dog-loving family, and my own family has adopted and raised several dogs. Sydney belongs to a family of dog lovers who bred a family of Portuguese Waterdogs here in my hometown of Eufaula, Alabama.

Being a well-trained service dog, Sydney fit in well with author Kay Whaley’s grandchildren, Blake and Emily, and a new fictional family was created:  Sydney and her humans.  In the “Tales of Sydney” series, Sydney and her family can go anywhere, with Sydney wreaking humorous havoc on the journey. My own dog, Winnie, is a black cocker spaniel who happens to have the same colors as Sydney.  I have used Winnie as a model for several illustrations to draw the Sydney character with canine anatomical correctness.

How big a part have people played in your association with dogs?  Family?  Friends?  Do you have any favorite writers or graphic artists?  How have they influenced your career?

I grew up with dogs. My family always had a dog. My children have had dogs. Society today loves having a dog in the home. It’s very popular to include your pet in all aspects of life, from walking them in landscapes, townscapes, or cityscapes to traveling with them by car or plane.  Dog lovers want the company of their companion as much as possible, and the opposite is true as well.

As for my favorite peers, I’ve observed and studied numerous artists’ techniques in dog portraiture and completed several dog portraits myself to further my craft.

I thoroughly enjoy Shel Silverstein (cartoonist and writer of poetry and literature for children) and his book series.  I also admire the illustrations of Quinten Blake. The book “Sydney and the Christmas Star” is done in a cartoon format inspired by Quintin Blake’s illustrative style; lose line drawing with ink splashed spontaneously with bright primary watercolors creating a cartoon style.

When you consider both your personal and professional canine-related achievements, which one of each stands out the most?  And why? What is the driving force that sparks your work?

Funny, but I have to say that I’ve learned much about human nature from watching the behavior of my dogs.  This in turn has helped me to understand how to raise eight children of my own.  And in turn, my observations have helped me to characterize Sydney in her human world.

Besides, the Portuguese Waterdog is a special breed of dog that loves their humans!

What ongoing or future canine projects do you have planned?  Are they personal or professional?

I’m certain that Sydney will show up in other special locations in the future. Her next “escapade” is at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, where she will make appearances at several book signings and festivals.

Of course, my own devoted Winniedog is looking forward to more pets and treats from her humans, and a good shearing for the summer months!

What would you recommend to those peers who wish to enter your winning category in next year’s contest?

Start early!  It takes longer than you think to do an illustrated children’s book. There are many phases in production.  You need to be fully aware of and engaged in the whole process. Much must be done before the finale--the published work. So enjoy the process!  In time, you will have a brilliant gem to happily share with others.

To conclude this interview, what thoughts would you like to add?

Thank you from the heart for appreciating our book.  And even more, for giving it the glory by bestowing these awards on “Sydney,” me, and my partner Kay Whaley.

So much time, effort, and sacrifice go into these books.  Having our work recognized and being awarded by the DWAA motivates us to create even more Sydney scenarios.  We enjoy being a part of the DWAA family of dog appreciators.  Thank you again.

Featured Image: (L to R) Author Kay Whaley, Sydney, and Illustrator Kathy Hamrick. Picture courtesy of Kathy Hamrick.

Kathy Hamrick can be reached at talesofsydney21@gmail.com.