Friday, 26 September 2014

Guest Post; Martha Mans and Gordon

Hello March House Books readers. Let me introduce myself. My name is Martha Mans and I am a fine artist. I have been painting in watercolour and oil all my life.  And what does this have to do with children’s books you might ask.

Well, as a child I loved to read and I especially was fond of looking at the illustrations. Being a very visual child I loved the magic that the illustrator created with their drawings and paintings.

As a mother I loved to read to my children and watch them light up as I read the stories and point to the illustrations and talk to me about them. One of their greatest joys was to go to bookstores with me and choose books that I could read to them and eventually they could read for themselves.


As an artist I have been lucky to go to some wonderful places to paint.




Such is the case of the beautiful Medano/Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, where I have the privilege of being invited to paint each year. It is home of a herd of over 2500 American bison. Most of the time you can't get close to these magnificent American icons so when a little bison was found alone out on the range and needed to be rescued everyone on the ranch couldn't stay away and talked of nothing else. One of the ranch hands gave him the name Gordon. 

Pictures from Zapata Ranch

I was immediately intrigued. As I've said before, I'm an artist and I suppose that is why the book started taking shape with paintings of Gordon. Sometime later when I began thinking about a story for a little bison it came to me that this little bison didn't know what he was because he was not with a herd and there was no other bison around to teach him. He couldn't go back into the herd, it would be impossible to get them to accept him. So he had to go on a journey of self discovery and find a place where he fit in and could be happy. This is how “Gordon”, my first attempt at a children’s book, was born.


The Medano/Zapata Ranch is protected by the Nature Conservancy and dedicated to preserving the animals and their habitat. So, in developing the story it was great fun to discover animals that were indigenous to the land and have them meet Gordon. Through them he would learn about the ranch and find out eventually who he is.


I loved drawing and painting Gordon but I had to learn something about baby bison first. I soon discovered that baby bison are born sometime between April and June. A very young bison is reddish in color and is called a calf. They are also known as “red dogs”. It is easy to pick them out from the adult bison, who have dark brown coats. The baby bison stays close to its mother for about one year and she protects and teaches it many things to help it survive. Around September it’s coat begins to turn darker brown, it’s shoulder hump begins to appear and it’s horns begin to grow. It begins to eat grass and plants. The young bison continues to grow for three or four more years, until it becomes an adult. 


It’s scary to think how close we came to no longer having this awesome animal around today. The herds that once numbered in the millions were reduced to fewer than one thousand by the late 1800s. Due to many people who worked hard the herds have grown back to where the bison are no longer in danger of becoming extinct.



So if you do travel west during the summer months take the time to look for the red colored babies in a bison herd. Have fun watching them run, jump and play as all baby animals do and give thanks that this magnificent animal is still here and once again roams parts of the west.

Also remember you can visit the real Gordon at the Zapata Ranch like I did this earlier this year.


PS: I’d like to thank Barbara for letting me share this story on her blog. Hope you enjoyed it!

You can find out more about "Gordon" at: Gordon the bison

or buy the book at Gordonthebison.com

Thank you so much Martha your illustrations are beautiful.   I would love to visit Gordon and the other animals at the Zapata Ranch one day. Barbara


24 comments:

  1. This is the world I love; nature, artists, gentle people. Martha, so good to meet you and to see your talents here - Barbara dear friend, a HUGE thanks to you for celebrating children, literature, and the preservation of the art of wonder. HAPPY FRIDAY to all! Anita

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    1. Hello Anita, I know Martha is delighted with the lovely comments left on this post so thank you on her behalf and a great big hug from me! Happy weekend, Barbara x

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  2. What a wonderful post. Whilst we often get to hear from authors it makes a nice change to hear from an artist and especially one who has had such exciting opportunities.

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    1. Thank you Tracy, I was absolutely delighted to share this. Martha is a very talented artist, and I'm honoured to showcase her illustrations here. Have a fabulous weekend, Barbara.

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  3. Such a lovely post, and what wonderful artwork! <3

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    1. Thank you Yvonne, I know Martha will be delighted to read your comment. Happy Saturday, x

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  4. Beautiful artwork and a lovely post. When I move back to Colorado (hopefully next year), I'll be sure to visit the ranch and it's endearing animals.

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    1. Oh you lucky thing! It would be good to see some of the ‘photos, maybe you could share them on your blog? Thanks for your visit. Barbara.

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  5. I love this idea of a book about a baby bison. Gordon looks so cute. I mention bison in my latest book as well. They are amazing creatures and we almost lost them. Now we can see them roaming the prairies again. The illustrations are wonderful!

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    1. Thanks Darlene. How exciting to see bison on the prairies, we see lots of cows in fields, but it’s not quite the same! :-)

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  6. Martha- Your pictures are just beautiful. You seem to have captured Gordon so well in your work. Thank you for sharing his story with us and letting us know about the ranch in Colorado. I have been to Yellowstone National Park and have seen thousands of bison there- and they are amazing animals. I look forward to reading your book and learning more. :)

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    1. Hi Stephanie, I so want to visit Yellowstone. It's long been on my list of must see places. Maybe one day. Thanks for calling in, Barbara.

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  7. Beautiful artwork! It looks like you had great inspiration for your creations.

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  8. Hi Barbara,

    I enjoyed reading the post and seeing the wonderful watercolour paintings - how very talented Martha is. Gordon is a cutie and I look forward to reading the book.
    Hope that you are enjoying the weekend
    hugs
    Carolyn

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    1. Hi Carolyn, I'm really pleased you enjoyed the post. I hope your weekend is going well. Barbara x

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    1. Thanks Joleene, I’m sure Martha will be touched by your words.

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  10. Dear and wonderful Barbara! First of all, our autumn is spectacular here. It is warm like summer, however the colors on the trees are vibrant! Everyone is out on their bikes, shopping and sailing their boats. We just got back from a lovely time out at the antique stores, and of course, I thought of you. There were many sweet children's books from America and they brought back so many great memories.

    It was great to see your comment just now! Thank you for your faithful readership my friend; I enjoy being a little off the beaten path! Enjoy your new week as we enter into the world of October! XOXOX

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    1. Dear Anita, your autumn sounds very much like ours, blue sky, warm sunshine and lots of orange, red and yellow tints appearing everywhere. I was gardening yesterday and came across dozens and dozens of chubby, happy spiders – not so nice for the rest of the insect population, but the spiders are having a bumper year!
      How could I not visit you Anita? Your blog fills my heart with joy, as does your friendship. Have a wonderful October xxx

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  11. Martha is a brilliant artist! She has captured little Gordon so well! Thanks for sharing this sweet book!

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    1. It was my pleasure Diane, thanks for calling in. Barbara

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  12. Hello Martha you are a wonderful artist. I love the fact that you use your art with story telling. Your story about the little Bison calf sounds adorable.
    Thank you Barbara for sharing Martha's lovely talents with us

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  13. Oops, I think my comment didn't come through, so here it is again: Martha's paintings are gorgeous (I know because I've read this book) and Gordon sounds adorable. Well done on featuring Gordon the Bison, Barbara!

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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