Steamboat grad returns to roots with children’s book illustrations |

Steamboat grad returns to roots with children’s book illustrations

Luke Graham

Heritage Christian School graduate Dana Schlingman recently did the illustrations for the children's book "The Night Before Christmas in Ski Country."

— Dana Schlingman always had art pulsating from her feet, up through her arms and all the way to her brain, where it suddenly stopped.

Schlingman always had a sense she wanted to be an artist, from rudimentary drawings as a child to the cartoon characters she created in grade school.

But her brain told her being an artist wasn't practical.

Being practical, she said, was going to school, getting an internship, finding a job and going from there.

So after graduating from Heritage Christian School in 2005, Schlingman went to Biola University in Southern California and studied English.

She enjoyed classic literature, but there still was the pull of art.

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Finally, as a sophomore, Schlingman made the decision. Studying classic literature wasn't really practical either, so why not follow what she truly loved?

"I figured if I was not going to be practical, I might as well dive in all the way," she said.

It's starting to pay off.

Schlingman recently illustrated her first published children’s book, "The Night Before Christmas in Ski Country," with author Suzanne Brown.

Schlingman will have presentations Friday at noon at Ridgeview Elementary School in Craig and at 2:30 p.m. at Hayden Valley Elementary School. She also will have a book signing at 2 p.m. Saturday at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

"These visits show kids that unconventional careers aren't impossible even though they may seem so," Schlingman said. "Growing up in a small town, I didn't see all the opportunities."

For her senior project in college, Schlingman illustrated a children's book. After graduating in 2009, she joined the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. The organization includes authors, illustrators, publishers and agents, and it gave her a foothold into the industry.

At a conference in 2012, Brown saw Schlingman's portfolio and was interested in working with her.

Eventually, the two sat down with a Boulder publisher, and the book, which features inspirations from the Yampa Valley, was finished in August.

"Even though my artist dreams weren't fully formed there, it was a huge part of who I am," she said.

Schlingman now lives in Greeley where she is able to make a living through her art. She paints garden boxes and does other projects.

"Art ebbs and flows with busyness," she said.

She also nannies on the side and draws inspiration for projects from the 4- and 6-year-olds whom she watches.

She still has the children's book she wrote and illustrated in college and hopes she'll someday publish it.

That love of art never left, she said. It just took some time to get her head on board.

"For art," she said, "it's more of a nebulous winding path."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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