Widom's dream comes true
By Rob Stapleton
Former Nome artist Dianne Widom said she's always had a dream to illustrate children's books. What she didn't realize was how hard it would be to accomplish.
Widom came back to Nome from her home in Sedona, Ariz., to authograph copies of Go Home, River, a children's book she collaborated on with author Jim Magdanz. Widom spent last weekend perfecting her signature for area residents who poured into the Arctic Trading Post for the book signing.
Widom illustrated the book in octopus ink. "I had no idea how hard this would turn out to be. It took a year to complete," she said. It took her 15 to 20 hours to complete each picture as she layered the levels of ink to give the paintings "depth."
Widom says Native elders are her favorite. She spent many hours at the XYZ center just talking to some of the elders she had painted. Among her favorite works is a painting she did of Martha Apok. "I really love to paint the older people," Widom said.
No stranger to Alaska, Widom and her husband Ivan have lived all over the state where she taught her skills to aspiring students. She has taught at Bethel Community College, Kodiak Community College, Dillingham and Juneau continuing education and, here in Nome, at Northwest College.
Illustrations that grace the pages of the book were on display for sale at the Arctic Trading Post. People bought several of the illustrations including the cover painting, last weekend.
Describing how the illustrations evolved, Widom said the process including sending thumbnail sketches to editor Marlene Blessing in Seattle at Northwest Publishing. "I had to first send in slides of my work. Then after they decided my style would work, they asked for thumbnails to check to make sure that I was on the right track," she said. "Then I used a local little boy and my husband to model some of the close-up scenese ad sent these to Jim. He then photographed a local little boy in Kotzebue and then sent me photographs to paint."
Magdanz even got someone to make a scaled-down replica of an umiak. "I had real trouble with the boat. I wasn't familiar with how they were built and photographs didn't give me the proper perspective," Widom explained. Widom said she had to rework some of the paintings up to three times before the publishers would accept them.
"This has been a rewarding process. I think it will open up doors that I don't even know exist yet," she said.
Widom was accompanied by her husband, Ivan, on the trip to Nome for the book signing. "It almost feels like home again. I've been here several times since we lived here in '80 to '84 without Ivan. This time it feels a lot better to have him here," she said.
Widom and Magdanz will sign Go Home, River in Fairbanks and Anchorage this week as part of a statewide tour to promote their book.
© 1996 Alaska Newspapers Incorporated. Used by Permission.