News Column

Artist from Jamestown takes part in Carnegie Hall concert

May 1, 2014

By Chris Olson, The Jamestown Sun, N.D.

May 01--Barbara McClintock didn't know that when she was working on a children's book with singer Natalie Merchant in 2010 it would one day lead her to appearing on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

McClintock, an award-winning illustrator and author of children's books and former Jamestown resident, was brought on stage by Merchant Saturday to face a sold-out crowd at the world-famous concert venue. McClintock created all the drawings used in Merchant's book, "Leave Your Sleep," which was published in November 2012 and is based on a CD that Merchant made of the same name.

"I can only describe it (the experience of being on stage at Carnegie Hall) as sky diving without a parachute," McClintock said.

McClintock has illustrated and/or written 38 children's books, and has won four New York Times Best Books awards.

North Dakota influence

McClintock was born in Clinton, N.J., and spent the first eight years of her life there. Her mother, JoAnn Albright of Jamestown, said McClintock showed a talent for drawing early on.

"I think she was born with it, the ability to draw," she said. "By the time she was 3 or 4, she was drawing fantastic pictures."

Albright's home is adorned with drawings and paintings from McClintock, including pencil sketches from her early childhood.

McClintock said her parents divorced when she was 9 and she moved with her mother to North Dakota. Albright remarried and McClintock went to school in Jamestown and graduated from Jamestown High School. She attended Jamestown College, now the University of Jamestown, for about two years, taking art classes. When she was 20 she left Jamestown and went to New York City to begin her career.

McClintock said her time in North Dakota and Jamestown influenced her and helped her in her art career. When her mother remarried, McClintock said her new stepfather, a rancher, gave her a horse.

"Having that horse really broadened my interests," she said. "Just having the wide-open spaces and the freedom to explore those spaces in North Dakota taught me self-reliance and gave me the confidence to pursue my art career."

McClintock said growing up in North Dakota, being around family and friends, has helped her in her career as well.

"They taught me to be open and trusting, helped shape my personality, especially in business," she said. "People tell me I'm friendly all the time, and I attribute that to my North Dakota upbringing."

'Leave Your Sleep'

McClintock said a friend gave her Merchant's CD "Leave Your Sleep" in 2010. She said she instantly fell in love with the music. The CD is a mix of poems by authors such as E.E. Cummings and Robert Louis Stevenson, among others, set to music by Merchant.

"I thought 'this would make a perfect children's book,'" McClintock said. She contacted her editor at Macmillan Publishing and told her about the CD. She said her editor had heard the disc as well and agreed it would make a great children's book.

The editor contacted Merchant's manager and in 2011 set up a meeting with Merchant.

"She (Merchant) said she would love to turn the album into a picture book," McClintock said.

Merchant was familiar with McClintock's work as a friend had given Merchant's daughter one of McClintock's books as a present.

The process of making a children's illustrated book is different than making other books. First, if the illustrator and author are two people, they usually communicate through the book's editor.

"Natalie visited my studio one time during the year it took me to create the drawings," McClintock said.

Creating a children's picture book involves a lot of engineering according to McClintock. Children's picture books are created in 16-page segments, with most being 32 pages long.

McClintock said she first starts with doodles when creating images for a book. Once she has solidified the doodle into a sketch, she sends it to the editor for approval. The editor and illustrator have to figure out how the artwork will fit on each page with the words.

"It is a little like fitting together a puzzle," she said.

Merchant and McClintock weren't able to include all 22 poems Merchant used in the CD. But McClintock said the end result was "amazing." The book, which includes a CD of music Merchant created for the book, was published in November 2012 and has sold well, according to McClintock.

"The book and CD are a great interactive experience," she said. "I've had teachers and media specialists say they have used the book and CD to encourage reluctant readers to engage in poetry."

Carnegie Hall

McClintock said she first learned about the concert based on the book in September. She said her illustrations were projected on a screen on stage behind and above the musicians while they performed.

"The images were just like a dream," McClintock said. The image would first appear on screen as a black-and-white line drawing, then the colors would fill in to complete the picture. As Merchant sang each poem, the drawing would fade in and out, or have different sections move around.

McClintock said she plans to visit Jamestown sometime this summer to see family and friends. She is currently working on book called "Adele and Simon in China," which is the latest adventures of a brother-and-sister team that have been the center characters of two other books McClintock authored and illustrated herself.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at


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Source: Jamestown Sun, The (ND)

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